Classic Pics of NBA Superstars in Their Summer League Debuts

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2013

Classic Pics of NBA Superstars in Their Summer League Debuts

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    The NBA Summer League's first leg is heating up down in Orlando, bringing up memories of today's superstars starting out their careers wearing loose, generic jerseys out in Las Vegas as they get their first taste of professional basketball.

    From skinny Kevin Durant (I suppose that would be skinnier), green Derrick Rose and all the way back to a young, strapping LeBron James ready to take over the league, the NBA's best players had to play alongside the Chris Quinns and Coby Karls of the league.

    The only thing we really have to remember those days is a handful of pictures of the young folks in their earliest possible NBA days.

    While the Summer League roars along, the NBA is using its Instagram account to empty out its archives and give us a look into the past.

Tony Parker, 2001

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    Picking Tony Parker 28th overall back in 2001, the San Antonio Spurs had just nabbed a point guard who would prove to be their best foreign investment of all the overseas dice-rolls that they've made over the years.

    Parker's Summer League was his first look at playing in the states, and he was impressive in his four games, averaging 18 points, nine assists, four rebounds and two steals.

    There he was, barely 19 years old, looking just as purposefully scraggly as every.

Dwyane Wade 2003

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    Dwyane Wade was a solid prospect coming out of Marquette in 2003, but his superstardom was far from guaranteed.

    He took off in five Summer League games after the Miami Heat drafted him, showing flashes of what he would become.

    Wade averaged 13.4 points, six rebounds, 4.6 assists and two steals playing in the Pepsi Pro Summer League.

LeBron James, 2003

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    The guy who transformed the Cleveland Cavaliers kicked off his NBA career playing in just a single Summer League game.

    After scoring 25 points, nabbing nine rebounds and pulling down five assists, the Cavs probably realized that it was pointless to have him on the roster.

    Beyond that, take a gander at that headband-free soon-to-be superstar with a solid, straight hairline.

Carmelo Anthony, 2003

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    Anthony burst out with some stellar scoring performances back in 2003, even though his jersey was baggy enough to hold another human.

    He put up 20 points per game, just out-pacing Keith Bogans' totally career-foreshadowing 19.4 point average.

    On top of that, Anthony picked up 4.3 rebounds and a measly 1.3 assists. I guess some things don't change too much.

Chris Bosh, 2003

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    Chris Bosh's first days in the NBA were spent alongside fellow draftee and teammate Matt Bonner, the two of them teaming up as the ultimate stretch-4 combination.

    Six games was all Bosh needed, putting up 15.8 points and grabbing five rebounds per game.

    For whatever reason, it seems as if his neck was a lot longer back then. Maybe it's just the Raptors colors doing that to him.

Luol Deng, 2004

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    Luol Deng was far from a sure-thing prospect when the Chicago Bulls picked him up seventh overall in 2004, but he was a solid gamble.

    The Bulls hopes were heightened when Deng pulled out a 15.4 point per game average while averaging 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals.

    He showed hints of the solid scorer he would become, but he also put together some solid defensive performances.

Dwight Howard, 2004

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    Dwight Howard was a bit of a surprising top overall pick ahead of Emeka Okafor, and he was even panned a bit as a high school prospect.

    Howard's Summer League performance showed just how raw he was, but how much potential he had based solely on athleticism.

    He didn't crack the top 10 in scoring during the Pepsi Pro League, but he did average 10.4 rebounds, a full two boards more than second-place Al Jefferson, and three blocks, also out-pacing Jefferson.

Chris Paul, 2005

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    Coming after Marvin Williams and Deron Williams in the 2005 NBA draft, Chris Paul was an absolute steal at fourth overall.

    The first sign of his playmaking ability came during the '05 Summer League, New Orleans watching as Paul played in four games and committed just nine turnovers.

    Beyond that, he averaged 11.8 points and 5.5 assists while looking like a skinny little kid.

Rajon Rondo, 2006

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    Rajon Rondo's first step into the NBA during the 2006 Summer League with the Boston Celtics was fine, but it still had people questioning whether or not he would be able to wrestle minutes away from Delonte West and Sebastian Telfair. 

    Chew on that thought for a few seconds.

    Rondo and Telfair were both hanging out on the Summer League roster, and while 'Bassy was shooting 33 percent from the field, Rondo was taking smart shots, averaging nine points and 3.3 assists.

Kevin Durant, 2007

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    In the final season for the Seattle Supersonics, Kevin Durant was a puzzling delight for fans who paid attention to meaningless July games.

    Yea, he averaged 25 points over the course of five Vegas Summer League games back in 2007, but he also grabbed just nine rebounds in 173 minutes of action.

    That's just 1.8 boards for a guy who was as tall and athletic as any prospect since LeBron James.

    Of course, the dude was skinnier than Manute Bol at that point in his career.

Derrick Rose, 2008

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    Derrick Rose's selection as the top overall pick in 2008 was a no-doubter in just about everybody's mind except Michael Beasley.

    However, his two measly Summer League games certainly gave people a reason to overreact to the selection.

    Rose averaged just 9.5 points per game, outscored by the likes of Aaron Gray, but he did add on four rebounds, 5.5 assists and two steals, so his all-around performance was fine.

    Maybe its was that giant t-shirt that slowed him down.

Russell Westbrook, 2008

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    Westbrook's first days in the NBA were absolutely stellar. It was a performance that flew in the face of all the folks that said Oklahoma City was making a mistake taking him fourth overall.

    Through four games, Westbrook averaged 16.5 points on 50 percent shooting, with 14 assists, seven steals and just six turnovers.

    Not bad for a guy who averaged just 12.7 points in his final college season.

James Harden, 2009

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    Harden was the third straight lottery pick for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he actually out-performed sophomore Russell Westbrook through four games.

    Granted, Westbrook played in just a single game, but it was still impressive.

    He averaged 14.5 points, three rebounds, 3.3 assists and just over a steal per game during his four games.

    And would you look at that? That's a nearly clean-shaven chin.

Stephen Curry, 2009

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    The top four guys on Golden State's 2009 Summer League roster absolutely scored points like crazy.

    Anthony Randolph averaged an insane 26.8 points while Anthony Morrow pulled out 24.7 points out of nowhere and Cartier Martin averaged 19.7, because that makes sense.

    Meanwhile, little Steph Curry sat back, averaged 17.4 points while picking up 21 assists, 12 steals and 18 turnovers in five games.

Paul George, 2010

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    Paul George put his athleticism on display and showed that his future was bright during his first five professional basketball games.

    15.2 points per game was a good look, but for a shooting guard to go out and pull down 7.8 rebounds and add 2.4 steals per game through five contests was extremely impressive.