What Colleges Did These Top NBA Players Go to?


Basketball is one of the most thoroughly enjoyed games in the entire world, from the United States to the Philippines.

Some of the most famous personalities were basketball players: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, and more.

Although you don’t have to be a college graduate to join the National Basketball Association, you do need to be eligible for a draft (and that’s only if the player is age 19 and has spent a year out of high school).

Many players were able to go to college because of an athletic scholarship, but there were some who went to college even without one!

You’ve already read about NFL players who went to Ivy League schools. Now here’s a list of top NBA players who went to college and what schools they attended.

Michael Jeffrey Jordan


Michael Jordan went to Uuniversity of North Carolina where he studied cultural geography – photo source: wikimedia.org

Who doesn’t know Michael Jordan? Even people outside the English-speaking world know who he is: “Air Jordan”, known for his slam dunks and one of the best defensive players in the sport of basketball.

He has won 6 NBA Finals MVP awards, and has the highest career regular season scoring in NBA history. But before he became the legend everyone knew and loved, Jordan almost didn’t become a basketball player.

When he studied at Emsley A. Laney High School, he tried out for the varsity team, but was too short to be accepted.

Determined, Jordan joined the school’s junior varsity team and became its star player.

He got into the varsity squad, and performed so well on the team that he attracted the attention of college basketball scouts from Duke, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Syracuse.

In the end, he accepted the basketball scholarship from the University of North Carolina, where he studied cultural geography.

While there, he took his team to championship and won against Georgetown University, where another future top NBA player was participating.

Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls until his first retirement in 1993, but he came back to the team in 1995. He retired again in 1999, but came back to play for the Washington Wizards.

He has been named by the Associated Press as the second best athlete in history (second only to Babe Ruth), starred in a film “Space Jam” as himself, and now owns an NBA team, making him the first NBA player to become a billionaire.

Patrick Aloysius Ewing


Patrick Ewing went to college at Georgetown University – photo source: alchetron.com

Currently, Patrick Ewing is the associate head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, owned by none other than Michael Jordan. But before these two worked together, they were rivals in college basketball and NBA games.

Ewing was born in Jamaica and loved sports. He played basketball when his family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Since he came from a lower class family, he joined the MIT-Wellesley Upward Bound Program, and was able to attend Georgetown University.

He was about to study at the University of North Carolina, but he changed his mind when he saw a KKK rally outside the inn where he stayed.

Afraid of the racial issues, he changed his mind. He might have been Michael Jordan’s team mate.

Instead, Ewing played for Georgetown against the University of North Carolina in the 1982 NCAA, where Michael Jordan made the winning shot.

Ewing went on to win Olympic medals and NBA games, playing for the New York Knicks for most of his career. His number, 33, was retired by the team in 2003.

Wilton Norman Chamberlain


NBA star Wilt Chamberlain received offers for a college scholarship from 200 universities but decided to attend University of Kansas – photo source: hooplife.net

Wilt Chamberlain is one of the tallest and most powerful NBA players in history (7′ 1″ tall). But before he was known for his bulk, he was a lightweight rookie.

He had been stick-thin, and had nearly died of pneumonia when he was a child.

He was also not that interested in basketball, preferring to join the track and field. But because of his height, he became a huge advantage for his high school’s basketball team.

It was during his Overbrook High School days that he was known as “The Big Dipper”.

He led his team to victory against the Northeast High School team, which coincidentally had Guy Rodgers, Chamberlain’s future teammate in the Philadelphia Warriors.

Due to Chamberlain’s unbelievable height at 7’ 1” and his basketball performance, he received college scholarship offers from 200 universitiesamong them were

Among the hundreds of colleges, Chamberlain chose the University of Kansas (or KU).

Wilt Chamberlain has played for the Philadelphia Warriors and LA Lakers. He was able to score 100 points in a single NBA game, a feat no one else has been able to duplicate.

When he retired from the NBA, he played volleyball and became the president of International Volleyball Association.

Shaquille O’Neal


Shaquille Oneal went to college at Louisiana State University – photo source: nba.com

Aside from being an all-time NBA favorite, Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal has appeared in dozens of commercials and full-length feature films, and even has his own rap album.

He was practically raised by his mother and stepfather, as his father was struggling with drug addiction. O’Neal used to hang out at the Boys and Girls Club of America, where he played basketball on his own.

When he studied at Robert G. Cole High School, he led his varsity team to victory at the state championships. While playing, he was also inspired by NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who wore a jersey number 33. O’Neal wore the same number in college.

O’Neal attended the Louisiana State University, where he studied business.

He didn’t finish his degree when he joined the NBA, but then decided to continue while he was playing pro-basketball. Now, a bronze statue of him stands outside the university’s basketball practice facility.

Aside from being a star player, O’Neal was actually a studious person.

Not only did he go back to complete his LSU bachelor’s degree, he also earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix through its online course.

He also went to earn a Doctor of Education degree from Barry University.

Not only that, O’Neal also attended the New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking Conservatory so he can study directing and cinematography.

O’Neal has played for the Orlando Magic, LA Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics.

Magic Johnson


Magic Johnson was scouted by numerous top colleges but decided to attend Michigan State University – photo source: nba.com

Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr. was born to parents who had both loved and played basketball. As a young child, he had always wanted to be a professional basketball player.

He wanted to study at Sexton High School, a predominantly black school.

Instead, Johnson experienced desegregation busing over at Everett High School, a predominantly white institution. He was forced to go to this school as part of the community’s plan to redress the school’s racism issues.

Johnson played for his school’s varsity team, but he was largely ignored by his teammates. Soon after, Johnson realized some black members of the team were looking up to him for leadership, as he was a good player.

He made impressive scores during his time as a basketball player at Everett, where he got the nickname “Magic” from a sports writer. He led his high school varsity team to a victory during the state championships.

Johnson had been miserable at Everett, but he turned his situation around and became the best high school player from Michigan.

He was scouted by several top colleges like UCLA and Indiana University, but he went to Michigan State University instead.

Magic Johnson played for LA Lakers, where he worked alongside one of his idols, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

During his first season, he led the team to a championship and was awarded the NBA Finals MVP.

In 1996, Johnson became one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


Kareem Abdul Jabbar earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA – photo source: Lakersuniverse.com

At 7’ 2” tall born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr., Abdul-Jabbar was one of NBA’s most memorable and powerful centers, winning 6 MVP awards.

In high school, he led his team to winning successive 3 New York City Catholic game championships.

He then went to the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), and played on the freshmen team. Abdul-Jabbar studied history, and later earned a bachelor’s degree.

During his time in UCLA, he became Player of the Year two times.

But because Abdul-Jabbar feared that he might not be recruited to play in the NBA, he wanted to transfer to the University of Michigan. He was convinced by a fellow player to remain in the university, though.

Believe it or not, dunking during a basketball game was banned after the 1967 college basketball season because Abdul-Jabbar kept using it. It was allowed back again in 1976.

He was born a Catholic, but converted to Sunni Islam in 1968. Kareem also studied martial arts under Bruce Lee. (Talk about being busy!)

Abdul-Jabbar’s team lost to Houston in the first ever nationally-televised game for regular season. This was called the “Game of the Century”. But in the NCAA tournament, Houston and UCLA had a rematch, and UCLA won.

He went to play for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and LA Lakers.

Although he wasn’t as bulky as other players on the field, he was well-known and well-remembered for his “skyhook” shots that he could do with either left or right hand, and was near-impossible to predict and block.

ESPN named him second best NBA player after Michael Jordan.

Steve Nash


Steve Nash attended Santa Clara University and receieved a degree in sociology- image source: foxsports.com

Stephen John Nash is a Canadian NBA player who was an 8-time NBA All-Star.

He went to high school in Saanich, British Columbia, but when he started to get low grades, his parents transferred him to a private boarding school in Victoria. There, he played basketball, soccer, and rugby.

Nash led his high school varsity team to the championships. His coach sent letters of recommendation to more than 30 universities.

A coach from Santa Clara watched a video of one of Nash’s games, and offered the kid a scholarship to attend Santa Clara University.

During his college years, Nash led his team to a win in the WCC Tournament. His team had a sporadic string of victories, and Nash doubted that he would ever get to play pro-football.

But after training with the Canadian national team and other NBA players during the summer, Nash’s skills – and confidence – improved and he began attracting the media’s attention.

When his time at Santa Clara ended, his jersey number 11 was retired, making Nash the first student at the university to receive that honor.

After getting his degree in sociology, contrary to his doubts, Nash went on to play pro-basketball for Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, the Phoenix Suns again, and the LA Lakers.

Due to health issues, Nash retired after playing for the Lakers. He was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the world. He now serves as a player development consultant.

Jeremy Lin


Jeremy Lin went to college at Harvard – photo source: newsday.com

Lin’s parents came from Taiwan, then migrated to the United States, where Lin was born.

His father taught him and his brothers basketball at the local YMCA. His mother also supported their basketball games, as long as the sport wouldn’t disrupt their studies.

He was a high performing player during his high school days.

Lin sent his resume to several colleges: the Ivy League schools, UC Berkley, UCLA, and Stanford University.

Many of the schools wanted him to be a walk-on player, and only Harvard and Brown guaranteed spots on their team. The problem was Ivy League schools don’t give athletic scholarships.

A Harvard assistant coach saw Lin play, but was not impressed with his game skills, even though his grades and height were what he was looking for.

Fortunately, the assistant coach saw him in another game, and was wowed by Lin’s determination and competitive spirit.

Lin went to Harvard University, and was, accordingly, the physically weakest member of the team, but he showed off his prowess during his second year, and became a 3-time All-Conference player.

Now he’s one of Harvard’s most famous alumni.

Lin didn’t play for NBA directly after college, and when he did, he was in the D-League. But when playing for the New York Knicks, he led a winning turnaround, which popularized “Linsanity”.

He then went on to play for the Houston Rockets, LA Lakers, then Charlotte Hornets, and currently the Brooklyn Nets.

Jeremy Lin has since become one of the most interesting players to watch, and one of the new generation players with the potential to leave behind an unforgettable NBA legacy.

Rob Clark

SchoolCampus.org admin staff managing editor

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