Today in Sports History: August 29th

8/29/1974 - Malone heads to the pros

A major moment in basketball occurs as Petersburg High School star Moses Malone signs with the Utah Stars of the ABA, rather than with the University of Maryland. Malone had been actively pursued by over 300 universities and had appeared to be heading to Maryland after signing a letter of intent and being urged to go there by his mom. Instead, he chose a million-dollar contract and became the first player to jump to the pros directly out of high school.

For years there had been a rule forbidding underclassmen from entering the NBA Draft; Wilt Chamberlain would have come out of high school, but he wasn't allowed and instead spent a year with the Harlem Globetrotters. Malone's move would have a long-lasting impact, even as the ABA merged with the NBA.

In 1987, nine kids out of high school declared themselves for the NBA Draft, and then in 1995, when Kevin Garnett came out of high school, a whole slew of teenagers followed him. In 2001, four of the top eight draft picks came directly out of high school, and in 2002, 45 underclassman were eligible to be drafted. There were so many high schoolers applying for the draft that many become concerned, and so in 2005, the league officially ceased the immediate entry of high school basketball players.

Malone would turn out to be worth the hype, although he didn't spend much time in Utah. He was sold to the Spirits of St. Louis of the ABA, was then picked up by the Buffalo Braves in the Dispersal Draft, and would go on to play for the Braves, Rockets, Sixers, Bullets, Hawks, Bucks, and Spurs in the NBA. Malone won three MVP awards and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2001; he was best known for his tendency to intentionally miss wide-open layups so that he could augment his rebounding numbers.

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