Today they are basketball legends and have the world at their feet. But how did these NBA players look like as kids? How were their lives before fame? Was it obvious that they were born to be remarkable athletes? In today’s article, we will take a closer look at the childhood of some of the most amazing NBA stars.
Are you ready to embark on the NBA time machine? Buckle up!
9 Photos of NBA Players as Kids
Born in Trenton, New Jersey, on May 13, 1961, Dennis Keith Rodman didn’t have an easy early life. His father abandoned him and his two sisters, leaving the family to struggle for survival. After their father left, the family moved to Dallas.
It may come as a surprise, but – as a kid – Dennis was not very athletic. In fact, he was only 5’6’’ when in high school, and he even quit the basketball team because he wasn’t playing enough.
After graduating high school, Dennis divided his time between work and local basketball courts. He was now 6’7’’ and ready to attend Cooke County Junior College (Gainesville, Texas). However, after only 1 year and despite being a remarkable player, Dennis dropped out.
Yet, his playing skills were so obvious that he was asked to join the Southeastern Oklahoma State. He was now ready for fame and ready to become the fierce defender and rebounder we all know today.
In 1986, Dennis joined the Detroit Pistons. From that point on, his achievements include NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991, NBA Champion (5 times), NBA All-Star team in 1990, NBA Hall of Fame (2011).
The kid innocently smiling at us from these old pictures have little to nothing to do with the flamboyant and rebellious basketball player who constantly made it to the front page of the newspapers.
One of the greatest players in the history of the NBA, Earvin Johnson Jr., was born in Lansing, Michigan, on August 14, 1959. He grew up in a large family with nine sisters and brothers.
As a youngster, Magic Johnson had a real passion for basketball, and he is known to practice assiduously all day long. But, of course, his passion for basketball was no surprise, considering that both his mother and his father had played basketball.
Johnson was in eighth grade when he realized that basketball might be his future. He was only 15 when he earned his ‘Magic’ nickname. He played for his high school (Lansing’s Everett) when he managed to record 16 assists, 18 rebounds, and a triple-double of 36 points in one match.
It was already obvious that he was born to be a star. Standing at an impressive 6’9’’, Magic Johnson was an outstanding point guard during his college years at Michigan State University.
It was during college that the well-known rivalry with Larry Bird was born. The NCAA Finals faced the Indiana State Sycamores and the Spartans. This historical match ended with the victory of the Spartans.
After leaving college, Magic Johnson joined the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest is history: 12 All-Star games, 3 NBA MVP Awards, 9 NBA Finals appearances, etc.
Who would have guessed that this cute little boy with an infectious smile would turn into one of the best players in the history of the NBA?
James was born in Akron, Ohio, on December 30. Unfortunately, he didn’t have an easy start in life. His mother was only 16 when she gave birth and his father – who has an impressive criminal record – was never part of his life.
Since the family was experiencing significant financial hardship, his mother decided that LeBron’s life would be a lot easier as part of Frank Walker’s family. Frank was a local youth football coach, and it was him who introduced LeBron to basketball.
When in fifth grade, LeBron started to play organized basketball. LeBron was a naturally skilled basketball player. So in 1999, LeBron joined St. Vincent-St. Mary High School’s basketball team, scoring no less than 2,657 points, 523 assists, and 892 rebounds during the four years he played for them.
LeBron was the first high school sophomore to be selected for the USA Today All-USA First Team. His junior year hadn’t even started when LeBron got featured in the Slam magazine. In the eyes of many experts, he was among the best high school basketball players in the U.S. at that time.
Were experts right? LeBron’s achievements prove them correct: 4 times NBA champion, 17 NBA All-Star, four times NBA Most Valuable Player, NBA scoring champion (2008), NBA assists leader (2020), four times AP Athlete of the Year, etc.
It is impossible to talk about NBA stars without mentioning Michael Jordan. For all the right reasons: six times NBA championship, five Most Valuable Player Awards, three times AP Athlete of the Year, etc. But let’s take a look at a cute, stylish young Michael.
This future basketball star, Olympic athlete, and actor was born in Brooklyn (NY) on February 17, 1963. Competitive by nature and highly skilled, Michael started his basketball adventure in his backyard.
While attending Emsley A. Laney High School, Michael played baseball, basketball, and football. During his sophomore year, he decided to try for the varsity basketball team. However, he was only 5’11” at that time and, hence, considered too short.
But the highly skilled and motivated Jordan wouldn’t give up, and he became the star of the junior varsity team. He kept training hard and, by the following year, he had grown 4’’. He finally made it to the varsity team. As a senior, he played for McDonald’s All-American Game and was selected for many other college basketball programs.
Finally, in 1981, the University of North Carolina offered him a basketball scholarship. It was his great opportunity to become the basketball team star and significant in cultural geography. After his junior year, Michael joined the NBA.
Another future NBA legend, little Shaq, exudes happiness and charisma! Would you guess he would turn into an impressive 7’1’’ and 325-pound NBA center meant to become a four-time NBA champion, NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2000, or two-time NBA scoring champion?
Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal was born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 6, 1972. Since his biological father, Joe Toney – who used to be a basketball All-State guard – was 6’1’’ and his mother was 6’2’’, we could say that Shaq was genetically programmed to become a basketball star.
However, given his drug addiction problems and imprisonment, Joe Taney was never part of Shaq’s life. For Shaq, his birth father is Phillip A. Harrison, an Army sergeant who caused the family to move frequently from one military base to another.
At 13, Shaq was already 6’6’’. By age 16, Shaq – who was now 6’10’’ – started to play in Robert G. Cole High School’s basketball team. After graduating from high school, Shaq decided to study business at Louisiana State University.
While playing for LSU’s basketball team, AP and UPI named Shaq the college player of the year. He was also named the first-team All-American on two occasions. However, after his junior year, Shaq dropped out of college and decided to pursue an NBA career. And he wasn’t wrong to do so!
The son of Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, a former NBA player, Kobe was born in Philadelphia on August 23, 1978. This picture of a young Kobe – together with his father – is an excellent reminder that Kobe was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps.
After his father retired from the NBA, the whole family moved to Italy, where Joe Bryant continued his professional basketball career. Kobe was six at that time. During his stay in Italy, Kobe avidly played soccer and basketball.
When Kobe was 13, Joe Bryant retired, and the family came back to Philadelphia. It was time for Kobe to join Lower Merion High School and lead its basketball team to the state championships four times in a row.
Despite his high SAT scores and good grades, Kobe had his eyes set on the NBA. In 1996, he was declared for the NBA and got selected by the Charlotte Hornets. The next step: Los Angeles Lakers.
Among his achievements, we can highlight two-time scoring champion, five NBA championships, league MVP, or 18-time All-Star. In December 2014, Kobe surpassed the legendary Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Unfortunately, Kobe’s life was cut short in 2020 in a devastating helicopter accident. R.I.P.!
Oh, that determination in his eyes! Kevin has always exuded passion for the game. He was only 10 when he decided he would be a basketball player. Fortunately for him, his mother has always been by his side, teaching him the value of hard work.
Born on September 29, 1988, in Washington D.C., Kevin has always been passionate about basketball. By the time he was 11, Kevin was already playing for Prince George Jaguars, an AUU team with which he won two national championships.
While in middle school, Kevin was already unusually tall for his age (6’0’’). During his high school years, he kept playing basketball at National Christian Academy (2 years), Oak Hill Academy (1 year), and Montrose Christian School (senior year). By that time, he was 6’ 7’’.
As a freshman at the University of Texas, Kevin won two prestigious awards (Wooden and Naismith College Player of the Year), thus demonstrating that he was ready for the big scene. Before joining the NBA, Kevin played one season for the Texas Longhorns. He was now 6’ 9’’.
His professional career took off from that point on, and he now boasts two NBA championships, two Finals MVP Awards, an NBA MVP, two Olympic gold medals, two NBA All-Star Game MVP, four NBA scoring titles (to name a few of his accomplishments).
An innocent and cute Stephen Curry is taking a strong hold of his future! He was born to be an undisputed NBA shooter and defending MVP!
Born in Akron, Ohio, on March 14, 1988, Stephen is the son of Dell Curry, an ex NBA player. As one would expect, it was his father who introduced Stephen to basketball.
Towards the end of his career, Stephen’s father played for the Raptors, and the whole family moved to Toronto. Stephen started to play for the Queensway Christian College, leading the basketball team to an undefeated season.
At that time, Stephen had a frail stature, and most coaches were reluctant to recruit him. However, before going to college (at Davidson), Stephen became the star of the Charlotte Christian School basketball team.
During his sophomore year at Davidson, Stephen’s average per game was 25.9 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.1 steals. There is no wonder that he won the Associated Press, All-America Second Team honors. In addition, Stephen was the youngest basketball player to reach an impressive 1,000 career three-pointers.
Famous for his shooting skills, Kevin holds the most three-pointers in a season NBA record. And guess what? He broke his record twice! His professional achievements include three-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, All-NBA Third Team, or two-time NBA Scoring Champion.
Not bad for a player who had to prove many coaches wrong, isn’t it?
This is the innocent smile of a kid who decided that he won’t become the victim of circumstances!
Born in Houston, Texas, on September 14, 1989, Jimmy Butler didn’t have a smooth start in life. First, his biological parents abandoned him, leaving him practically homeless.
When he was only 13, Jimmy was moving from one friend’s house to the next one. By that time, Jimmy was playing football. However, since he was only 5’3” and afraid he would get hurt on the field, he decided to quit football and start playing basketball.
Before his high school senior year, Jimmy’s life took a positive turn: Jordan Leslie’s family offered Jimmy the stability and love he was craving for, welcoming him into their lives and supporting him towards accomplishing his dream.
Butler didn’t hesitate to accept the scholarship offered by Marquette University. And that was the beginning of his impressive career!
Would you be able to tell who NBA players are by just looking at these photos of them as kids? Share with your friends your biggest surprise!
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