100 Awesome Pictures of Pro Athletes as Rookies

Amber LeeSports Lists Lead WriterApril 29, 2013

100 Awesome Pictures of Pro Athletes as Rookies

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    Pro athletes like LeBron James, Sidney Crosby and Bryce Harper are rare phenomenons. Most athletes don't have the combination of raw physical talent and instincts to seamlessly make the transition into the pros and immediately contribute.

    Aspiring pro athletes certainly have talent, but for most, the first half of their career is about development and proving their value to a team.

    For those veteran stars who survived the process and went on to have a Hall of Fame career, or a career somewhere in between bust and glory, those rookie moments frozen in time can be quite revealing. Perhaps a glint of genuine fear in their eyes belie the swagger.

    Or maybe the rookie photo of a man or woman whose path has taken them down darker roads than expected reminds us of the sense of hope and renewal their budding career presented. 

    These are 100 awesome pictures of sports stars as rookies.

James Harden, Houston Rockets

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    Rookie Year: 2009-10

    Verdict: Can't blame a guy for taking the conservative approach as a rookie before busting out his signature beard/mohawk look.

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

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    Rookie Year: 2006

    Verdict: If you handed me a folder filled with unlabeled head shots of Verlander from his rookie season to an hour ago, I'd do a terrible job arranging them by age—and I bet you would too.

Brett Keisel, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Rookie Year: 2002

    Verdict: Da' Beard is yet to be born, while the hair on Keisel's head is a wee bit fuller.

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    Rookie Year: 2003-04

    Verdict: His Allen Iverson-esque hair has gone away in favor of a more Dwight Howard-ish facade.

Natalie Gulbis, LPGA

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    Rookie Year: 2001

    Verdict: Natalie Gulbis' consistency on the course, as well as her youth and warm personality, has defined her pro career from the start. She's always been pretty easy on the eyes, too.

Brenden Morrow, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Rookie Year: 1999-00

    Verdict: To earn his reputation as a physical, opportunistic presence around an opponent's net, Morrow had to sacrifice this adorable face.

Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

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    Rookie Year: 2007-08

    Verdict: Some things never change—they just get tied into a bun.

Brian Wilson, MLB Free Agent

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    Rookie Year: 2006

    Verdict: No jet black beard and no crazy look in his eyes. Mr. Wilson actually looks, dare I say, normal. 



Matt Hasselbeck, Indianapolis Colts

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    Rookie Year: 1999

    Verdict: Many teams—and much more hair—ago, this was Matt Hasselbeck.

Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

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    Rookie Year: 2002-03

    Verdict: Zetterberg, like the Detroit Red Wings, doesn't deviate from the tried and true.

Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks

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    Rookie Year: 2002-03

    Verdict: Stoudemire has become a more ripped, goggle-wearing version of the aspiring star you see here.

Jeff Gordon, NASCAR

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    Rookie Year: 1992

    Verdict: Rainbows and mustaches are awesome; Jeff Gordon should dump his contemporary, stylish facade for this retro look.

Ed Reed, Houston Texans

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    Rookie Year: 2002

    Verdict: All the younger Reed is missing is the ragged beard the current version has taken, with his talents, to Houston. 

Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

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    Rookie Year: 1997-98

    Verdict: Chara was a physical, checking beast from the start, but it's obvious that he has worked to become one of the NHL's most intimidating defensemen.

Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks

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    Rookie Year: 2008

    Verdict: Bold and beautiful; then and now.

Josh Beckett, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Rookie Year: 2001

    Verdict: A thousand-yard stare, which belies the lackadaisical clubhouse demeanor of more recent years.

Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

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    Rookie Year: 1997

    Verdict: In his 16 seasons of All-Pro-worthy play, athletes and owners have come and gone, but Gonzalez has clearly found (and drank from) the Fountain of Youth.

Heather Mitts, US Women's Soccer (Recently Retired)

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    Rookie Year: 2001

    Verdict: The Olympian and sports bombshell has always been hot, but this is a reminder she is a soccer player first.

Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

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    Rookie Year: 2003-04

    Verdict: Wade definitely has that youthful smirk and slender physique that's ever so fleeting in our young adult days. Now he's all muscles and scowls. 

Maxime Talbot, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Rookie Year: 2005-06

    Verdict: Honestly, when you have Talbot's goofy combination of a Fu Manchu and tussled—sometimes slicked-back—hair, it's hard to see much change in his appearance (with the exception of the fact that he's a frickin' Flyer now). 

Brian Urlacher, NFL Free Agent

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    Rookie Year: 2000

    Verdict: The only thing that's changed about Brian Urlacher is that he's no longer in a Bears uniform.

Lionel Messi, Barcelona FC

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    Rookie Year: 2004-05

    Verdict: Since donning shaggy locks and a boyish face, Messi has taken on more close-cut, but rugged style more aligned with his dominance on the pitch.

Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees

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    Rookie Year: 2004

    Verdict: Kevin Youkilis without his trademark mustache/goatee resembles his current clean-cut Yankee look.

Serena Williams, US Women's Tennis

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    Rookie Year: 1995

    Verdict: A young Serena Williams is clearly ready for the spotlight—an attribute that has served her well as one of the best women's tennis players in the world today.

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

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    Rookie Year: 1998-99

    Verdict: It's clearly Dirk, but the shaggy, slightly awkward German we know and love began his long career with a clean-cut look. 

Henrik and Daniel Sedin

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    Rookie Year: 2000-01

    Verdict: Somehow, the NHL's most famous pair of twin, ginger superstars look even creepier in their youth.

Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

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    Rookie Year: 2006

    Verdict: Marshall really doesn't look much different—in fact, two of three teams he's played for wear blue and orange—but after getting help for mental health issues, he certainly seems happier today.

Natalie Coughlin, US Women's Swimming

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    Rookie Year: 2001

    Verdict: Natalie Coughlin's "rookie" year was really just the starting line for a career filled with championships, medals and other accolades.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Rookie Year: 2004
     
    Verdict: Since this moment was captured, nine NFL seasons, two Super Bowl wins, legal issues and a motorcycle face-plant have had a noticeable impact on Big Ben's mug.

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Rookie Year: 2005-06

    Verdict: Add a dash of five'o'clock-shadow-verging-on-full-blown-beardedness and you've got yourself a 2013 makeover.

Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Rookie Year: 1998

    Verdict: The clean-shaven, Halladay sports an even more Phil Simms-ian face.

Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

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    Rookie Year: 2002-03

    Verdict: Sabres goalie Ryan Miller got hot at the end of a disappointing season for the team after feeling the heat from fans and media earlier. Despite the ups and downs, he's kept the same bright smile over the last decade.

LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    Rookie Year: 2003-04

    Verdict: "King James" hasn't changed at all (minus an assist from the headband).

Maria Sharapova, Women's Tennis

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    Rookie Year: 2003

    Verdict: Combining stunning beauty with legit skills as a pro tennis player, Sharapova was a star on and off the court from the beginning.

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

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    Rookie Year: 2005

    Verdict: Smooth-topped today, Gore—like his production on the field—is the model of consistency.

Chris Kaman, Dallas Mavericks

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    Rookie Year: 2003

    Verdict: This is the kind of look that an NBA player grows into—sketchy goatee and a mop-like mess of hair—but Kaman entered the league with it and has kept it going.

Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

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    Rookie Year: 2005-06

    Verdict: Ovechkin is someone who looks custom-designed to play hockey; those guys never really change, they just lose a few teeth.

Michael Phelps, US Swimmer

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    Date: 2000

    Verdict: Now that the preternatural Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time, it's compelling to see him as the 15-year-old kid aspiring to be what he would eventually would turn into. 

Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

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    Rookie Year: 1997

    Verdict: Cool and amiable, but deadly effective; Duncan's quietly impressive career in a nutshell.

Ronda Rousey, MMA

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    Rookie Year: 2004

    Verdict: When Ronda Rousey qualified for the Olympics as a member of the US women's judo team, she was a few years away from transforming into a UFC hottie who can kick your butt; in the manner/style of your choosing.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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    Rookie Year: 2000

    Verdict: Hmmm. Has anything changed about Tom Brady? I wonder if this kid ever made it.

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    Rookie Year: 2003

    Verdict: Over the years, Cabrera has taken on the look of that awesome "uncle" (yet, not related to anyone in the family) who shows up at every family barbeque and is always the loudest—and funniest—guy in the room.

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    Rookie Year: 1998

    Verdict: I can say this with absolute confidence: The Peyton Manning of 2013 would have never allowed himself to suffer this indignity.

Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

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    Rookie Year: 2001-02

    Verdict: The Spurs must have a Gatorade cooler filled with a flavor called Vampire because no one on the team seems to age.

Danica Patrick, NASCAR

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    Rookie Year: 2005

    Verdict: Danica Patrick's career as one of the few women pro racers—and the most successful—has been so closely followed over the past seven years that it's easy to forget that she was once a polarizing IndyCar driver.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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    Rookie Year: 2001

    Verdict: At this point, it's tough to imagine Brees in any uniform but the Saints', but he in fact did get Tebow'd by Philip Rivers with the Chargers; but the man looks exactly the same.

Chris Andersen, Miami Heat

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    Rookie Year: 1999-2000

    Verdict: Whoa. Andersen has clearly gone on a personal journey of tatted, punk rock discovery—or time-traveled back to 1985 to work as a roadie for The Exploited.

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Rookie Year: 2007-08

    Verdict: Not much has changed for the young phenom, with the exception of his franchise's location and push toward greatness.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Rookie Year: 2005-06

    Verdict: Sid has endured multiple concussions and a puck to the face, yet managed to keep that beautiful mug intact—let's keep it that way, rest-of-the-NHL

Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Rookie Year: 2006-07

    Verdict: In 2006, who knew that Bynum would go on to unleash the amazing powers of awesomely weird hair—from a real-time before/after look to a hair-style reminiscent of the "goombas" from Super Mario Bros

Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Rookie Year: 1998-99

    Verdict: Despite still being a slim, kind of awkward looking guy off the ice, Lecavalier has definitely added bulk over the years.

Asante Samuel, Atlanta Falcons

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    Rookie Year: 2003

    Verdict: I'm fairly certain the Eagles and Falcons just photoshopped their jerseys onto Samuel's official rookie portrait with the Patriots.

Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Rookie Year: 1997-98

    Verdict: A little more bearded today, but overall, the puck-sniping winger hasn't changed too much.

Venus Williams, US Women's Tennis

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    Rookie Year: 1994

    Verdict: Venus Williams is far from looking like the strong force of women's pro tennis that she and her sister grew into, but it didn't take long for her to play like one.

Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

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    Rookie Year: 1992-93

    Verdict: Considering the sheer longevity of his career, it's remarkable that Selanne doesn't look more weathered by the decades of hockey—it must be the ice.

Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Rookie Year: 2004

    Verdict: A little thicker in some places, but the left fielder has held steady.

Jason Terry, Boston Celtics

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    Rookie Year: 1999-2000

    Verdict: Terry definitely has the look of a 14-year NBA veteran, but where's the signature headband?

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

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    Rookie Year: 1997-98

    Verdict: Thornton quickly lost the clean-cut, blonde-surfer look and assumed the menacing lumberjack identity Sharks fans now enjoy.

Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

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    Rookie Year: 2005-06

    Verdict: By 2013, Williams evolved into a guy who could just easily pass for a hip history professor—bespectacled and elegantly dressed, but with an underlying rebellious streak.

David Wright, New York Mets

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    Rookie Year: 2004

    Verdict: David Wright has and will continue to look the part of the quintessential clubhouse captain and all-around solid player.

Lolo Jones, US Track and Field

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    Rookie Year: 2004

    Verdict: Lolo Jones was a stunning athletic specimen in 2004 and has simply taken it to the next level since. Her existence alone shaves a point off the collective self-esteem of womankind. Hell, she makes men feel a little worse about themselves too.

Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils

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    Rookie Year: 2001-02

    Verdict: Kovalchuk is a little older now, but the man hasn't strayed far from the rookie pictured above. I'd be reluctant to say he looks like 101 million bucks, though.

Tiger Woods, PGA

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    Rookie Year: 1996

    Verdict: When this photo was taken, Tiger was "destined for greatness," and while a few bumps in the road have convoluted the path, he's largely delivered. Tiger was, and will always be, the consummate pro.

Adam Dunn, White Sox

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    Rookie Year: 2001

    Verdict: Since his rookie year, Dunn has gotten a little more bristly, puffy and mullety. It’s an organic process.

Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

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    Rookie Year: 2002-03

    Verdict: Ginobli has gone from an unassuming Argentine with a full head of hair to a poorly-cloned version of the Texans' Matt Schaub.

John Terry, Chelsea

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    Rookie Year: 1998-99

    Verdict: The Chelsea defender is currently looking to extend his contract, but if a footballer's value was determined by how well they age, then Terry is in great shape.

Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

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    Rookie Year: 2003

    Verdict: Bosh basically looks like he decided to use a taupe room with matching taupe chair for a 2013 photo shoot—but this is from 2003. His hair got real a season or two later.

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

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    Rookie Year: 1999

    Verdict: Like many prospects taken in the NHL Entry Draft, Luongo is—and looks like—a veritable kid. He's definitely changed over the years, as nature intended.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., Boxing

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    Rookie Year: 1996

    Verdict: Not much has changed physically, but the high-rolling agitator he's become makes everyone view him much differently today. 

Wes Welker, Denver Broncos

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    Rookie Year: 2004

    Verdict: It's no surprise that "Tom Brady's favorite target" appears frozen in time; I imagine Brady expects no less. Now that Welker is with the Broncos, without the Brady magic, I'm afraid he's going to shrivel up like a time-lapse photo of a wilting rose.

Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees

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    Rookie Year: 1995

    Verdict: Considering how strange it's going to feel the first time there's an MLB season without Mariano Rivera, it's no surprise the future Hall of Famer appears almost unchanged from his rookie debut.

Anderson Silva, MMA

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    Rookie Year: 1997

    Verdict: Widely regarded as the best fighter in MMA history, Silva hasn't changed much over they years, save for a set of pearly whites to replace what used to be a gap-toothed grin. 

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

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    Rookie Year: 2001-02

    Verdict: As the hilarious and insightful Louis CK said in his recent comedy special—and I'm paraphrasing here—most of the young guys (like Datsyuk) who were kind of weird-looking in high school grew into solid middle-aged dudes...all the Ken's and Barbie's had nowhere to go but down.

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

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    Rookie Year: 1998

    Verdict: The nickname "Big Papi" has befit the slugger since the beginning—and only gotten more relevant with each passing year.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

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    Rookie Year: 2003-04

    Verdict: Ronaldo was well on his way to pioneering his bronzed, Ed Hardy-wearing club-it-up facade.

Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Rookie Year: 1998-99

    Verdict: The faded quality of this shot is a fantastic indicator of how long the veteran point guard's career has spanned. 

Jim Thome, MLB Free Agent

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    Rookie Year: 1991

    Verdict: Somehow, Thome at 21 looks the same as the 42-year-old who's winding down a long, great career—minus the extra baggage. 

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

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    Rookie Year: 2005-06

    Verdict: For us ladies, Lundqvist is the fine wine of active NHL players.

Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

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    Rookie Year: 2003

    Verdict: Gates basically redefined the role of the tight end in a passing offense—largely due to his freakish athletic skill set—and though he may be in the twilight of his career, the man still looks the part.

Hope Solo, US Soccer

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    Rookie Year: 2004

    Verdict: Shedding the blond hair, the brunette Hope Solo's roots now match her demeanor.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

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    Rookie Year: 1995

    Verdict: Derek Jeter is Amazon stock—he made you rich in the '90s, but while all the others were boom or bust, he keeps paying dividends.

Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

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    Rookie Year: 2002-03

    Verdict: In his youth, Rooney already looked like a charming, but ill-tempered kid you didn’t want to bump into outside of a pub. After being extruded through over a decade of hard-living, he looks like a dude you don’t want to bump into anywhere.

Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

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    Rookie Year: 1998-99

    Verdict: Man. The guy must sleep in a cryogenic chamber at night. I'm assuming Paul Pierce is going to play basketball until the sun explodes.

Nick Mangold, New York Jets

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    Rookie Year: 2006

    Verdict: From then to now, Mangold dialed up the grizzle-factor from a seven to 11.

Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Rookie Year: 2001

    Verdict: Pujols is bigger and broader these days, but there’s no mistaking who this is.

Albert Haynesworth, NFL Free Agent

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    Rookie Year: 2002

    Verdict: Long before Haynesworth was a multimillion dollar headache for the Washington Redskins, he was a promising young defensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans. 

Ronaldinho, Atletico Mineiro

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    Rookie Year: 1998-99

    Verdict: The best way to describe how Ronaldinho looks today, versus this pic: Larry Fitzgerald meets Kenny G.

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

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    Rookie Year: 1991-92

    Verdict: He's been an NHL fixture for nearly two decades, so a baby-faced Brodeur is a jarring image. 

Manny Pacquiao, Boxing

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    Rookie Year: 1995

    Verdict: Manny is one of the premier superstars of boxing and a reason the sport can become relevant again—he looks like a kid who can pummel you in this image, but now he's a man in the spotlight capable of destroying you.

Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Rookie Year: 2000-01

    Verdict: Hartnell's face and hair are in the incubation stage of their later, full-blown ginger glory.

Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm

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    Rookie Year: 2001

    Verdict: Since the 2001 WNBA draft, a deceptively meek Jackson has developed into a bad ass, blonde, sexy Amazon woman.

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

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    Rookie Year: 1994

    Verdict: From an aesthetic perspective, little has changed about A-Rod. However, his failures in the postseason and scandals make a lot of fans see a payroll-eating minotaur. 

John Daly, PGA

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    Rookie Year: 1987

    Verdict: The young Daly looks like the son of the 2013 version—if the mother kind of looked like John Daly, too. The mullet is still going strong.

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Rookie Year: 1996-97

    Verdict: An undeniable talent when he was drafted, Kobe lived up to the billing—the teenager in this pic doesn't have the aura of intense focus of the Bryant who's won five championships, but the uniform and face are timeless.

Kyle Busch, NASCAR

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    Rookie Year: 2004

    Verdict: Busch kind of looks like a mola mola; and that's something unaffected by time and space.

Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

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    Rookie Year: 1998

    Verdict: Beltre has moved on to different teams over his career, but maintained the same half-smile and Denzel Washington-esque look.

Jaromir Jagr, Boston Bruins

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    Rookie Year: 1990-91

    Verdict: Jagr is a future Hall of Famer near or at the end of his long career, but one more year—even if he's scratched in almost every game—would be worth it if he sported this beautiful mullet once again.

A.J. Pierzynski, Texas Rangers

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    Rookie Year: 1998

    Verdict: Slap on a little tuft of chin-hair, perhaps a bleached mop-top, and you’ve got yourself the current incarnation of Pierzynski.

David Beckham, Paris Saint-Germain

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    Rookie Year: 1993-94

    Verdict: This photo of the young, teen Beckham proves that the handsome footballer has likely created a generation of female fans who've held their love interests to an absurd standard.

Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics

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    Rookie Year: 1995-96

    Verdict: It's rare to see the intense, aging NBA veteran appear so goofy.