Skip to main content

The sad story of Reggie Harding -- the first player to skip college straight for the NBA

Reggie Harding was the first player to skip college and enter the NBA, Sadly, bad decisions doomed his once-promising career.
Reggie Harding

Reggie Harding

Reggie Harding had a rough childhood, and that haunted him throughout his adult life. Here’s the story of the man once touted as the next Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

Reggie Harding’s potential

In 1963, the Indiana Pacers made history by making Reggie Harding the first player to skip college to play in the NBA. His drafting wasn’t based on his talents alone but because of eligibility issues. He led Eastern High School to three straight championships, further boosting his stock as one of the most promising young big men out there. Standing at 7’0” and weighing 250 pounds, Reggie played beyond his age. Unfortunately, he became a problem for the opposing team and even his squad.

Reggie applied for the draft in 1962, but his eligibility was questioned because of a rule that high school players who wanted to skip college could go to the NBA after sitting out a year. When he finally played in the pros, his impact was immediately felt. Legendary Boston Celtics head coach Red Auerbach couldn’t help but heap praise on the youngster.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

"Say what they want to about all the fine, big fellows coming out of college in 1964, but the Pistons already have a guy who probably will outshine them all,” Auerbach said.

However, his hype was short-lived. The big man’s poor decisions would soon catch up with him. What was once a promising talent would turn into the poster child of one of basketball’s greatest lessons.

Reggie Harding’s downfall

Sleeping through practices and missing flights were considered a light offense for the Detroit, Michigan native. Harding was charged with assault and battery against a policeman, prompting the NBA to suspend him. 

When he returned after a hiatus, Reggie played like an NBA-caliber player. Dave DeBusschere even called him the 5th best big man in the league after Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Walt Bellamy, and Nate Thurmond. However, the troubles would continue to persist. He threatened to shoot his teammate once and threatened to kill his general manager, an offense that would put the nail in the coffin of his NBA career.

Harding struggled with drug addiction and was arrested 11 times. The center also allegedly raped a girl in high school. He died in 1972 after being shot twice in the head. At that time, there were still no adequate counseling resources and mental health services. Something like that could've saved his life.

Dennis Rodman once got himself ejected from a game so he could make his dinner reservation and gamble

Dennis Rodman once got himself ejected from a game so he could make his dinner reservation and gamble: "I was able to get the hell of there and start my party night right on time."

Dennis Rodman details how he got ejected from a game against the Utah Jazz so he could make his dinner reservation and start with a wild night out in Las Vegas

Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics are in a good spot heading into the 2022-23 season

Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics are in a good spot heading into the new season - “He’s in a pretty good spot with the organization”

There were fears that Brown would begin plotting his path out of Boston after he was included in the Celtics trade offer for Kevin Durant, but Brown is in a good spot with the C's entering the season

Draymond Green discusses the most difficult part of the NBA

Draymond Green discusses the most difficult part of the NBA -“We playing against the sorry motherf*****s, I can’t play

Green says that he struggles to motivate himself to play against some of the worst teams in the NBA, singling out the Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder in the process


“I didn’t think he was going to dunk!”-Dwight Howard recollected his ‘Welcome to the League’ moment featuring Kobe Bryant

Dwight Howard has high praise for Kobe Bryant, despite the fall-out in his first stint with the Lakers

Luka Doncic & Giannis Antetokounmpo

The 2022-23 GM SURVEY reveals who the GMs consider being the MVP and title favourites

Giannis Antetokounmpo voted best defender, international player, and player to build a franchise around


Richard Jefferson thinks the Milwaukee Bucks have the best Big 3 in the NBA

The Milwaukee Bucks Big Three has championship pedigree says Richard Jefferson

Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge

“Tree Bites Man” — when Danny Ainge almost lost a finger in the 1983 playoffs

The Boston Herald came up with one of the funniest headlines of all time.

Boston Celtics head coach Red Auerbach

“How many of these you consider ethical or unethical depends entirely on your organization.” — 4 moves from Red Auerbach's "57 Strategies" that players still do today

LeBron James, Chris Paul, and James Harden are just some of the greats who have picked up a thing or two from the great Red Auerbach.