NBA Finals stars' rookie year photos show just how far they've come

The 2023 NBA Finals stars’ rookie year photos show just how far they’ve come on their journeys.

The NBA Finals are well underway with the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets currently tied at 1-1. The NBA Finals are the pinnacle of basketball and the chance for one team to etch its name in NBA folklore.

Some players are perennial NBA Finalists – the likes of LeBron James and Steph Curry have made it almost a yearly occurrence.

Others, however, may only get there once, making it even more vital that they leave their mark on the NBA’s grandest stage.

The journey to an NBA Finals is a long and arduous one; 82 games regular season games are followed by two playoff rounds and a Conference Finals.

However, the true journey to the Finals goes back all the way to a players’ rookie year, when they made their first baby steps on the path to becoming a potential NBA champion.

One look back at the 2023 NBA Finals stars’ rookie year photos shows just how far they’ve come.

2023 NBA Finals players rookie year photos explored

Nikola Jokic

The Serbian big man was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft. Jokic was the 41st overall pick and was famously selected during a Taco Bell commercial.

Since then he has be named a two-time league MVP, the lowest drafted player to ever win the award, and arguably the best player in the league.

Despite being drafted in 2014, Nikola Jokic joined the Denver Nuggets in 2015, one season after being drafted. He made his debut in the summer league and the rest is history.

Photo by Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler was drafted with the 30th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. However, he only played 42 games during his lockout-shortened rookie season.

The following season he played in all 82 games and was well on his way to becoming an NBA star.

Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray has emerged as one of the most dangerous No.2 options in the NBA. However, it wasn’t always that way. The talented point guard one season of college ball for the Kentucky Wildcats before being selected 7th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft.

He had a solid rookie season and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.

Denver Nuggets v Toronto Raptors
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Bam Adebayo

The Miami centre was drafted by the Heat with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft after playing with Kentucky in college.

In his rookie season, Bam appeared in 69 games for the Heat and averaged 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Aaron Gordon

Aaron Gordon played one year of college hoops for the University of Arizona before being selected by the Magic with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

During his time in Orlando, Gordon established himself as one of the league’s best dunkers, twice finishing second in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

However, since his move to Denver in 2021 he’s shown there’s a lot more to his game than just flashy dunks.

Milwaukee Bucks v Orlando Magic
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry is a Toronto Raptors legend, having one the franchises first and only NBA title in 2019. The point guard was drafted in 2006 by the Grizzlies, and later spent four years with the Rockets.

He would ultimately land in Canada where he enjoyed the best years of his career. While undoubtedly at the tail end of his career, the 37-year-old could cap off a stellar career with another NBA championship.

NCAA Men's Basketball - Syracuse vs Villanova - March 5, 2006
Photo by Mark Konezny/Getty Images

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