Started from the Bottom, Now We Here: Remembering NBA Stars' Rookie Debuts
It's easy to forget that every established NBA superstar was once a fresh-faced rookie, just hoping to make it through his first minutes in the league without getting dunked on.
So at the dawn of the 2013-14 NBA season, we've compiled photos, stat lines and even a few quotes to commemorate the debuts of some of the league's biggest stars. And just to emphasize the before-and-after effect, we've mashed up those debut photos with more recent pictures.
Some of today's marquee names barely saw the court in their first NBA games, while others had shockingly good initial showings. And speaking of shocking, a few of these guys—LeBron James comes to mind—seem to have morphed into different people during their careers.
As Charles Barkley so often says, "Father Time is undefeated," and LBJ's extra wrinkles prove that.
Not Andre Iguodala, though. He clearly spent the last decade sleeping in an anti-aging chamber.
Let's dive in.
NBA Debut: Oct. 29, 2003 vs. San Antonio Spurs
Stat Line: 12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks
"When people look at us, they are going to notice that we won our first game," said Anthony, who was limited to 4-for-15 shooting by Bruce Bowen. "They aren't going to look at how many points I had. I don't care if I only average four points. I will be happy if we win."
NBA Debut: Nov. 1, 2005 vs. Sacramento Kings
Stat Line: 13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Via Marc Stein of ESPN:
"The Hornets received an unexpected boost when the Kings' flight in Monday had to return to Sacramento because of mechanical trouble, necessitating the use of another plane and delaying the visitors' arrival until just six hours before Tuesday's tipoff. The Kings indeed looked like a tired team and the Hornets, relying on Brown's steadiness and a relentless push from two two 20-year-olds -- with J.R. Smith and rookie Chris Paul forming the youngest starting backcourt in NBA history -- never stopped running."
NBA Debut: Oct. 31, 1997 at Denver Nuggets
Stat Line: 15 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks
Gregg Popovich told George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel:
“This is a team that's historically won a lot of games, and people want to see that again. We've never been to the Finals. Naturally, when we get those guys healthy and add Tim Duncan, fans are going to get a little crazy.”
NBA Debut: Oct. 31, 2007 at Denver Nuggets
Stat Line: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 1 block
"It's tough when you have to start off your first game against Carmelo Anthony," said Allen Iverson, who had had 25 points and 14 assists. "The future is bright for him and the sky's the limit for him. He's going to be great."
NBA Debut: Nov. 3, 1995 at Sacramento Kings
Stat Line: 8 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 0 steals, 0 blocks
“The NBA is no weak league. Everybody here has worked hard to get here and they’re very great players, so I don’t really have no low expectations. All of my expectations are very high.”
NBA Debut: Oct. 27, 2010 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Stat Line: 20 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks
"Griffin didn't just make his NBA debut Wednesday night, exactly one year later than scheduled. He muscled and flew and stretched and finessed his way to 20 points and 14 rebounds in L.A.'s 98-88 loss at Staples Center."
NBA Debut: Nov. 3, 2004 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Stat Line: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 4 blocks
Magic head coach Johnny Davis told Yahoo! Sports:
“When you think about a kid just coming out of high school who went to the prom four months ago, he’s doing a nice job.”
NBA Debut: Oct. 29, 2008 vs. Sacramento Kings
Stat Line: 12 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
"It's the start of my dream, to tell you the truth," Love said. "It was a dream to play in college, but this is something I've been working on my whole life, to get into the NBA in big arenas like this, big crowds and getting our first win."
NBA Debut: Oct. 29, 2008 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Stat Line: 13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 1 block
Via Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:
"Russell Westbrook, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, scored 13 points with four assists and four rebounds in his debut. He was the 10th man off the bench, starting the second quarter in place of starter Earl Watson."
NBA Debut: Nov. 3, 2004 at Boston Celtics
Stat Line: 8 points, 0 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 0 blocks
Via Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer:
"About one hour and 15 minutes before officially starting his NBA career last night, Andre Iguodala sat by his locker munching grapes, apparently oblivious to the enormity of the event. The frazzled nerves that are supposed to accompany rookies before their first NBA game weren't apparent."
"The 76ers' first-round draft choice, talked calmly before the game, insisting he was ready. Then he went out and backed up that assertion."
NBA Debut: Nov. 2, 2005 vs. Dallas Mavericks
Stat Line: 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks
Via Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune:
"The strongest impression everybody took home was of rookie point guard Deron Williams, who's now only 15,803 assists behind John Stockton on the all-time list and only about 1,000 more games like this from getting his own statue on the Delta Center plaza."
NBA Debut: Oct. 28, 2003 at Philadelphia 76ers
Stat Line: 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks
Miami Heat TV analyst Tony Fiorentino said:
“We’ve said this guy has been special all along and Miami and all of South Florida is really getting a good look at Dwyane Wade tonight. He doesn't care who’s guarding him. He’s going to the rim."
NBA Debut: Oct. 28, 2008 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Stat Line: 11 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks
“It's not easy to find The One.
"I believe the Bulls have him, and the goal of this season that begins at the United Center Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks will be to construct or create a team that fits around Derrick Rose.”
NBA Debut: Oct. 29, 2003 at Sacramento Kings
Stat Line: 25 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, 0 blocks
Via ESPN's ESPN's Sean Elliott:
I’ll tell you what: I have a new favorite player. Make no bones about it. This young man can play the game. I’m really impressed. The dunks…I’ll tell you the play that really epitomizes the way he plays the most—stopping here at the free-throw line, dropping it off to Ricky Davis. How many kids at 18 years old in the spotlight with all the hype on them are going to take that ball in and dunk it? Instead, he stops and gives it to his teammate.