These stars were all way ahead of the curve for their age, making major impacts at the highest levels of their respective sports.
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Julio Urias, MLB
The 19-year-old Mexican pitcher made his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers in May 2016, making him the youngest starting hurler to hit the MLB since Félix Hernández did it with the Seattle Mariners more than a decade prior. Although he lasted just 2⅔ innings while giving up three earned runs, the Dodgers have shown they think he could develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter alongside Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
Kanak Jha was ready to play with the big boys before he could graduate high school. At 16, the table tennis wunderkind became the first American athlete born in the 2000s to qualify for the Summer Games, earning a spot on Team USA after winning the men's singles title at the U.S. nationals in 2016, and becoming the youngest men's champ since 2009. Of course, it helps if you start young—Jha started playing table tennis at the age of five, and he hasn’t looked back.
The American tennis prodigy broke out in a big way at the 1989 French Open, becoming the youngest male winner of a grand slam singles event in the history of the sport at just 17 years old. Chang had to play way above his experience level to get it done, too—he defeated Eduardo Masso, Pete Sampras, and Francisco Roig before taking on Ivan Lendl in what ended up being one of the biggest upsets in French Open history. At the time, Lendl was the No. 1-ranked player in the world and had won the Australian Open earlier that year, while Chang was the 15th seed in the tournament. The Orange County, California native dealt with serious leg cramps during the four hour match, but powered through to win the epic battle.
The Nigerian-born football player was prodigy not just on the gridiron, but also in the classroom—after emigrating from Africa, Okoye tested so well in middle school that he was placed into a class with older kids. That led Okoye to college at the age of 16, where he became the youngest player in the NCAA while playing for the Louisville Cardinals. The 6’2”, 310-pound athletic specimen was drafted in the first round by the Houston Texans in the 2007 NFL Draft at just 19 years old, the youngest player ever picked for the league. The following season he became the the youngest player to appear in an NFL game since the 1960s.
Instead of going to college, the former high school All-American jumped straight to the NBA, where he was drafted No. 10 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. Bynum became youngest player ever to play in an NBA game at 18 years and 6 days old, playing alongside another straight-from-high school star in Kobe Bryant. Although Bynum played on two championship teams and made one All-Star team with the Lakers, he never quite lived up to the expectations that were set on him at the start of his career. The New Jersey native dealt with numerous knee problems towards the end of his career, which forced him to miss the entire 2012-2013 season.
Pegged as the “future of soccer” in the United States as a teenager, Adu was drafted at the age of 14 by the D.C. United in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. The Ghana-born phenom went on to become the youngest athlete in the United States to sign a professional contract with a sports team, the youngest player to appear in a Major League Soccer game, and the youngest player to score a goal in the MLS. Adu never quite lived up to the ridiculously high expectations that were thrown at him by the media, but he ended up having a pretty lengthy career in the sport, playing in various leagues around the world, including in France, Brazil, Greece, and Turkey.
The NBA legend made his debut with the Los Angeles Lakers after being the first guard to ever be taken out of high school in the draft. During his rookie season, the Lower Merion High School alumnus came off the bench for LA and became the youngest player ever to play in an NBA game—although that record would later be broken by future teammate Andrew Bynum. Later, when he was inserted into the starting lineup, he became the the youngest NBA starter ever at 18 years, 158 days old. Bryant went on to play 20 years for the Lakers and retired with five championship rings.
The Middletown, Connecticut native drove his way to numerous milestones after becoming the youngest driver to win a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at just 18 years old. The baby-faced Logano later won the 2009 Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to become the youngest winner in Sprint Cup Series history, and he was the first driver in NASCAR history born in the 1990s to compete in the top three divisions of the sport—the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series, and Camping World Truck Series.
The Chinese golfer is the definition of a prodigy—Tianlang qualified for the 2013 Masters Tournament as a 14-year-old, making him the youngest player to make the cut in PGA Tour (and major championship) history. The Guangzhou, China native got to play practice rounds with Tiger Woods at Augusta National Golf Club ahead of the Masters, and he later finished 58th on the leaderboard after posting a rounds of 72 and 69.
McDavid was the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft for the Edmonton Oilers and made his NHL debut at just 19 years old. The Richmond Hill, Ontario native had a prolific career playing junior-level hockey, winning the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year for the 2014-15 season. McDavid dealt with an injury during his rookie season with the Oilers that limited him to just 45 games in 2015-16, but despite that he finished in the top three for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year while recording 48 points.
The American golfer was basically a toddler when she became the youngest player to qualify for a USGA amateur championship at the age of 10. Later, “Big Wiesy” became the youngest golfer to qualify for a LPGA Tour event at the the Takefuji Classic in 2002, which was held in her home state of Hawaii (the mark was later broken by 11-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn in 2007). Wie continued to rack up the milestones over the course of her career, later becoming the youngest player to make an LPGA cut and the youngest female to play a PGA Tour event after being given a sponsor’s exemption at the 2004 Sony Open in Hawaii.
The New York Yankees rookie did his best Babe Ruth impression and made quite the impact on his team after being called up to the majors, swatting 16 home runs in his first 41 games in pinstripes. The 23-year-old need the second-fewest at-bats (just 158) of any major leaguer to hit 16 home runs, and he's making Yankee fans forget about a potential rebuilding process. Sanchez was named American League Player of the Week twice in August 2016—the first time a rookie has ever done that in MLB history—and he later took home the American League Player of the Month after posting a .389 batting average with 11 home runs, 21 RBI, nine doubles, and 20 runs scored in just 24 games.
Sanchez might be hanging around the big league club for the foreseeable future.