We’ve gotten so used to the idea that of course everyone wants to play in the NBA that when someone doesn’t, it seems kind of odd.
It’s rare, but not everyone does. One notable guy who walked away was former Duke big man Marshall Plumlee, who found greater satisfaction as an Army Ranger. He’s never looked back.
Another is Brazilian legend Oscar Schmidt.
Schmidt spent most of his career in Italy but anyone who doubts he could have played in the NBA didn’t watch him absolutely torch the US team in Indianapolis in the 1987 Pan-Am games.
This was near the end of the amateur era but the US still had Danny Manning, David Robinson, Pervis Ellison, Rex Chapman, Jerome Lane, Pooh Richardson and Keith Smart, among others.
It wasn't bereft of talent.
Schmidt scored 35 points - in the second half. He finished with 46 to lead Brazil to an epic upset of the US (that game had a certain influence on the decision to ultimately take pros to international competion)
Although he never played in the NBA, preferring Italy, he had a powerful effect on a young player there as Kobe Bryant idolized Schmidt.
So while he chose to skip the league, he certainly had a powerful influence on it. And we see his spiritual sons now in RJ Barrett, Luka Dončić, Ruby Gobert and Giannis Antetokounmpo, international players who are as good as any and who have, or will, lead their national teams to international triumphs.