The Virginia Union alum went undrafted and was eventually traded to the Detroit Pistons for Grant Hill, which only now seems like a fair deal — Wallace flourished in Motor City, winning a ring and the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year four times.
Puig's was a name unknown to many baseball fans when the 2013 season started. Now? The Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder is a star in the making. He was called up in early June, got a hit in his very first at-bat, and ended the first major league game he ever played in by catching a fly ball and recording an incredible outfield assist for a double play. Since then, it's been a near nightly highlight reel whenever Puig takes the field, enough to earn him serious consideration for the All-Star Game. But it’s certainly not the first time an athlete has come out of nowhere to rise to stardom, both fleeting and otherwise. Here are a few others who captured fans' imaginations.
Lin was claimed off waivers in late December 2011 by the New York Knicks. Little did they know he would become one of the stories of the NBA season. He got his big break in February 2012, when he was thrust into the starting lineup of a hobbled Knicks team. He routinely scored over 20 points a game in his first real NBA minutes — including a 38-point performance against the Los Angeles Lakers — and turned the Big Apple crazy with "Linsanity." The Knicks let him go to Houston in free agency after the 2012 season, and he started all 82 games for the Rockets in 2012-13.
Usain Bolt remained relatively unknown to the world audience until his impressive performance at the 2008 Olympic Games. Bolt's convincing victories in the 100m and 200m punctuated his swift rise to track stardom. He repeated the double-gold feat at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Before Fernando Valenzuela was brought up by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 15, 1980. The following season, the young Mexican pitcher took baseball by storm, prompting widespread "Fernandomania" in Los Angles. He won the 1981 NL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards in addition to Game 3 of the 1981 World Series as the Dodgers prevailed over the New York Yankees.
It's hard to believe that before debuting in the NFL, Gates hadn't played any kind of organized football since high school! He contacted several NFL teams about an open tryout and caught on with the Chargers. Gates continues to be a force in the NFL at the tight end position.
Welker almost didn't play college football, only choosing to attend Texas Tech after another recruit the Red Raiders wanted backed out of his scholarship at the last second. It took some time but since Welker's move to the Patriots he has become a statistical machine playing in two Pro Bowls and earned one All-Pro team selection as the league's pre-eminent slot receiver.
Holmes was barely noticed with the Ravens during their 2000 Super Bowl run, but Holmes shot to superstar status by running wild on defenses when he moved to Kansas City the following season. Holmes' neck and back injuries prematurely ended what promised to be a highly productive career.
The outfielder is part of New York lore after he came up with the Yankees in 1998 and in a magical September hit 10 home runs, including three grand slams, in only 67 at-bats. He’d win a championship ring later that season but spent the rest of his short career failing to recapture the glory. He was a solid role player who retired in 2004, but his career was cut short partly due to brushes with the law off the field that led to teams being reluctant to sign him.
His tale started in his local supermarket, where the quarterback stocked groceries. After stints in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe, he finally got his shot after a Trent Green injury in 1999 and led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory.
"The Bird" wowed Tigers fans in his first career start in 1976, in which he allowed two hits and a walk while striking out five in a complete-game win. He’d go on to win AL Rookie of the Year, but injuries cut short the phenom’s career. He played his last game in 1980.
Getty ImagesHarry How
Daly was just a rookie and the ninth alternate to get into the 1991 PGA Championship. But he put together four solid rounds and won. Daly would win the 1995 British Open, but he’ll likely be remembered more for his antics and boozy lifestyle.
Undrafted out of college and landing on injured reserve in 2010, Cruz exploded in 2011. He caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards and 9 TDs, earning a second-team All-Pro spot and a Super Bowl title with the Giants. The sky is the limit for this sparkplug, who recently signed a five-year, $43 million extension with the team.