Rejection is a bitter pill to swallow, but for some of the world’s most celebrated athletes, it was a necessary step on their path to greatness. Imagine being told you’re not good enough to make the high school team, only to go on and become a household name in your sport.

It’s a humbling reminder that even the greats had to overcome adversity and persevere through setbacks.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Several famous athletes, including Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, and Steph Curry, were cut from their high school teams before going on to achieve legendary status in their respective sports.

In this article, we’ll explore the stories of some of the most iconic athletes who faced rejection early in their careers, only to defy the odds and etch their names in the annals of sports history. From basketball to football and beyond, these tales of resilience and determination will inspire you to never give up on your dreams, no matter the obstacles.

Michael Jordan: The Ultimate Comeback Story

Michael Jordan’s rise to basketball greatness is a tale of unwavering determination and the power of resilience in the face of rejection. His story serves as an inspiration to athletes and individuals across the globe, proving that setbacks can be transformed into stepping stones towards success.

Cut from the varsity basketball team as a sophomore

In a surprising twist, the future NBA legend faced a crushing blow when he was cut from his high school varsity basketball team as a sophomore. At just 5’11” and lacking the physical stature of his peers, Jordan’s dreams of basketball glory seemed to fade.

However, this rejection ignited a fire within him, fueling an unrelenting drive to prove his doubters wrong.

Fueled by rejection, Jordan became a relentless worker

Undeterred by the setback, Jordan channeled his disappointment into an unparalleled work ethic. He spent countless hours honing his skills, practicing tirelessly, and pushing himself beyond his limits. As notes, “Jordan’s determination and competitive spirit were unmatched.”

His dedication paid off, as he grew several inches and made the varsity team the following year, setting the stage for his remarkable basketball journey.

Jordan’s relentless pursuit of excellence extended beyond the court. He approached every aspect of his life with the same intensity, whether it was studying, training, or competing. This mindset, coupled with his natural talent, propelled him to unprecedented heights in the sport.

Went on to become a six-time NBA champion and global icon

Michael Jordan’s unwavering commitment and talent culminated in an illustrious career that cemented his status as a basketball legend. He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, earning six Finals MVP awards and five regular season MVP honors. Jordan’s impact transcended the court, as he became a global icon and a symbol of excellence and perseverance.

His legacy extends far beyond his on-court achievements. Jordan’s Air Jordan brand with Nike revolutionized the athletic footwear industry, generating billions in revenue and inspiring countless fans worldwide. According to Forbes, Jordan’s net worth is estimated at a staggering $2.1 billion, making him the richest former professional athlete.

Michael Jordan’s journey from being cut from his high school team to becoming a six-time NBA champion and global icon is a testament to the power of perseverance, hard work, and an unwavering belief in oneself.

His story continues to inspire athletes and individuals across the world, reminding us that rejection can be a catalyst for greatness if met with determination and a relentless pursuit of excellence. 😊🏆

Tom Brady: From Underdog to GOAT

The path to greatness is rarely a straight line, and Tom Brady’s journey to becoming the undisputed GOAT (Greatest of All Time) in the NFL is a testament to perseverance and unwavering determination. Despite being overlooked by major college programs out of high school, Brady’s story is an inspiration to underdogs everywhere.

Overlooked by major college programs out of high school

Growing up in San Mateo, California, Brady was a talented multi-sport athlete, excelling in football, baseball, and basketball. However, his relatively modest physical stature and lack of elite athleticism caused many major college programs to overlook him.

According to Sportscasting, Brady’s high school coach admitted that the future legend was “skinny” and “not much of an athlete” back then.

Drafted in the sixth round by the New England Patriots

After a successful career at the University of Michigan, Brady was selected by the New England Patriots in the sixth round (199th overall pick) of the 2000 NFL Draft. This late-round selection only added fuel to Brady’s fire, as he set out to prove the doubters wrong. In an interview with, Brady said, “I’m still carrying that chip on my shoulder from being picked 199th.”


Seven-time Super Bowl champion and NFL legend

What followed was a career that defied all odds and cemented Brady’s place as one of the greatest athletes of all time. After taking over as the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2001, Brady went on to lead the team to an incredible seven Super Bowl victories, shattering numerous NFL records along the way.


According to Pro Football Reference, Brady’s career stats are simply mind-boggling:

  • Most Super Bowl wins by a player: 7
  • Most Super Bowl appearances: 10
  • Most Super Bowl MVP awards: 5
  • Most regular season wins by a quarterback: 249
  • Most playoff wins by a quarterback: 35

From being an overlooked high school athlete to becoming the undisputed GOAT of the NFL, Tom Brady’s journey is a testament to the power of hard work, dedication, and an unwavering belief in oneself. His incredible success serves as a reminder that greatness can come from unexpected places, and that no dream is too big when you’re willing to put in the work.


Steph Curry: Defying the Doubters

Cut from his high school varsity team as a freshman

It’s hard to imagine now, but the two-time NBA MVP and three-time champion Steph Curry was once cut from his high school varsity basketball team as a freshman. Despite being the son of former NBA player Dell Curry, the young Steph faced skepticism due to his slight 5’6″ frame and lack of physical stature.

Overcame size and skepticism to become an NBA superstar

However, Curry’s unwavering determination and exceptional shooting skills ultimately prevailed. He worked tirelessly on his game, developing a lethal jump shot and crafty ball-handling abilities. By his senior year, Curry had grown to 6’3″ and led his high school team to a state championship, earning recognition as a top college recruit.

At Davidson College, he continued to defy the doubters, setting numerous scoring records and leading the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament.

Curry’s meteoric rise reached new heights when he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2009. Despite concerns about his size and durability, he quickly silenced critics by showcasing his remarkable shooting prowess and offensive wizardry.

According to, Curry ranks second in NBA history for career three-point field goals made with 3,366, trailing only Ray Allen.

Two-time MVP and three-time NBA champion

Curry’s impact on the game has been nothing short of revolutionary. His ability to drain shots from seemingly impossible distances has stretched defenses to their limits and ushered in a new era of “small ball” basketball.

In 2015 and 2016, he was named NBA MVP, becoming the first player to win the award unanimously in 2016. 🏆🥇

More importantly, Curry has led the Warriors to three NBA championships (2015, 2017, and 2022), cementing his legacy as one of the greatest players of his generation. His inspiring journey from being cut as a high school freshman to becoming an NBA superstar serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and self-belief.

💪😊 As Curry himself said, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do something. You got a dream, you gotta protect it.” 👏

Other Notable Athletes Who Overcame Rejection

Dwyane Wade (basketball)

Dwyane Wade is a basketball legend who was famously cut from his high school varsity team as a sophomore. Despite this setback, he persevered and worked tirelessly to improve his skills. Wade went on to become a star at Marquette University and was drafted 5th overall by the Miami Heat in 2003.

During his illustrious NBA career, he won 3 NBA championships, made 13 All-Star teams, and was named Finals MVP in 2006. Wade’s story serves as an inspiration for young athletes, proving that rejection is not the end, but rather a chance to grow and come back stronger.

As he once said, “I didn’t get here by making excuses.”

Dan Marino (football)

Dan Marino, the legendary NFL quarterback, faced rejection early on in his football career. He was cut from his high school varsity team as a freshman, but his determination and love for the game pushed him to work harder.

Marino went on to have an exceptional college career at the University of Pittsburgh, setting numerous records. In 1983, he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins and went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

Marino held numerous records, including most passing yards in a season (5,084 in 1984), and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. His story reminds us that setbacks are temporary, and with hard work and unwavering dedication, greatness can be achieved.

As Marino once said, “You’ve got to get up every morning and tell yourself ‘I can do this.'”

Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer)

Cristiano Ronaldo, the legendary Portuguese soccer player, faced rejection early in his career. At the age of 14, he was cut from the youth academy of Sporting CP, one of Portugal’s top clubs, for being too small and skinny. However, Ronaldo’s determination and belief in himself never wavered.

He continued to train relentlessly and eventually joined Manchester United’s youth academy, where he quickly rose through the ranks. Today, Ronaldo is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, with 5 Ballon d’Or awards (a record he shares with Lionel Messi) and numerous other accolades.

His story serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and self-belief in overcoming obstacles.

Lessons from their stories of perseverance

  • Rejection is not the end; it’s an opportunity to grow and come back stronger.
  • Hard work, dedication, and an unwavering belief in oneself are key to overcoming setbacks.
  • Greatness is not handed to you; it’s earned through perseverance and a relentless pursuit of excellence.
  • Setbacks are temporary, but the lessons learned from them can last a lifetime.

The stories of athletes like Dwyane Wade, Dan Marino, and Cristiano Ronaldo serve as inspiring reminders that rejection is not a permanent state. With hard work, dedication, and an unwavering belief in oneself, even the most daunting obstacles can be overcome.

Their journeys remind us that greatness is not handed to us; it’s earned through perseverance and a relentless pursuit of excellence. 😊


The stories of these famous athletes serve as a powerful reminder that rejection is not the end, but merely a detour on the road to success. From Michael Jordan’s iconic comeback to Tom Brady’s rise from underdog to GOAT, and Steph Curry’s defiance of the doubters, these legends prove that with unwavering determination and a relentless work ethic, even the most daunting obstacles can be overcome.

As we’ve seen, being cut from a high school team is not a death sentence for an athlete’s dreams. In fact, it can be the catalyst that ignites an unquenchable fire within, fueling the drive to prove the naysayers wrong and achieve greatness against all odds.

These athletes’ journeys are a testament to the power of resilience, self-belief, and an unwavering commitment to one’s craft.

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