KEY POINTS

  • Renowned coach Larry Brown is an ABA Champion but never played in the NBA
  • Then-high school prospect Lenny Cooke was once tagged as "better than LeBron James"
  • Oscar Schmidt has scored roughly 11,000 more points than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The NBA houses the best basketball players from around the world. However, there were some who just didn’t make it to the world’s most prestigious basketball league for some reason.

Below are five of the greatest ballers from different eras who never played in the NBA.

Larry Brown

Many knew Brown as one of the best coaches in the NBA. But some may not know that prior to pursuing a coaching career, he was also one of the top players of his era.

Though he never played for the NBA, Brown is an Olympic medallist and an ABA Champion.

Larry Brown SMU 2015 SMU head men's basketball coach Larry Brown will be suspended for the team's first nine games of the upcoming season for violating NCAA policies. Photo: Getty Images

Ronnie Fields

Accidents happen and for an athlete, this could result in an untimely end of a promising career. This was the case of Ronnie Fields, the Farragut Academy superstar, who was on the verge of entering the NBA when he suffered a car accident that broke his neck.

NBA legend and Fields’ high school teammate Kevin Garnett even once said, “ I had a teammate in Ronnie Fields that was probably better than I was.”

Lenny Cooke

LeBron James is arguably the best basketball player in the world today. However, before “King James” dominated the league, a certain Lenny Cooke was once tagged as “better than LeBron.”

Cooke had a monster high school career and was touted to become a future NBA superstar. However, James’ game-winning shot in the ABCD camp changed everything for him. Since then, the Brooklyn native lost his confidence and eventually became forgotten.

Former Nike, Reebok and Adidas sneaker executive Sonny Vaccaro, who was present during the game previously said, “It wasn’t like Lenny [Cooke] did bad, but LeBron [James] just won the game.”

Pee Wee Kirkland

For decades, New York is hailed as the “Mecca of basketball.” In the playgrounds of "The City That Never Sleeps," only a few people have never heard the name Pee Wee Kirkland.

Unlike other NBA prospects, Kirkland was honed in the streets of New York and he never wanted to leave the hood. He made a lot of money by hustling in the streets that he even rejected an offer from the Chicago Bulls.

Oscar Schmidt

Many consider Oscar Schmidt as the greatest basketball player who never competed in the NBA. Interestingly, Schmidt’s talent didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, the Brazilian had turned down the NBA several times because he preferred to play for his beloved country.

Schmidt has reportedly scored more than 49,000 points throughout his 23-year career, a whopping figure which puts him roughly 11,000 points above NBA Hall of Famer and all-time top scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had 38,387.