Top 20 Athletes Today Who Never Attended College

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Today's Top 20 Athletes Who Never Attended College

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With the way sports are today, it's very difficult for a player to go right from high school to the professional level -- even in MLB. However, since the NBA rules have changed, disallowing high school basketball players to skip college and go right to the professional ranks, a while back, it's interesting to look back and see who the most successful high school athletes to go professional were.

Yes, you could make a list purely based on high school basketball players to go pro, but that's no fun. I wanted to make a list of the top 20 athletes today who decided to skip college in order to make money at the professional level.

We all know the NBA and MLB are full of guys who never attended college, but did you know that hockey, soccer, tennis and track and field all have superstar athletes who never attended college and are tearing it up at the next level. Going from high school to the pros has to be one of the biggest transition of any in a lifetime and it's interesting to see these guys adjust to playing with guys who have been in the league for five or ten years.

Just think about it, when you were a senior in high school and you played a high school sport, do you think you could play with guys like Justin Verlander or Kobe Bryant or even Michael Jordan the next year? Yeah, I almost shudder at the thought of trying to playing against some of the best to ever play their respective sport.

It's amazing that these athletes can make the transition with relative ease and prove to be more than just successful, but prove to be a superstar. Sports are no longer like that and NBA forbids players under the age of 19 to play in the NBA. The NFL makes players stay in college for at least three years before declaring for the draft -- so there will be no NFL players on this list.

Let's take a look at the top 20 athletes today who never attended college. Let me know if I missed any of your favorite players who never went to college.

Connor Muldowney is a columnist for Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at

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20. Josh Smith

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Although he's having a tough season with the Detroit Pistons in 2013-14, Josh Smith is one of the most successful high school to pro athletes out there. He came out of the prestigious Oak Hill Academy and became one of the most athletic big men in the league.

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19. Brandon Jennings

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Brandon Jennings has scary-good ball handling moves. He's quick and can cut to the basket with relative ease, but he needs to work on his jump shot a bit. Still, he's one of the best point guards in the game today and he didn't even have to open a college book to be just that.

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18. Monta Ellis

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Monta Ellis is having one of his best seasons as a pro this year with the Dallas Mavericks. Oh yeah, and he's so successful in the NBA with zero college experience.

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17. Yasiel Puig

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While Yasiel Puig isn't exactly a superstar yet, he has the potential to be a big time player.

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16. Ichiro Suzuki

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One of the best hitters of all time, Ichiro never attended college. Yeah, his thousands of hits and millions of dollars earned were without a college degree.

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15. Novak Djokovic

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With six Grand Slam titles, Djokovic is one of the most successful tennis players out there -- and he's only getting better at age 26.

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14. Amar'e Stoudemire

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Amar'e used to be one of the top-five big men in the league before his plethora of injuries. However, he has had so much success, not going to college seemed like the correct choice for him.

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13. Josh Hamilton

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Josh Hamilton knows a little something about hitting a baseball a long way. However, the slugger never attended a university and got to experience campus life.

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12. Dwight Howard

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Dwight Howard sometimes acts like a child and it all makes sense -- he never attended college. He's still the best center in the NBA today.

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11. Kevin Garnett

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No one can knock Kevin Garnett for not going to college. The guy is a future Hall of Famer and one of the most polarizing players to play in the league in the past decade, or so.

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10. Tracy McGrady

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Back in the days of Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter on the Toronto Raptors, everyone though T-Mac would take the league by storm -- and he did. He's a seven-time NBA All-Star and two-time scoring champion -- pretty solid.

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9. Sidney Crosby

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Sid the Kid might be the best hockey player in the world right now. However, college could have made him tougher, but he never went so I guess millions of dollar and fame will do.

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8. Clayton Kershaw

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Kershaw had an era of just 1.83 in 2013 and he also won the Cy Young. I guess turning down a scholarship to play baseball at Texas A&M was a pretty good idea for the [very rich] superstar.

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7. Mariano Rivera

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Mariano Rivera is the best closer of all time. Would you believe he never stepped foot in a college classroom? Yeah, you better believe it.

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6. Shaun White

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The Flying Tomato has been dubbed one of the best U.S. Olympians of all time and he could be the best snowboarder out there. I bet you're all pretty surprised he never attended a college.

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5. Miguel Cabrera

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Coming over to the United States with no college experience and one of the best bats out there, Miguel Cabrera did a pretty solid job of making a name for himself -- he is the best hitter in the game today.

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4. Usain Bolt

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Fastest man on earth? No college degree.

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3. Lionel Messi

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Best soccer player in the world? You got it right, there's no degree hanging on his wall, either.

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2. LeBron James

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Everyone knows that King James skipped college. Imagine if he did play in college -- would that help or hurt his game? Well, he's the best player in the NBA right now so it probably doesn't matter.

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1. Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant will go down as one of the top-five players of all time. He came right out of high school and started dominating the NBA.

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