Though the 10 NBA players selected to start the 2014 NBA All-Star game vary in age from 35 (Kobe Bryant) to 21 (Kyrie Irving), they all have one thing in common: each of them graduated from an American high school.
Believe it or not, only two of these 10 All-Stars played their high school ball in the same state: Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant both split their time between schools in Virginia and Maryland. This group truly represents the whole of America, from the East (Irving) to the South (Steph Curry), from the Midwest (Dwyane Wade) to the West (Paul George).
When they all square off in Sunday night's All-Star competition, it will be a reminder of how far they've come and how bright their future still is. All-Star games typically celebrate established stars and protracted success, and this year is no different.
All of this year's participants, of this year's superstars will continue to chase NBA championships after Sunday night. But it wasn't long ago these current superstars were neophytes, young and inexperienced, lusting after the mere concept of an NBA dream.
Which All-Star has changed the most from his school school days, and who still looks young enough to get carded buying beer?
High School: St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio), graduated in 2003
As Justin Bieber is finding out, the world of international celebrity can be difficult for any teenager to navigate. Perhaps he should take a few lessons from LeBron James.
Few basketball players have dealt with so much fame quite as early as James, who made the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school junior.
NBA scouts and sneaker gurus alike fawned over the 17-year-old James, per Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl:
"At this age LeBron is better than anybody I've seen in 37 years in this business, including Kevin [Garnett] and Kobe [Bryant] and Tracy," says Sonny Vaccaro, the Adidas rep who signed the first shoe deals with [Michael] Jordan (for Nike), Bryant and McGrady.
Since James had no choice over who would draft him, the world waited for him to choose a shoe company...the original "Decision," you might say. He eventually settled on Nike.
James has filled out some since his high school days, and that headband now serves a dual purpose: soaking up sweat and hiding his receding hairline.
High School: Montclair Kimberley Academy (Montclair, N.J.), St. Patrick High School (Elizabeth, N.J.), graduated in 2010
Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is still the youngest player on this list at just 21 years old.
Irving plied his trade at a pair of New Jersey high schools. He played his first two seasons at Montclair Kimberley before transferring to the more prestigious St. Patrick.
Irving committed to Duke University before the start of his senior season, leaving him free to concentrate on basketball during his last season at St. Patrick. Per NJ.com's Mike Kinney, Irving said, "It’s a big weight off my shoulders. Now I can concentrate on trying to be the best basketball player I can be and start preparing myself for the next level.’’
Irving played only one season at Duke before Cleveland drafted him No. 1 overall in 2011.
High school: Towson Catholic (Towson, Md.), Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), graduated in 2002
Carmelo Anthony became a household name in 2003 when he led the Syracuse Orange to their first (and only) national championship as a freshman. But the Baltimore native had already attracted the attention of college and NBA scouts from his early days at nearby Towson Catholic High School.
Anthony decided to boost his stock even further by transferring to basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy for his senior season. His Oak Hill squad defeated a St. Vincent-St. Mary's team featuring a kid by the name of LeBron James.
Nowadays, Melo has scrapped the cornrows for a cleaner, more mature hairstyle. He also sports quite the neckbeard.
High School: Harold L. Richards (Oak Lawn, Ill.), graduated in 2000
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, perhaps the best Eastern Conference shooting guard since the heyday of Michael Jordan, grew up in Jordan's old haunt, the Chicago area.
Per the Washington Post's Amy Shipley, Wade didn't even make the varsity team during his sophomore year at Richards but began to excel after a growth spurt before his junior year. He was only recruited by three colleges due to academic issues.
Wade may be one of the oldest players on this list, and he has his share of injuries, but he doesn't look all that different from that high school kid.
High School: Pete Knight (Palmdale, Calif.), graduated in 2008
Few talent scouts saw Indiana Pacers forward Paul George as a potential NBA All-Star during his career at Pete Knight High School. He flew so far under the radar that neither Getty nor the Associated Press had a photo of him playing high school ball.
Though there are a few quality names on that list—No. 1, Jrue Holiday, was an All-Star last season, while No. 2, DeMar DeRozan, is an All-Star this year—it would seem that just about everybody underestimated George's massive potential.
(Note: The photo above does not depict George during high school.)
High School: National Christian Academy (Fort Washington, Md.), Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), Montrose Christian School (Rockville, Md.), graduated in 2006.
In many ways, Kevin Durant followed in the footsteps of an earlier forward from the Baltimore/Washington Metro Area, Carmelo Anthony. Like Melo, he played a season at Oak Hill. Like Melo, he made the McDonald's All-American Team (winning the game's MVP in 2006).
Unlike Melo, Durant did not stay on the East Coast for his one year of college. Durant played for the University of Texas, winning the Naismith College Player of the Year award in his only season.
Judging from the photo above, Durant was just as long and skinny at 18 years old as he is at 25.
High School: Oklahoma Christian School (Edmond, Okla.), graduated in 2007.
Oh, if only we could go back in time and discourage 18-year-old Blake Griffin from winning the 2007 McDonald's All-American dunk contest. Maybe then he could avoid a career path that would have so many people (wrongly) tag him as merely a dunker.
In high school, Griffin played with his older brother Taylor, winning two Oklahoma state basketball titles before Taylor went off to play for the University of Oklahoma, per ESPN's Dana O'Neil.
Younger brother Blake would soon join Taylor in Norman, quickly establishing himself as the superior Griffin brother.
High School: Lake Oswego (Lake Oswego, Ore.), graduated in 2007
Kevin Love is without a doubt the greatest player in the history of Oregon high school basketball. According to the bio from his UCLA Bruin days, Love broke Oregon's 50-year-old scoring record with 2,628 points despite missing much of his sophomore season.
Even in his high school days, Love gained renown for his preternatural passing ability. He spoke about it to Sports Illustrated's Arash Markazi:
I've worked on every aspect of my game, but passing comes the most natural. It is something I've worked on, but it's something I've been blessed with; being able to see things that other players might not be able to see. It's really an instinctive thing.
No one who has seen Love throw an outlet pass with the Minnesota Timberwolves would be surprised that it comes naturally to him.
High School: Charlotte Christian (Charlotte, N.C.), graduated in 2006
Like Paul George, Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry was not highly regarded coming out of high school.
Unlike George, Curry could never quite fly under the radar, playing his high school ball in Charlotte, the same city where his father Dell played 10 seasons for the Charlotte Hornets between 1988 and 1998. Dell and Steph speak of their unique basketball relation in the video above, with footage of Steph's high school career coming at the 2:31 mark.
Curry wouldn't truly make a name for himself until his sophomore year at Davidson College, where he led the mid-major school on a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight.
High School: Lower Merion (Ardmore, Pa.), graduated in 1996.
Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, who won't play in the All-Star Game as he rehabs from a knee injury, is truly the old man of this group. Kyrie Irving was just four years old when Bryant graduated from Lower Merion High School in 1996.
Though he and LeBron James are the only two players on this list who jumped from high school to the pros, Bryant belongs to an even earlier generation. Bryant, the son of NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, was one of the high school school players to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Garnett, who helped popularize the "prep to pros" move when the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 1995 draft.
At the time, it was rare for a guard to go to the pros straight out of high school. The Charlotte Hornets (who had Steph Curry's father, Dell, at the time) selected Bryant 13th overall but traded him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. The rest, as they say, is history.
(Note: New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis replaced Bryant in the All-Star Game.)