Blogger's note: I made this blog on September 6, 2012, for the NBA Philippines website.
Once upon a time, there was a league besides the NBA that became a staple ground for superstar wannabes. The name of the league is called the Continental Basketball Association. Founded in 1946, the league claims that they are the first professional basketball league in the world… or at least they thought they were.
With this said – one might ask which NBA stars got their start in this league.
Here are the guys who thought had the best careers.
The game starts now.
5 - VOSHON LENARD
The sweet-shooting bruiser of a guard first flashed his goodness at the College of Minnesota where he finished college as the Golden Gophers’ all-time leading scorer. This paved the way for him getting selected by the Milwaukee Bucks as their 46th pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. He never made the squad (he returned to school) which is why he ended up playing for the Oklahoma City Cavalry of the CBA. He would then take the CBA by storm because, in 18 games, he would average 30.1ppg. And then the dream happened as Miami Heat scouts were checking out his gameplay and decided to acquire his services. He would finish his NBA career averaging 11.9ppg and in 2004, he was named NBA Three-Point King.
4 - BRUCE BOWEN
An alumnus of the Cal State-Fullerton basketball program, Bowen failed to wow people in the 1993 Draft Class that featured Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, and Christian Laetner. From 1993 to 1997 he saw action in three teams in the French league as well as two seasons for the CBA squad Rockford Lightning. In his first season in the NBA, he played for one minute and registered a mere block for the Miami Heat. Bowen would drift in Boston, Philadelphia, and Miami again for six seasons before settling with the San Antonio Spurs. After eight seasons with the Spurs, Bowen finished his career with three NBA championship rings, five First Team and three Second Team NBA All-Defensive Teams. He is also the only CBA player besides NBA Hall of Famer Paul Arizin to have his number retired by a franchise (Note: I didn’t count Arizin on the list because he was already an established star when he went to the CBA).
3 - JOHN STARKS
The former New York Knick wasn’t always the guy synonymous with Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley in their Knicks run. He was a journeyman in college (you read this right) where he was expelled, jailed, or high. Despite going undrafted in the 1988 NBA Draft, he persevered and landed a spot with the Golden State Warriors where he got cut a season later. He returned to glory after stints with the CBA’s Cedar Rapids Silver Bullets and the even more obscure Memphis Rockers of the World Basketball League. He became part of the Knicks in 1990 and became a one-time All-Star, a one-time All-Defensive Team member, and a one-time Sixth Man of the Year ever since.
2 - ANTHONY MASON
Much like his Knick teammate John Starks, Mason’s NBA start wasn’t as dandy as he would have wanted. He was cut by the Portland Trail Blazers a month after he was picked 53rd overall in the 1988 NBA Draft and he used his time in developing his skills in Turkey, Valenzuela, USBL, and for the CBA’s Tulsa Fast Breakers. I don’t know if he picked up his awkward one-hand free throw shot in the CBA but years later, he will become a one-time All-Star, a one-time All-Defensive Team member, a one-time Sixth Man of the Year, and a one-time All-NBA Third Team member while playing for the Charlotte Hornets.
1 - STEPHEN JACKSON
Captain Jack is the epitome of opportunity for all hard-lucked stars, especially with the hell he encountered in the process. Jackson was selected 43rd by the Phoenix Suns in the 1997 NBA Draft but never got the opportunity to play for them. He then played two on-and-off seasons with the CBA’s La Crosse Bobcats before going overseas to Australia, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. From there he returned to the CBA via the Fort Wayne Fury before going again to the Dominican Republic. Three years after getting drafted, he played his first official game in the NBA in 2000 for the New Jersey Nets. While he would find later success with the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks, and the San Antonio Spurs where he had two stints and a championship, he got his tune-up in the CBA. He is the only former CBA player to average 18 points and higher in a season six times.
The CBA is responsible for innovating a lot of current NBA practices like the collapsible rims, the three-point line, the integration, and the 10-day contract. Undoubtedly, the CBA is a mere stopover for potential NBA stars and PBA imports like Mario Elie, Raja Bell, Jeff McInnis, Earl Boykins, Jamario Moon, and Tony Harris. However, you can’t dispel the fact that in some ways, the league helped in developing players who were once at the low end of the NBA scouts. When the CBA ceased operations in 2009, it even made the NBA D-League important.
So what’s with the writeup? Well, this month the NBADL squad Los Angeles D-Fenders offered Talk N Text center Japeth Aguilar an opportunity to play for their squad. If Japeth succeeds, then he’ll follow a bunch of former PBA players who also played in the US minor leagues like Bong Alvarez and Vince Hizon. This is also a neat step to becoming the first pure Pinoy player to land an NBA team.