Being an NBA rookie can be really tough. Either you’re the alpha dog that used to play in all of the games and through all the key moments in college/Europe, and are now forced to sit out whole games in order to “acquire experience” (whatever that means), or you’re the alpha dog that’s expected to remain the alpha dog even though the level of competition is incomparable with the teams that you used to face in the past. You’re no longer a boy, but a man and expected to perform as one at all times.
That means also taking embarrassment like a pro. Being chastised by older, less-talented players or listening to fans bickering about you not playing up to your potential are just two of the many things a young NBA player has to play through. You’re supposed to swallow that pride and prove that you’re the best on the court, because only there can you silence your critics. Still, you’re young, very young, and with youth comes a great capacity for mistakes. On the flipside, when you do something right, everyone will notice as well and turn you into a hero.
The guys on this list made a lot of things right, that’s why they’re in the NBA, whereas we, the ones that are reading about them, are not. Still, here are the 15 photos in which they look less like heroes and more like us, mere mortals.
15. Lauri Markkanen
Look at that man in the picture, see how happy he is? That’s because he’s about to join an enormously talented team led by one of the best coaches in the NBA right now. Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins and this man right here will form a great frontcourt, one that will take over the league in the future. Man, can’t wait to see these guys together for the Timberwolves!
Oh, he was traded on draft night? To the Chicago Bulls, who are in full-on rebuild-mode? And Markkanen will likely be their second-best player this season? Well, at least he’ll have time to learn… That has to be a huge let down for the talented youngster, as is this strange photo of him!
14. D.J. Wilson And Sterling Brown
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but these guys are playing for the Bucks. The name of the team on their jerseys would be enough to indicate who drafted them, but you know what would be great? If they would also wear something that would just shout: they play for the Bucks! Maybe… horns? It looks like Christmas came early in Milwaukee. While their foam fingers say #1, we are sure that this was not the number one idea that came into their heads for the best way to build their image on media day. Good on them for being good sports about it, but we’re sure their teammates will not let them live this down.
13. Melo Trimble
The Maryland point guard didn’t have a good year. Once a four/five star recruit, Melo was a leader for the Terrapins but failed to lead the team to significant success during March Madness. Still, he was a lock to join an NBA team and get drafted at least in the second round, right? Well, that didn’t happen. Trimble played for the Sixers in the Summer League and was signed by the Wolves. He was cut before the start of the season, which makes this corny picture all the worse. He had to dress like a Timber-wolf and juggle balls for nothing. Talk about making a clown of yourself.
12. Zach Collins And Caleb Swanigan
Those Blazers rookies don’t look that intimidating, do they? Despite the description on Twitter those are not game faces. If anything, they look like puppies that you want to pet. Zach Collins, the number ten draft pick, looks actually rather sad. He was traded from the Kings, so he should actually be very happy! Caleb Swanigan has reason for the frowning expression, as he could’ve been on the Cavaliers if not for a January trade for Anderson Varejao. We’re sure he’s not to pleased about losing a chance to play with LeBron James, but we’re sure he’ll do well for the Trailblazers anyway.
11. Harry Giles
This picture remains the closest thing you’ll see of Harry Giles in action for the Kings. That’s because during the Summer League he was recovering from a knee injury that kept him off the court. It’s not THAT embarrassing to wait out the summer and heal, but as a rookie, especially taken with the twentieth pick, you need to play in order to upgrade your position on the roster. The Kings are not very good, it’s doubtful they’ll be in a long time, however posing for picture as if you’re playing without actually even playing for the team? That’s a bit awkward. It also doesn’t help that this position looks so goofy and his face seems totally out of it!
10. PJ Dozier
This picture is yet to come, but once it’s done, it will be very shameful for the player who decided to take the number last worn by Kevin Durant. PJ Dozier, the undrafted rookie, asked for the number 35 when he signed the deal with the Thunder and… he got it! That’s just petty. The shame is more on the OKC’s side, but the player shouldn’t even ask for it. Respect your legends! This is probably going to put immense pressure on Dozier from fans to fill Kevin Durant’s very big shoes, so his expression in this photo is probably him realizing the can of worms he has opened with his crazy request. We hope for his sake that it can all work out in OKC.
9. Frank Ntilikina
The Knicks point guard is a raw prospect. So raw that his sole preseason game was really hard to look at. He played for 18 minutes, made just one of his seven shots, managed to get three assists and two turnovers. And all of this against the Nets, a team that’s going to suck next year. With Ntilikina at the point, you can probably bet the Knicks are going to be even worse. Worse than this photo of Ntilikina. It may not be the worst photo on this list, but it does look like he’s posing for a photo on his school’s picture day. That day can be really embarrassing for many, and we imagine his teammates would give him a good ribbing for his childish look in this photo.
8. Jayson Tatum
Nobody likes losing. The Celtics forward didn’t react to it particularly well, as his team, the second spot-having Duke Blue Devils, went on to loose against the presumably worse South Carolina Gamecocks. Yes, Tatum was a one-and-done, but he was really serious about winning, which is a good sign. Luckily for him, the embarrassment he suffered during the March Madness shouldn’t be a part of his professional career – the Celtics are stacked for years to come. But this photo of him looking very afraid of that basketball is just hilarious. It’s as if the photographer told him not to look away from the camera while a teammate threw the rock at him!
7. Jarrett Allen
Jarrett Allen is instantly recognizable for his big smile and bigger hair! Jarrett Allen is undoubtedly a fun guy and his look is a bit hard to describe. In this particular photo, it looks like he is practicing for Halloween as the Mr. Rogers of basketball. While it was clearly part of a photoshoot, we aren’t sure what the photographer was trying to convey. In the photo Allen looks more like on his teammate’s fathers than their new rookie squad member. Hopefully now that he’s cracked the NBA level he can get some style lessons from the serious ballers. Although we do give him full marks for always having such a nice smile in his photos.
6. Jonathan Isaac
If you think that this hat looks strange on the Orlando Magic pick, that’s because it doesn’t quite fit. Instead of putting on that hat, Isaac might’ve been better off just skipping it altogether and posing with the cap in his hand. In hindsight he looks a bit more than strange. It looks almost like he’s weaing an Orlando Magic hard-hat, or that one of the executives who handed him that cap were playing a prank on him. There’s something quite unserious about this whole image and when you make it to the NBA, you better be serious about “that life”. Either way, we’re sure he was just happy to be selected in the draft.
5. Josh Jackson
The Phoenix Suns rookie Josh Jackson also proves that sometimes it’s better to leave the cap off, unless you want to look ridiculous. He already wore cornrows instead of that impressive afro in the past, which begs the question: why didn’t he decide to do it at draft night as well? He knew he was going to enter that stage and wear a cap anyway. Why didn’t he make it easy on himself? Let this photo serve as a cautionary tale for future rookies: if you’re gonna wear the cap, try to accommodate it with your hairstyle! We’re not sure whether Adam Silver is proud in this photo or giggling at the goofy look the cap gives Jackson.
4. De’Aaron Fox
The Kings future point guard and presumably the sole rookie that can contain Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox decided to skip wearing a hat to his press conference and decided instead to sport a visor, which wasn’t exactly an improvement. Yes, he’s dressed according to the dress code, but draft night is a special night. I get it, you don’t want to mess up your hair, however, you get picked by an NBA franchise only once – maybe it’s OK to sacrifice that impressive coiffure for one night and look a bit more… professional? It’s basketball, not tennis. When you see a visor like that you usually associate it more with a blackjack dealer at a casino than an NBA rookie.
3. Lonzo Ball
This picture is kind of a two for one. While Lonzo Ball’s expression is funny enough, the fact that his loud-mouth father is in the photo takes it up a notch. The point guard, who’s hailed as a future Hall of Famer or at least the Rookie of the Year by many basketball fans, has yet to play a game in the NBA. His preseason was good, but it started really, really bad. In one game, Ball made just 2 out of his 15 shots (1 of 11 for three) and lost the ball three times. Luckily, he bounced back from that bad performance and is pretty much living up to the hype surrounding him so far. However, his father has never shied away from doing some embarrassing things to promote the “Big Baller Brand”, so we’re sure we’ll see more funny photos in the near future.
2. Markelle Fultz
This definitely does not look like the face of a man playing in the NBA. However it actually is none other than Markelle Fultz of the Philadelphia 76ers. This was taken during an interview with the young player, who appears to have just gotten out of bed. Although he was drafted with high expectations, he has had a tough time finding his game in the NBA. Maybe his frustrations are showing through in this photo, or maybe he is just tired from all the media attention he is receiving now that he is on the biggest stage of basketball. Either way we’re sure he’d like to have this one back.
1. Markelle Fultz
Markelle Fultz is going to be one of the unfortunate first round draft picks in history that will start off the season as a bench player. He seems to have some problems with adjusting his play to the NBA, but you have to give the guy some credit for trying. An average free throw shooter in college, Fultz decided to change his shooting motion, as you can see in the above GIF. The effect: 40% from the line. What’s uglier than that number is his motion, which is reminiscent of Shaquille O’Neal, who isn’t a guy you want to model your shooting from the line after.
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