10 Unforgettable & Undrafted NBA Hall Of Famers Who Defied The Odds

10 Undrafted NBA Hall of Famers who defied the odds

The NBA Draft is a widely anticipated yearly event in which teams choose the best college, NBA G League, Overtime Elite, and foreign prospects to improve their teams. However, not every eventual Hall of Famer is selected in the draft.

There have been several outstanding undrafted players throughout the National Basketball Association’s history. Undrafted NBA players meaning not selected in any BAA or NBA Draft from 1947 to present day.

In this article, we examine the extraordinary careers of 10 inspirational undrafted NBA Hall of Famers who beat the odds and exceeded expectations while crafting legendary careers as they went from undrafted to unforgettable.

#10: Ben Wallace, 2021 Undrafted NBA Hall Of Famers

The path of Ben Wallace, who rose from being an undrafted rookie to winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times, is the definition of perseverance. His outstanding NBA career cemented his status as one of the game’s all-time greats, leading to his induction into basketball’s prestigious Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

In 1996, Wallace’s career began with the Washington Bullets. But his rise to stardom began in 2000 when he became a Detroit Piston and quickly established himself as the team’s heart and soul. He had an immediate and lasting impact on the franchise, who went on to win the NBA title in 2004 after making several trips to the playoffs.

Wallace’s defensive prowess and toughness were unmatched while making standing at 6 feet 9 inches tall look imposing. He made a name for himself on the court as a dominant force, excelling in the areas of rebounding, shot blocking, and overall excellence on the defensive end. His defense was the backbone of the Pistons’ success, which is a testament to his unmatched ability to stymie opposing offenses, control the paint, and protect the rim.

Beyond his defensive abilities, Wallace will always be remembered for his leadership, work ethic, energy, and the passion he brought to the game. He was a selfless athlete who put the team’s success ahead of individual awards, earning the admiration and love of his teammates as well as the fans.

Wallace was well-known for sporting an iconic afro and for always striving to be the best on the court throughout his entire career. The impact Ben Wallace had on the game went far beyond the numbers. He left a lasting reputation as one of the best defensive players in basketball history, and his induction into the NBA Hall of Fame is evidence of this.

#9: Carl Braun, 2019

Carl Braun’s stellar NBA career brought him the recognition and a well-deserved induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He made significant contributions to the game and is well-known for his exceptional on-court abilities, influence and versatility.

As an undrafted member of the New York Knicks, Braun began his NBA/BAA career in 1947. During his NBA/BAA playing days, which lasted from 1947 until 1962, he rose to prominence as a 5x All-Star and 2x All-BAA/NBA player recognized for his high basketball IQ, ability to score and solid decision-making.

Throughout Braun’s career he thrived as a guard and was a versatile asset for any team as he stood at 6 feet 5 inches tall. While playing nearly half of his career prior to the NBA’s introduction of the shot clock, Braun showed off his offensive skills, averaging a noteworthy 13.5 points per game during a basketball era of less possessions and low scoring.

Braun was valuable to the US Army as well. After serving his country for two years in the military he returned to the Knicks without missing a beat. Playing a significant role in his team’s success, he helped the Knicks secure one of three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals from 1951 to 1953.

On and off the court, Braun gained a reputation as a great leader thanks to his ability to guide his teams to victory. In addition to his success with the Knicks, Braun was a member of the 1961-62 championship Boston Celtics team, having an influence wherever he played.

Braun was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in honor of his stellar career and consistent contributions to the game of basketball. Ballers today continue to find inspiration in Carl Braun’s journey and influence as a gifted, versatile and undrafted NBA player.

#8: Arnie Risen, 1998

The NBA Hall of Fame career of Arnie Risen is validation of his extraordinary skill and long-lasting dedication to the game. In the early years of the NBA, Risen established himself as a dominant center. He was a force to be reckoned with on the court, standing 6 feet 9 inches tall and possessing outstanding size and strength during his era.

In 1945 Risen’s career started with the NBL’s Indianapolis Kautskys but he left the team 3 years later. His rights were sold to the Rochester Royals in 1948. The Royals were one of the NBL teams absorbed by the BAA which rebranded into the NBA. Therefore Risen was never part of an NBA Draft.

Risen made his Rochester Royals (Sacramento Kings) debut and quickly made a name for himself as a consistent scorer and solid rebounder. Risen rose to become one of the best centers in the league thanks to his shooting touch and superb footwork.

In 1951 with the Royals and again in 1957 with the Boston Celtics, Risen won two NBA titles, highlighting his illustrious careerRisen was also a four-time NBA All-Star, consistently impacting the game before retiring in 1958 after 10 seasons in the BAA/NBA.

Risen’s 1998 induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame cemented his place among the all-time greats of the sport. His achievements throughout his career and his contributions to the game will forever be significant moments in NBA history. Arnie Risen will always be remembered by basketball fans as a gifted and successful center.

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#7: Buddy Jeannette, 1994

Buddy Jeanette signed to the ABL’s Baltimore Bullets in 1946. The Bullets left the ABL to join the BAA in 1947. Hence, Jeannette already on a team, entered the BAA/NBA by way of his team joining the league.

The Hall of Fame career of Buddy Jeannette is a testament to both his versatility on the floor and his leadership abilities. In the early years of professional basketball, Jeannette became one of the league’s most gifted players. And even though he was only 5’11”, he was able to dominate the game.

From the late 1930s to 1950, Jeannette played professionally in three different leagues, winning five championships while displaying his remarkable scoring prowess, tenacious defense and savvy passing. Because of Jeannette’s lightning-quick speed and agility he was a known problem for any defender attempting to stop his progress towards the basket.

Jeannette was an BAA/NBA trailblazer. After taking over the Baltimore Bullets in 1947, he became the first player-coach to ever in the history of the league to win a championship. His first major triumph came in 1948 when the Bullets won the Basketball Association of America (BAA) title under his guidance.

Buddy Jeannette was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 in recognition of his innovation and extraordinary contributions to the sport. His legacy as a talented basketball player and an innovative coach continues to encourage upcoming generations of athletes.

#6: Connie Hawkins, 1992

1992 Hall of Fame inductee Connie Hawkins

Connie Hawkins’ outstanding basketball career earned him a spot in the NBA Hall of Fame. Renowned for his astounding combination of finesse, versatility, athleticism, creativity and having a natural talent for the game that distinguished him from the other ballers of his era. As he captivated fans in the 1960s and 1970s with his gravity-defying finishes, graceful moves, and great court vision, Hawkins rose to fame as a basketball legend.

Hawkins didn’t enter the NBA through the draft. Phoenix and Seattle flipped a coin for his rights. With an average of 24.6 points per game, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in his rookie NBA season, Hawkins quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. His impact transcended beyond the personal stats and accolades, as he also guided the Phoenix Suns to their first-ever postseason appearance in franchise history.

The Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, and Atlanta Hawks were all stops along Hawkins’ stellar NBA career, which lasted from 1969 to 1976. Despite having a late start to his NBA career, he still succeeded in making a significant contribution to the game. Once he arrived he soared like a hawk.

Hawkins earned the moniker “the Hawk” due to his last name, his effortless ability to score from everywhere on the court and his ability to execute gravity defying acrobatic moves.

In 1992, Hawkins received recognition for his contributions to the game as he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, securing his place among the game’s greatest players ever. His legacy goes beyond his achievements and stats.

Future generations of talented, high-flying players that would grace the hardwood would follow in Hawkins’ footsteps. The name Connie Hawkins will always be associated with excellence, as he will forever be an iconic figure in basketball history.

#5: Neil Johnston1990

Neil Johnston established himself as one of the best centers in the history of the NBA with a tremendous Hall of Fame career. Johnston was an unrivaled force in the paint throughout the 1950s while spending his entire NBA playing career with the Philadelphia Warriors.

He was a force to be reckoned with because of his 6’8″ height and superb scoring skills. Known for his slick footwork and silky post moves, throughout his career Johnston averaged a spectacular 19.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.

Johnston won the NBA scoring title three times thanks to his efficient offense. In 1956 he showed that his impact was bigger than his individual stats while leading the Warriors to an NBA championship.

His inclusion among the sport’s all-time greats was confirmed in 1990 when he was honored with an induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame for his many great contributions to the game.The legacy of Neil Johnston lives on as testimony to his basketball IQ, skills, and unquestioned influence on the game. Not bad for an undrafted player.

#4: Al Cervi, 1985

Al Cervi served as a player-coach for the Syracuse Nationals, one of the NBL teams absorbed by the BAA. Therefore just like Arnie Risen he was never part of an NBA Draft. Nonetheless, Cervi’s contributions to the game, highlighted by his extraordinary talents and storied career, paved the way for his induction to the NBA Hall of Fame.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Cervi established himself as an elite point guard. During his time with the Syracuse Nationals (now the Philadelphia 76ers), he was crucial to the team’s success. Cervi was a force to be reckoned with on the court thanks to his remarkable playmaking skills, defensive prowess, and tenacious competitive nature.

He changed the game with his aggressive style of play, which was known for its unrelenting full-court press. Al Cervi’s legacy as one of the greatest NBA players of all time was cemented in 1985 when he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in honor of his extraordinary career.

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#3: Joe Fulks, 1978

To attract fans and fill his seats, the Philadelphia Warriors owner and coach Ed Gottlieb signed a rookie Fulks in 1946 to put the ball in the hole. He wasn’t drafted because the first BAA/NBA Draft didn’t take place until 1947.

Joe Fulks’ remarkable NBA career solidified his status as a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Fulks, known for his outstanding athleticism and scoring abilities, changed the game with his high-flying style of play and lethal bucket-getting skills.

He became well-known in the 1940s and 1950s, destroying opponents with astounding scoring averages. Fulks’ accomplishment, which demonstrated his offensive prowess, made him the first player to ever average more than 20 points per game for an entire season.

He was a force to be reckoned with on the court, at 6’5″, with his quickness, ability to penetrate and knock down shots from a distance. Fans were frequently in awe of his performances because he routinely came up clutch in crucial moments.

Beyond his stats, Fulks contributed to the game in an innovative way that influenced the rise of professional basketball. His induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame attests to his undeniable influence on the sport today, as his legacy continues to live on.

#2: Bob Davies, 1970

Bob Davies was a member of the Rochester royals in 1949. Therefore, like his teammate Arnie Risen, Davies was never drafted because his NBL team became a part of the BAA/NBA. Davies would go on to have a long lasting impact on the basketball world during his celebrated NBA Hall of Fame career.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Davies became well-known as an outstanding point guard renowned for his remarkable playmaking skills, originating dribbling behind the back, and scoring. Davies, who predominantly played for the Rochester Royals, displayed his knack for playing on both ends of the court and established himself as one of the league’s finest all-around players.

The point guard position was transformed by his innovative playing style, which featured flashy passes, speedy drives to the basket, and precise shooting. Davies played a significant role in the Royals’ success, guiding them to the 1951 NBA title.

He received multiple accolades throughout his career, including five All-BAA/NBA Team honors and four All-Star selections. Bob Davies left a lasting legacy as one of the best point guards in the history of the game with his extraordinary court vision, behind the back dribbling, and basketball IQ, earning him a spot in the NBA Hall of Fame.

#1: George Mikan, 1959

1959 Hall Of Fame Inductee, George Mikan

The NBL’s Chicago American Gears folded in 1948. As a result the Minneapolis Lakers received the rights to Mikan in a lottery. Therefore, like Arnie Risen, Bob Davies, Al Cervi and Joe Fulks, Mikan was never drafted because the team that owned his rights became a part of the BAA/NBA.

Basketball history will forever remember George Mikan as a game-changing force thanks to his NBA Hall of Fame career. Mikan, who changed the center position and redefined the pecking order on the floor for his era, stood 6 feet 10 inches tall.

From 1948 until 1956, he was a member of the Minneapolis Lakers, where he won five NBA titles. Mikan had a significant impact on the game as the first superstar of the league, displaying his remarkable talent and unstoppable ability to score. To combat his overwhelming presence, new regulations including lane widening and the implementation of the shot clock were devised.

Mikan made contributions that went beyond his playing career, acting as a trailblazer in the evolution of the modern game. He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1959, which solidified his legendary status and long lasting impact.

The Road to the hallowed halls

The road to the hallowed halls of the Naismith Basketball Memorial is paved with talent, perseverance, and a little bit of good fortune. The Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of greatness in the world of professional basketball.

While many superstars have entered the league through the draft and carved their names in history, the best undrafted nba players of all time have managed to attain an induction despite not being a part of or chosen in the NBA Draft. These undrafted basketball players defied the odds and separated themselves among the sport’s best players by possessing incredible tenacity, resiliency, and talent.

From Ben Wallace’s unmatched work ethic to Connie Hawkins’ explosive talent to undrafted nba players who became all-stars, these superstars have demonstrated that success can be attained with unrelenting dedication and unwavering self-belief. Their stories show that a player’s full potential may still be realized even without the validation of being chosen in the NBA Draft, proving that the limited opinion of others doesn’t have to be the deciding factor of one’s success.