The 2019 NBA draft was unpredictable to say the least. While most thought 7’2” Bol Bol was a first round shoe-in, he fell short being selected 44th in the second round by the Miami Heat. While Bol Bol is incredibly talented (and will likely have a solid NBA career), there was simply too much other talent in the pool.
The professional basketball world is extremely subjective – would Bol Bol have been drafted in the same round if he had attended the University of Kentucky instead of the University of Oregon? It’s hard to say. While individual talent can make or break a player’s professional career, so can their decision on where to attend college.
College isn’t the only route to the NBA, but it’s certainly one of the most conventional ones. After graduating high school, athletes often need a few more years of experience in a bigger scope before earning a steep salary for their talents. And where they select to earn this experience can have exponential impacts on their growth and future success.
Some coaches and universities are known for their ability to produce all-star athletes that will have long, prosperous professional careers. While a school’s location or campus facilities may impact the recruiting process, their ability to translate students into NBA all-stars plays a large role in an athlete’s decision.
A recent study by Grand Canyon University evaluated which college’s ‘NBA pipelines’ are the strongest – in terms of number of NBA athletes produced and length of their careers. The top universities producing the most NBA players of all time are ones that also dominate the college basketball scene: Kentucky, UCLA, UNC, Duke and Kansas, respectively. Each of these schools has produced at least 70 NBA players in their school’s history.
Among the top ten universities on this list, the Atlantic Coast Conference is well represented. Four out of the 10 colleges come out of the ACC – meaning this conference attracts genuine basketball talent.
Interestingly, reigning NCAA national champions, the Virginia Cavaliers, are not as successful in producing NBA candidates – nor are 2018 champions, the Villanova Wildcats. The 2017 champions, North Carolina Tar Heels are the most recent team to win a title that are historically consistent in producing NBA players.
The average player’s NBA career is just over five years according to rosters. However, the top five universities with alumni with the longest NBA careers all spend over seven years playing pro basketball. These schools are Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, UConn and Georgia Tech, respectively.
These schools aren’t necessarily the most dominant basketball programs – though leading teams such as the North Carolina Tar Heels and UCLA Bruins are also featured on this list at seventh and tenth longest NBA careers.
At the end of the day, NBA players have accomplished extreme heights in order to turn their passions into a profitable career. Whatever got them there, they can thank their talents and hard work that aided them in earning the ridiculous salaries and short careers that will set them up for life.