Sports Lists

20 Sport Superstars as Rookies

Sean EvansContributor IIIMarch 6, 2014

20 Sport Superstars as Rookies

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Looking at vintage pictures is always fun.

    But with the emergence of "Throwback Thursday" and "Flashback Friday," (isn't that the same thing, Internet?) gawking at baby photos has become a social media phenomenon.

    To celebrate past looks and hashtags, I've gathered some early pictures of transcendent athletes that are definitely worth a double tap.

    From baby faces to regrettable hairstyles, here are 20 sports superstars as rookies.

    *Statistics via Baseball Reference, Basketball Reference and Pro Football Reference

Joe Montana

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    Associated Press

    Year: 1979

    Joe Montana was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round (82nd overall) out of Notre Dame.

    Eventually, Montana became one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, but Joe only started one game in his first season, finishing the year with a mere 92 passing yards and one touchdown.

Allen Iverson

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    CHRIS GARDNER/Associated Press

    Year: 1996-'97

    After playing two years at Georgetown, Allen Iverson was selected first overall in the 1996 NBA Draft and made an immediate impact for the Philadelphia 76ers.

    While his team only won 22 games, Iverson averaged 23.5 points per game and won the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.  

Nolan Ryan

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Year: 1968

    Despite averaging nearly a strikeout per inning and posting a solid 3.09 ERA, Nolan Ryan finished his rookie campaign with a 6-9 record for the New York Mets.

Peyton Manning

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    CHUCK ROBINSON/Associated Press

    Year: 1998

    As the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Peyton Manning started all 16 games for the Indianapolis Colts in his rookie season.

    Manning posted a 3-13 record for the year and threw a career worst 26 interceptions.

Barry Bonds

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    Gene Puskar/Associated Press

    Year: 1986

    At 21-years-old, Barry Bonds hit three home runs in 413 at bats during his rookie season.

    As a ringing endorsement to biochemistry, er, "old man strength," a 37-year-old Bonds hit 46 home runs in 403 at bats during the 2002 season.

Patrick Ewing

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    Richard Drew/Associated Press

    Year: 1985-'86

    After being selected No. 1 overall by the New York Knicks, Ewing averaged 20 points per game during his rookie season and played in the first of his 11 NBA All-Star Games.

Deion Sanders

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    Associated Press

    Year: 1989

    In 1989, Deion Sanders split time between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Falcons.

    Sanders had 11 hits in just 14 games as a baseball player, but performed significantly better on the gridiron.

    As a member of the Falcons secondary, Sanders recorded five interceptions, forced two fumbles and—as he'd do many times over the course of his career—returned a punt for touchdown. 

Bobby Hull

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    Associated Press

    Year: 1957-'58

    In his rookie season, Bobby Hull played 70 games for the Chicago Blackhawks and led the team in assists.

Gary Payton

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    Jim Davidson/Associated Press

    Year: 1990-'91

    Drafted with the second overall pick out of Oregon State, Gary Payton averaged 6.2 assists per game during his rookie season.

    While Payton would go on to record 1,132 triples in his NBA career, The Glove only hit oneyes, one!—3-pointer as a rookie.

Ladainian Tomlinson

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    PAUL SAKUMA/Associated Press

    Year: 2001

    LaDainian Tomlinson kicked down the door entering the NFL, recording more than 1,600 yards from scrimmage and scoring 10 touchdowns in first season with the San Diego Chargers.

Derek Jeter

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    Gary Stewart/Associated Press

    Year: 1996

    In a sign of things to come, Derek Jeter had 183 hits and scored 104 runs in his first full season with the New York Yankees.

    Jeter made his MLB debut four years after being drafted with the sixth pick in the 1992 amateur draft.

Michael Jordan

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    Year: 1984-'85

    As the starting shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan scored more than 28 points per game as a rookie.

    Despite being the team's youngest player, Jordan led the Bulls in scoring, rebounds, steals and assists during his first season.

John Elway

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    Paul C. Strong/Associated Press

    Year: 1983

    John Elway didn't exactly light the world on fire after being taken with the first overall pick in 1983.

    The Denver Broncos quarterback threw 14 interceptions and only seven touchdowns as a rookie, but rebounded the following year when he led the '84 Broncos to a first place finish in the AFC West Division.

     

Mark McGwire

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Year: 1987

    Mark McGwire treated major league pitching like he would have underhanders in a softball beer league, smashing balls out of Oakland Coliseum at will.

    In his first full season with the Oakland Athletics, McGwire hit 49 home runs with 118 RBI.

    The 1987 Rookie of the Year also went to the first of his 12 MLB All-Star games.

     

Shaquille O'Neal

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    Barry Gossage/Getty Images

    Year: 1992-'93

    Averaging 3.5 blocks, 13.9 rebounds and 23.4 points per game, Shaquille O'Neal had one of the most dominant rookie seasons in NBA history.

    The No. 1 overall pick out of Louisiana State University was both an NBA All-Star and Rookie of the Year award winner in his first season.

Nomar Garciaparra

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    WINSLOW TOWNSON/Associated Press

    Year: 1997

    Nomar Garciaparra was a bigger breakout star in 1997 than Puff Daddy.

    In his first full season with the Boston Red Sox, Garciaparra posted career highs in hits (209), triples (11) and won Rookie of the Year.

Charles Barkley

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Year: 1984-'85

    Charles Barkley was chosen by the Philadelphia 76ers with the fifth overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft.

    In his first year in the league, Barkley averaged nearly nine rebounds per game and was named to the NBA All-Rookie team.

Michael Vick

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    JOHN BAZEMORE/Associated Press

    Year: 2001

    Michael Vick only started two games as a rookie quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, throwing two touchdowns and three interceptions in limited action.

    The following year, however, Vick scored 24 total touchdowns and led the Falcons to a playoff win against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James

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    DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/Associated Press

    Year: 2003-'04

    LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony—alongside Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade—were taken in the first round of the 2003 NBA Draft.

    James, who finished the season averaging 20.9 points per game, 5.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists, won Rookie of the Year as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Anthony had a similarly commanding first year in the league, leading the Denver Nuggets in scoring.

Tom Brady

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    CARLOS OSORIO/Associated Press

    Year: 2000

    As a sixth round pick out of Michigan in the 2000 NFL Draft, Tom Brady had to compete with backup quarterbacks Tim Rattay, Michael Bishop and John Friesz just to make the New England Patriots' roster.

    While he only threw for six yards during his rookie campaign, he worked his way to the second spot on the depth chart, which paid off in a major way the following season.

    After starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down early in 2001, Brady took the reigns and led the Patriots to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVI.

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