2012 NBA Finals look back: Before they were stars, they were just kids in the yearbook, too

You guys: The wait's almost over. The 2012 NBA Finals start Tuesday night!

At this point, we're all just counting the minutes until the 9 p.m. tipoff of Game 1, which can make for a rough Tuesday. So if you feel like having some fun as you look forward to watching the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder square off, why not take a look back — professional writer — at the early days of the stars of the series to come, thanks to pop culture "before they were stars" site Snakkle.com? Like, for example, these charming men:

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Now, even if you haven't had your morning cup of coffee yet, it probably didn't take you too long to realize that these two small fries grew up into superstars MVP LeBron James (left) and Kevin Durant — KD's features haven't changed a whole heck of a lot since his senior year at Montrose Christian Academy, and even with no facial hair and a lower hairline, we'd know LeBron anywhere. But not every old-time snapshot in Snakkle's "Try to Guess These Big-Time Ballers Before They Were NBA Stars" gallery is so self-evident. Case in point:

Can you name that future star? Hit the jump for the answer.

Already have it? Of course you do, you smart and on-the-ball cat, you:

That's right. Back before he led Marquette to the NCAA Final Four, began his run of eight straight All-Star selections and was named the 2006 NBA Finals MVP, Dwyane Wade was a kind-of skinny member of the varsity at Harold L. Richards High School in Chicago. (He could still take dudes off the dribble, though.)

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How about another? Try this one on for size:

(Jeez, it wouldn't kill you to smile, young fella.)

Nowadays, this silky southpaw has no trouble showing his emotions out on the court, having evolved from a reserved and unassuming teen who could "shoot the corner 3 [but] that was it" into one of the NBA's most gifted young guards. Just three years after leaving college to enter the NBA draft, this second-unit star has developed into a well-rounded, patient yet explosive offensive player who brings a 21st-century update to a time-honored skill set. He's a reserve rifleman with few rivals in today's NBA, capable of taking over games but willing to wait his turn to do so.

So who was this young man with the old man's game?


If you guessed Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden, please allot yourself 10 Internet points. Back before he was the bearded belle of the OKC ball, Harden was a clean-shaven star at Artesia High School in Lakewood, Calif., leading his team to consecutive state titles as a junior and senior, and racking up multiple All-America selections before heading to the desert to join the Arizona State Sun Devils.

(That quote on the "corner 3" is from a great recent profile of Harden by Grantland's Jordan Conn, by the way. Well worth a read, if you missed it when it dropped.)

OK, OK, one more and that's it. I swear, you kids play too much. Here we go:

Years before becoming arguably one of the league's best (and certainly one of its most overlooked) offensive players, this lanky son of the Lone Star State earned a bevy of pre-college honors, becoming one of the most decorated high school ballers ever to step on the court in the home of the Alamo. Then, after one year in the college ranks, he joined the bigs, headed to the Great White North and blossomed into a four-time All-Star before striking out in free agency, getting way more attention than he was used to (and sometimes not the nicest kind) and becoming an integral part of a back-to-back league finalist.

Oh, c'mon, surely you have it by now. No? You give up? OK, here goes:


Yep, that's right — before the Toronto Raptors plucked him out of Georgia Tech with the fourth overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, Miami Heat big man Chris Bosh led Dallas' Lincoln High School to a USA Today national high school championship, earned recognition as Basketball America's High School Player of the Year, was selected to multiple national All-America selections and even garnered the title of "Mr. Basketball" in Texas. Not a bad way to spend your high school career, although we could do with a bit less in the way of dunkfaces, Mr. Bosh. (He has totally not stopped making faces on the court.)

Hungry for more back-in-the-day images? Hit Snakkle's "Try to Guess These Big-Time Ballers Before They Were NBA Stars" gallery for more wayback playbacks to pass the time before Game 1 tips.

Archival photos via Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library.

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