These 15 Star Athletes Had Nightmare Rookie Seasons

First impressions can be deceiving. These 15 legends overcame truly terrible rookie seasons to have stellar pro careers.

Dirk Nowitzki

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Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk looked like far from a sure thing during his first season in the NBA.

When the Dallas Mavericks selected the big German ninth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft, Nowitzki was still a very raw player.

During his rookie season, he averaged just 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while shooting 40.5% from the field and 20.6% from deep. He also averaged more turnovers than assists as the Mavericks stumbled to a 19-31 record during a lockout-shortened season. 

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Dirk looked like far from a sure thing during his first season in the NBA.

When the Dallas Mavericks selected the big German ninth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft, Nowitzki was still a very raw player.

During his rookie season, he averaged just 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while shooting 40.5% from the field and 20.6% from deep. He also averaged more turnovers than assists as the Mavericks stumbled to a 19-31 record during a lockout-shortened season. 

Dirk's defensive game was essentially non-existent at that point, leading some Mavericks fans to dub him "Irk Nowitzki" for his lack of D. 

"I was so frustrated I even contemplated going back to Germany," Nowitzki later recalled of his mentality at the time. "[The jump from Second Bundesliga to the NBA] was like jumping out of an airplane hoping the parachute would somehow open."

Dallas fans bemoaned their fate as they watched Paul Pierce, who was selected one pick after Nowitzki, average 16.5 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Boston Celtics that same season.

But Nowitzki made huge strides in his second season, averaging 17.5 points per game, and soon became one of the league's brightest stars.

He's now a 13-time NBA All-Star and a Dallas Mavericks legend. 

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

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