Big dreams are hard to capture in a photograph. Most people in their high school days had grand aspirations that far exceeded the reality that the future actually held for them. Plenty of hopeful doctors and astronauts settled for jobs in businesses as managers, accountants, technicians, laborers and every other occupation out there. Almost all photos taken back in high school didn’t capture the dreams inside the minds of the subjects in them. There are a few exceptions to this, one exception would be future professional athletes.
Although many, if not most of the youths that participate in high school sports dream of making it to the big time, the vast majority of these people go on to do something else with their lives. It is very rare that someone in high school was dreaming about the job they would actually end up doing as an adult. This unusual list of high school photographs include some great examples of young dreamers that hoped to play professionally. It is interesting to look at a snapshot in time, before any dreams were made into reality, a reality that we all take for granted now. Here are 15 photographs of high school students that later went on to become our sports heroes.
15 Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson is easily one of the most polarizing NBA players of all time, but before being one of the biggest names in basketball, he was just a kid with from Lansing, Michigan. Magic wanted to play high school ball for Sexton High School, and was very disappointed when he was told he would be going to Everett High School which was predominately white. Magic said there were many accounts of racism towards him during his high school days, and a lot of his teammates refused to pass him the ball during his first year there.
A sports writer from the school first dubbed him as "Magic" Johnson, after seeing him rack up 36 points, 18 rebounds, and 16 assists in one of his first games with the high school team. Johnson went on to bring the school a Michigan State Championship, and was considered the best high school player to come out of Michigan. This picture is Magic and his coach at age 17 which shows Magic sporting a nice afro.
14 Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook is one of the game of basketball's most exciting players, and is considered to be one of the league's best point guards right now. Even though it seems Russell has been putting on shows with his ecstatic dunks for years, it wasn't always like that, as he didn't even start on his varsity team in high school until his junior year. Russell attended Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, California, and didn't receive any college looks until right before his senior year of high school.
Russell averaged a very impressive 25.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.3 assists and led his team to a 25-4 record that year. Those stats were enough to get Westbrook a offer from UCLA, and the rest is history for the Oklahoma City guard.
13 Larry Bird
Larry Bird is one of the most talented and beloved basketball players of all-time, but before his country wide recognition, "The Hick From French Lick" was, well, a hick from French Lick, Indiana. This picture definitely shows a young Larry, as he looks much skinnier here than he ever did in the NBA. Larry attended Springs Valley High School and is the schools leading scorer as he averaged over 30 points per game during his senior year at the school.
Luckily for Bird his success in high school translated into college and then into the NBA, because if it didn't, Larry would have lived his whole life in his small town and no one would have known his name. It looks as though Bird was going with the early Justin Bieber hairdo before it was famous too, and I'm glad he ditched that type of hair before becoming one of the greatest NBA players to ever step on the hardwood.
12 Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain was one of the best players in the NBA's great history, and will go down as the most dominant center to ever play the game of basketball. Chamberlain was pretty much a freak of nature ever since he was a boy, and he entered his freshman year of High School at Overbrook in Philadelphia at a whopping 6-foot-11. He obviously had a lot of success due to his height in high school, and apparently absolutely dominated the smaller competition game in and out for his Philadelphia school. He was a great track athlete as well, which most likely helped his athleticism out for his NBA days later on.
Legendary nicknames were also allegedly formed during Wilt's high school days, such as "The Stilt" and "The Big Dipper." The picture above shows Wilt dunking taking huge strides while running during track practice.
11 Shaquille O'Neal
It's only right to go with another one of the most dominant big men to ever play the game of basketball, and Shaquille O'Neal will also go down as one of the league's best players of all-time. Shaquille O'Neal wasn't always the powerful big man we saw him as during his NBA career, as he actually wasn't able to dunk for a while even though he was very big, but once he found out how to use his body correctly, Shaq was destined for greatness.
Shaq went to the Robert G. Cole High School in San Antonio, and led his team to the State Championship in his senior year. He led the squad to a 68-1 record over his junior and senior year, and his 791 rebounds he accumulated throughout his senior year is the best the state of Texas has ever seen. He also was named one of the 35 Greatest McDonald's All-Americans.
10 Charles Barkley
One of the greatest NBA power forwards ever, Charles Barkley had a great NBA career even though he never got to win the championship he wanted so desperately. Even though he was a dominant force in the talented NBA, Charles Barkley failed to start on the Leeds High School team until his senior year when a growth spurt got him a starting spot. In his senior year, Barkley averaged 19.1 points per game and 17.9 rebounds per game leading his team to a 26-3 record and a state championship semi-final appearance. This picture of Barkley shows a young Charles posing for the camera in his Leeds basketball uniform, and I bet the cameraman didn't know he would be taking one of the first pictures of one of the greatest players to ever step on the hardwood of the National Basketball Association.
9 Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony was one of the game's most exciting young players a few years ago, and his career has been pretty successful since being drafted in the legendary 2003 NBA Draft. Whether it was with the Nuggets or now with the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony knows how to score, and is beginning to be one of the most respected veterans in the game today. Melo grew up in Towson, Maryland and attended Towson High School. He quickly became one of the most recruited players in the country, but all the attention went to Melo's head, and he missed multiple games due to suspensions from skipping classes. His talent allowed him to transfer to Oak Hill Academy, which is one of the best basketball high school in the world. He led his team to a win against LeBron James and St.Vincent - St.Mary High School, as Melo ended up with 34 points and LeBron with 36. Carmelo was already one of the biggest young names in basketball at this time, and his talents at Oak Hill showed a lot of promise for his NBA career.
8 John Stockton
Holding some of the most prestigious records in NBA history such as being the leader in assists and steals, John Stockton is easily one of the greatest NBA players of all time. Most people are aware that Stockton attended Gonzaga University for his college career, but many are unaware he went to Gonzaga Prep for high school. He had a very successful career at Gonzaga Prep, and led the team to a multitude of wins, as he already showed signs of a very solid basketball mind and skills. This picture shows Stockton rocking the number #10, which is the only time we would get to see him wear that number, as he made the number #12 famous in college and the NBA. Even though John had to kneel in front of the bigger players on the team, that didn't mean he couldn't end up being the greatest point-guard of all-time.
7 Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is the topic of much discussion lately, as he is now a member of the already extremely talented Golden State Warriors, and many people are anxious to see him play his first game in his new uniform. He is one of the game's best players, as he seems to score absolutely effortlessly as he shoots over players with his very long arms. Durant had traits of being disloyal in his high school days as well, as he played two years at the National Christian Academy, then one year at Oak Hill, and then played his senior year at Montrose Christian.
Durant had already committed to the University of Texas before his senior year, and this picture shows he was already a star at his school of Montrose Christian, as an NBA future was ahead of the young "Durantula."
6 Chris Paul
Chris Paul is already going down as one of the best guards to play the game of basketball, but he still looking for that coveted ring he had been searching for since joining the league years ago. However before the Clippers, the Hornets, and Wake Forest, Paul was a member of the West-Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina. One of the most legendary tales of CP3 comes from his high school career actually. Chris's grandfather tragically died at the age of 61, and Chris honored his grandfather by going out and scoring an amazing 61 points in his next high school game. He even missed his last free throw on purpose, as he walked off the court in tears. That is easily one of the best stories in all of basketball history. Paul's grandfather was definitely smiling down at him as he torched the other team in his honor.
5 Stephen Curry
Steph Curry may have already solidified himself as the greatest shooter in NBA history, which is astounding as he went from a skinny shooter from Davidson to pretty much the best player in the league. Curry has basketball in his blood, as his father, Dell Curry, was a respected player back in his day, but at one point, Steph was just a kid with no college offers at all. Steph grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and played for the Charlotte Christian School, where he had some serious success. Leading the team to three conference titles, Steph was named All-Conference and then All-State.
He was not heavily recruited due to his very slender frame, but luckily for him, Davidson gave him a shot, and Curry made good on his opportunity. This photo shows a young Curry playing in the number #20 for the Charlotte Knights, but I guarantee nobody in the gym knew they would be witnessing a future NBA legend.
4 Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson had some of the more interesting high school years than some of the other guys on this list. Obviously one of the greatest scorers to ever grace the NBA, we may have even been able to see Allen thrive as a quarterback in the NFL, but I think he made the right choice going to the hardwood. Extremely athletic, Allen was a very mobile quarterback who was gaining a lot of recognition on the field as well as the court. Michael Vick even said that he was inspired by a young Allen, who made Vick want to be a mobile quarterback if he ever went to the NFL.
All of this could have been for naught, however, as a young high school Allen was involved in a bowling alley brawl, which prosecutors wanted to use to ruin Iverson's playing career with a 15-year prison sentence. Luckily for Allen and all of his fans now, the judge made the right decision by releasing the 15-year-old. Playing for Bethel High School in Virginia, Allen Iverson made a name for himself early.
3 Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is easily one of the best NBA players out of high school, and the Hornets really missed out on a legend by trading him away shortly after drafting him. Kobe played for Lower Merion High School located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and considering his dad was already a famous NBA player by then, Kobe played for the varsity team as a freshman. The team went a measly 4-20 in his freshman year though, but Kobe developed a lot after that season, as he led the Lower Merion Aces to a 77-13 record over his sophomore, junior, and senior years. Kobe was an absolute beast in high school, as he played all five positions for the team, averaging 31.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists in only his junior year with the team.
Leading Lower Merion to their first state championship in 53 years as a senior, he caught the attention of many college recruiters. As we know, none of the scouts' efforts to recruit young Kobe worked out, as he ended up going straight to the pros, becoming one of the greatest NBA players of all time.
2 LeBron James
One word to describe LeBron James' NBA career? Dominant. One word to describe LeBron James' high school career? Really Dominant. Okay, that was two words, but seriously, LeBron was a man among boys during his high school days, and was already one of the biggest names in basketball in his teens. He played for St.Vincent - St.Mary High School and absolutely destroyed his competition as he looked like an NBA star from a very early age. He was likely the most hyped high school player of all time. As we all know, he was drafted with the 1st overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft without even playing a game in college. Leading his team to multiple national championships in high school, LeBron James was a total beast! He definitely lived up to the hype he received throughout high school, as he is still making a case for being the greatest NBA player to ever live.
1 Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever live. Period. Not only were his NBA career and college careers successful, but as a young high school baller, Jordan showed some flashes of legendary talent. MJ attended Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, but due to his short frame during his freshman and sophomore years, Jordan didn't make the varsity team until his junior year. Working hard on his game and tallying up multiple 40 point or more games on the junior varsity team, Jordan finally won a spot on the varsity team for his junior year.
As a senior, Jordan was named to the McDonald's All-American team, as he averaged a triple double with 29.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.1 assists per game. The rest is history for Jordan, as he went on to dominate both the college and professional world of basketball. MJ's story just goes to show that hard work and dedication goes a long way.