Meta Rate My Team PokéBase - Pokémon Q&A
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I mean, it's pretty hard to catch a Pokemon without a Pokemon. (And no, I'm not going to go into deep logic here and say they kept throwing a certain Pokeball or they used a Master Ball). You need a starter to start your journey don't you? And please don't say they borrowed someone's Pokemon.

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Well for some of them they probably got their first pokemon from another person. Theres some trainers that say something like "<person> gave me his/her pokemon!"

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There could be multiple reasons of how they started their journey but only GameFreak knows the real answer.

1: Somebody gave them their Pokemon.
This happens often in the Pokemon universe, the Professor gives you your starter. Some person gives you an egg. Some other way you get Pokemon from people.

2: Their Pokemon could have joined them.
This happens sometimes in the anime, a trainer befriends a Pokemon, it allows itself to be caught, now the trainer can catch more Pokemon because of the Pokemon that they have befriended.

3: They caught their Pokemon without using another Pokemon.
Yes, it is highly unlikely but it could happen.

Hope I helped!
Source:
Knowledge

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That was a really great answer thanks!
No prob :D
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Game freak never specifies but a gym leader could have caught it for them
Or some one could have lent them a Pokemon and poke ball to catch one
Like Norman and Wally but where did those poeple get there Pokemon
Blain states that he remembers a time before poke balls some of them probably got them from a professor or there parents or an older sibling got them one

              Hope I helped :)
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