All eyes were on Paolo Banchero as the Orlando Magic opened their season against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. Even though Orlando lost, 113-109, the first impression by the No. 1 pick of this year's draft was nothing short of impressive.
The former Duke Blue Devil put up 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks, plus an emphatic and-1 slam dunk over Cory Joseph:
PAOLO BANCHERO POSTER DUNK 🖼️🔥pic.twitter.com/lsDQSa3K69
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) October 20, 2022
Although it was just his first game in the NBA, Banchero already made history. The Magic rookie became the first player since LeBron James to record at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in an NBA debut. After the game, Banchero said via Bleacher Report it “means a lot” to have numbers similar to James. The King had 25 points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals in his first game as a pro in 2003.
Not bad by starting a career just like a four-time NBA champion, four-time Most Valuable Player and future Hall of Famer. However, as impressive as Banchero and James were in their debuts, other players had even greater performances.
From legends to role players, here are the five best debuts in the NBA.
5. Brandon Jennings
After surprising the NCAA by skipping college and going pro in Italy, Brandon Jennings became a Milwaukee Bucks lottery pick in 2010. While most fans remember his 55-point performance in just his seventh game in the league, he had already made a big impression earlier that season.
Against the Philadelphia 76ers, Jennings had 17 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. He almost became the second player ever to record a triple-double in an NBA debut. The guard earned All-Rookie First-Team honors after averaging 15.5 points, 5.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds plus 1.3 steals in 82 games as a starter.
Even though Jennings' NBA career fell off after he left Milwaukee, his first stretch of games will always be remembered. He ended up having short stints across the league and overseas before retiring in 2018.
4. Lamar Odom
While most people remember Lamar Odom for his time with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, the power forward started his NBA career with the other franchise in Los Angeles. The No. 4 pick in the 1999 draft, Odom had a big double-double in his debut for the Clippers.
Playing versus the Seattle SuperSonics, the Rhode Island product finished the game with 30 points and 12 rebounds. He also added three assists, two blocks and two steals. The Clippers would lose, 104-92, but Odom's debut made some noise around the league:
On this date in 1999, Lamar Odom went off in his NBA debut!
Kids these days will never understand how filthy he was 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/LjQTRKHtsc
— Hilltop Hoops (@HilltopNBA) November 2, 2020
By the end of the 1999-00 season, Odom was named to the All-Rookie First Team with 16.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He would then win two titles with the Lakers and receive the Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2011 before retiring due to injuries and off-court issues.
3. Oscar Robertson
Before playing for the Milwaukee Bucks alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and winning a title in 1971, Oscar Robertson built his legacy with the Cincinnati Royals. He won his only MVP Award with the team in 1964 and started his 12 consecutive All-Star selections in just his second season in the NBA.
But in the year before, Robertson was already showing his potential. In his debut in 1960, the point guard became the only player to ever record a triple-double in their first game in the NBA. He registered 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in a 140-123 win against the Lakers.
That game would set up the tone for Robertson's career. Before Russell Westbrook, the NBA legend was the only player to average a triple-double in a season. He was also the league leader with 181 triple-doubles for a career until Westbrook broke the record almost 40 years after Robertson retired.
2. Wilt Chamberlain
One of the greatest basketball players of all time, Wilt Chamberlain set multiple records throughout his career. From the iconic 100-point performance to a season averaging 50.4 points, the center has one of the best résumés in the history of sports.
Chamberlain was so dominant that he set a record in his first game in the NBA, which no one has broken since. In 1959, playing for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks, he scored 43 points, the most ever in a debut. He also had an impressive 28 rebounds.
His numbers could be even more powerful if the NBA recorded blocks at the time. His 43 points remain a mark not even legends such as Michael Jordan and LeBron James got close to match.
1. Michael Carter-Williams
Selected No. 10 in the 2013 NBA Draft, Michael Carter-Williams started his career as a starting point guard on a rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers team. All eyes were around his debut, but that was because he was facing the reigning back-to-back champion Miami Heat led by LeBron James.
In an upset 114-110 win, Carter-Williams put up 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals, the latter being the most in a debut. Not only did the Sixers shock the world by defeating the Heat, but Carter-Williams almost recorded a quadruple-double in his first game as a pro:
Michael Carter-Williams almost dropped a quadruple-double in his NBA debut! (2013)
🎥: @NBATV pic.twitter.com/uEx8UFF18u
— ThrowbackHoops (@ThrowbackHoops) January 7, 2020
He would end up winning Rookie of the Year later that season before becoming a journeyman in the NBA. While the best season of his career was his first, Carter-Williams wrote his name in the history books. Despite legends such as Robertson and Chamberlain having great starts, Carter-Williams takes the crown for the best NBA debut of all time.