The beginning of a new season brings another crop of rookies eager to prove they belong amongst the world’s best players. Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn, Buddy Hield, and the rest of the 2016 rookie class will step onto the court and play against today’s biggest superstars.
Everybody starts somewhere. The biggest names in basketball were rookies once upon a time, too. Check out how LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and the rest of basketball’s stars faired in their first career games. Who impressed, and who struggled?
Perhaps nobody faced greater expectations in their first game that LeBron James. He was just a few months out of high school, where he was dubbed ‘The Chosen One.’ James delivered in his first career game, scoring 25 points and adding nine assists and four steals, but it was a losing effort against Sacramento. James’ stat line is even more remarkable considering the media circus that was on hand for his highly anticipated debut.
Stephen Curry was solid in his opening game, scoring 14 points and dishing out seven assists, but his team ultimately suffered a one-point loss. Interestingly, the sharpshooter only took one 3-pointer in the game, and missed it. In fact, it wasn’t until his 10th game that he took more than three 3-pointers in a game. He finished the season with 17.5 points per game, while making an average of 2.1 3-pointers per game. Last season, he made over five per game while averaging a career-high 30.1 points per game.
After dominating the college ranks for a year at Texas, the 19-year-old Durant seamlessly transitioned to the league with an 18 point outing in his first game. He pulled in five rebounds, as well, but his team struggled and went on to lose by 17 points. In fact, wins were tough to come by for a while, as Durant’s team lost the first eight games of the season despite Durant reaching double-figures in each contest.
Despite being sidelined for most of his only collegiate season, Kyrie Irving was still taken with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Irving would go on to have a successful rookie season, but he struggled in his first game. He scored just six points on 2-of-12 shooting from the field, while adding seven assists. He went on to average 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game for the season, proving that the first game isn’t always an indication of how a season will go.
Paul George also struggled in his debut, scoring only four points while missing four of his five shot attempts. George was largely a role player for most of the season, before being inserted into the starting lineup late in the year and into the playoffs. He finished the season with nearly eight points per game.
It’s hard to imagine now, but Kobe Bryant’s spectacular career got off to a rough start. The 18-year-old only played six minutes in his debut and missed the only shot he took. He finished the game with zero points, one rebound, one block, and a turnover. He averaged just 7.6 points per game in his rookie season, a far cry from the Kobe we would see just a few years later.
The Flash burst onto the scene in his first career game with an impressive stat line that included 18 points, four rebounds, and four assists. He was also a workhorse, racking up 41 minutes of playing time in his debut. Like his future teammate LeBron James, Wade also failed to come away with the win in his introduction to the league.
As an 18-year-old, Dwight Howard gave everyone a preview of what was to come by posting a double-double in his first game. He scored 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds while also recording four blocks in a winning effort. Interestingly, the big man also grabbed three steals and two assists to round out a solid debut.
A 20-year-old Derrick Rose showed his versatile skill set and ability to run an offense in his career debut, scoring 11 points and dropping nine assists to just miss out on a double-double. He struggled with his shooting percentage, but his command of the offense helped Chicago score a double-digit victory in the season opener.