Started from the Bottom, Now We Here: Remembering NBA Stars' Rookie Debuts

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 30, 2013

Started from the Bottom, Now We Here: Remembering NBA Stars' Rookie Debuts

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    Via ESPN and Isaac Baldizon/Getty Images

    It's easy to forget that every established NBA superstar was once a fresh-faced rookie, just hoping to make it through his first minutes in the league without getting dunked on.

    So at the dawn of the 2013-14 NBA season, we've compiled photos, stat lines and even a few quotes to commemorate the debuts of some of the league's biggest stars. And just to emphasize the before-and-after effect, we've mashed up those debut photos with more recent pictures.

    Some of today's marquee names barely saw the court in their first NBA games, while others had shockingly good initial showings. And speaking of shocking, a few of these guys—LeBron James comes to mind—seem to have morphed into different people during their careers.

    As Charles Barkley so often says, "Father Time is undefeated," and LBJ's extra wrinkles prove that.

    Not Andre Iguodala, though. He clearly spent the last decade sleeping in an anti-aging chamber.

    Let's dive in.

Carmelo Anthony

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    Via Brian Bahr and Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Oct. 29, 2003 vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Stat Line: 12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks


    Via ESPN:

    "When people look at us, they are going to notice that we won our first game," said Anthony, who was limited to 4-for-15 shooting by Bruce Bowen. "They aren't going to look at how many points I had. I don't care if I only average four points. I will be happy if we win."

Chris Paul

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    Via Layne Murdoch and Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Nov. 1, 2005 vs. Sacramento Kings

    Stat Line: 13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block


    Via Marc Stein of ESPN:

    "The Hornets received an unexpected boost when the Kings' flight in Monday had to return to Sacramento because of mechanical trouble, necessitating the use of another plane and delaying the visitors' arrival until just six hours before Tuesday's tipoff. The Kings indeed looked like a tired team and the Hornets, relying on Brown's steadiness and a relentless push from two two 20-year-olds -- with J.R. Smith and rookie Chris Paul forming the youngest starting backcourt in NBA history -- never stopped running."

Tim Duncan

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    Via Tim Defrisco and Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Oct. 31, 1997 at Denver Nuggets

    Stat Line: 15 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks


    Gregg Popovich told George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel:

    “This is a team that's historically won a lot of games, and people want to see that again. We've never been to the Finals. Naturally, when we get those guys healthy and add Tim Duncan, fans are going to get a little crazy.”

Kevin Durant

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    Via Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images and Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports

    NBA Debut: Oct. 31, 2007 at Denver Nuggets

    Stat Line: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 1 block


    Via ESPN:

    "It's tough when you have to start off your first game against Carmelo Anthony," said Allen Iverson, who had had 25 points and 14 assists. "The future is bright for him and the sky's the limit for him. He's going to be great."

Kevin Garnett

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    Via Dale Tait and Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Nov. 3, 1995 at Sacramento Kings

    Stat Line: 8 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 0 steals, 0 blocks


    Kevin Garnett at shootaround before his debut:

    “The NBA is no weak league. Everybody here has worked hard to get here and they’re very great players, so I don’t really have no low expectations. All of my expectations are very high.”

Blake Griffin

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    Via Noah Graham and Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Oct. 27, 2010 vs. Portland Trail Blazers

    Stat Line: 20 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks


    Via's Scott Howard-Cooper:

    "Griffin didn't just make his NBA debut Wednesday night, exactly one year later than scheduled. He muscled and flew and stretched and finessed his way to 20 points and 14 rebounds in L.A.'s 98-88 loss at Staples Center."

Dwight Howard

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    Via Fernando Medina and Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Nov. 3, 2004 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

    Stat Line: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 4 blocks


    Magic head coach Johnny Davis told Yahoo! Sports:

    “When you think about a kid just coming out of high school who went to the prom four months ago, he’s doing a nice job.”

Kevin Love

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    Via David Sherman/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Oct. 29, 2008 vs. Sacramento Kings

    Stat Line: 12 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks


    Via ESPN:

    "It's the start of my dream, to tell you the truth," Love said. "It was a dream to play in college, but this is something I've been working on my whole life, to get into the NBA in big arenas like this, big crowds and getting our first win."

Russell Westbrook

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    Via Garrett Ellwood and Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Oct. 29, 2008 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

    Stat Line: 13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 1 block


    Via Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:

    "Russell Westbrook, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, scored 13 points with four assists and four rebounds in his debut. He was the 10th man off the bench, starting the second quarter in place of starter Earl Watson."

Andre Iguodala

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    Via Brian Babineau and Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Nov. 3, 2004 at Boston Celtics

    Stat Line: 8 points, 0 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 0 blocks


    Via Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer:

    "About one hour and 15 minutes before officially starting his NBA career last night, Andre Iguodala sat by his locker munching grapes, apparently oblivious to the enormity of the event. The frazzled nerves that are supposed to accompany rookies before their first NBA game weren't apparent."

    "The 76ers' first-round draft choice, talked calmly before the game, insisting he was ready. Then he went out and backed up that assertion."

Deron Williams

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    Via Kent Horner and Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Nov. 2, 2005 vs. Dallas Mavericks

    Stat Line: 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks


    Via Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune:

    "The strongest impression everybody took home was of rookie point guard Deron Williams, who's now only 15,803 assists behind John Stockton on the all-time list and only about 1,000 more games like this from getting his own statue on the Delta Center plaza."

Dwyane Wade

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    Via Jesse D. Garrabrant and Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Oct. 28, 2003 at Philadelphia 76ers

    Stat Line: 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks


    Miami Heat TV analyst Tony Fiorentino said:

    “We’ve said this guy has been special all along and Miami and all of South Florida is really getting a good look at Dwyane Wade tonight. He doesn't care who’s guarding him. He’s going to the rim."

Derrick Rose

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    Via Gary Dineen/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Oct. 28, 2008 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

    Stat Line: 11 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks


    Via Sam Smith of

    “It's not easy to find The One.

    "I believe the Bulls have him, and the goal of this season that begins at the United Center Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks will be to construct or create a team that fits around Derrick Rose.”

LeBron James

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    Via ESPN and Isaac Baldizon/Getty Images

    NBA Debut: Oct. 29, 2003 at Sacramento Kings

    Stat Line: 25 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, 0 blocks


    Via ESPN's ESPN's Sean Elliott:

    I’ll tell you what: I have a new favorite player. Make no bones about it. This young man can play the game. I’m really impressed. The dunks…I’ll tell you the play that really epitomizes the way he plays the most—stopping here at the free-throw line, dropping it off to Ricky Davis. How many kids at 18 years old in the spotlight with all the hype on them are going to take that ball in and dunk it? Instead, he stops and gives it to his teammate.