This season's NBA playoffs couldn't have a bigger high school theme if Zac Efron had a starring role.
This is the first time that each of the top four contending teams features a player drafted out of high school as the central figure: LeBron James on the Cavaliers, Kobe Bryant on the Lakers, Dwight Howard on the Magic and, by virtue of his potentially season-ending knee injury that could alter the playoffs, Kevin Garnett on the Celtics. These are the commencement exercises, the full coming of age for this generation of players.
It's rare that a group has a beginning and an ending as sharply defined as this one's. In this case, we can say definitively that it began with Garnett's leap from Farragut Career Academy in 1995 and continued through the 2005 draft, the last before the new collective bargaining agreement forced players to wait a year after finishing high school to enter the league.
Once thought to have unleashed a trend that pessimists worried would ruin the NBA, these players have developed into the caretakers of the game. These four members of the vanguard embody everything you look for in a player: fundamentals, athleticism and passion. And they represent something else: evolution...