NBA

How Zion Williamson's debut compares to LeBron James, Michael Jordan and other NBA greats

By Sports Desk January 23, 2020

Zion Williamson certainly announced his arrival to the NBA on Wednesday night.

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft had 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes of action for the New Orleans Pelicans in their 121-117 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Williamson had been sidelined since preseason due to a knee injury but dazzled in his debut, scoring 17 straight points at one point and hitting all four of his three-point attempts.

But how did other NBA greats fare in their first games?

 

Bill Russell - 6 points, 16 rebounds, one assist (December 22, 1956)

Prior to Russell's NBA debut, the Boston Globe had asked whether it was possible to "be too good to be overrated". No pressure, kid. 

Russell did not make any of his four free throws and went 3-of-11 shooting in 16 minutes. However, a man who would go on to be an 11-time NBA champion shone in other facets, grabbing 16 boards and blocking three straight Bob Pettit shots.

Wilt Chamberlain - 43 points, 28 rebounds, one assist (October 24, 1959)

A star at high school and college, the 7ft 1in center's bow for the Philadelphia Warriors was eagerly anticipated and he did not disappoint, racking up the points and rebounds.

It was a sign of things to come and Chamberlain won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in his first season.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 29 points, 12 rebounds, six assists (October 18, 1969)

The broadcast of this debut included the line "the whole country has waited for it", a reflection of the attention the 7ft 1in Milwaukee Bucks center commanded at the time.

Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor, scored 29 of his NBA record 38,387 points that night and he went on to be named to 19 All-Star Games.

Magic Johnson - 26 points, eight rebounds, four assists (October 12, 1979)

The first overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft came to a Lakers team that featured Abdul-Jabbar, and it was the veteran's buzzer-beater that delivered the win against the San Diego Clippers.

A pumped-up Johnson certainly impressed, though, and his zeal for the game was evident when he jumped on Abdul-Jabbar amid wild celebrations at the end.

Larry Bird - 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists (October 12, 1979)

Johnson was not the only future Hall of Famer debuting on that night in October 1979 as Celtics great Bird was also making his first appearance.

The Lakers man might have had more points, but Bird had the double-double and he, not Johnson, would go on to be named Rookie of the Year. Both men won three MVPs and were named to 12 All-Star Games.

Michael Jordan - 16 points, six rebounds, seven assists (October 26, 1984)

There was little indication of what was to come when Jordan put up solid but not spectacular numbers against the Washington Bullets.

He would soon find his groove, though, averaging 28.2 points in a campaign that ended with the Rookie of the Year award. Five MVPs and six championships would follow for perhaps the greatest of them all.

LeBron James - 25 points, six rebounds, nine assists (October 29, 2003)

A man well-versed in dealing with insane hype, James' NBA debut for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers was delayed because another game went into overtime and ESPN did not want TV audiences to miss a second of the 18-year-old's bow.

Cleveland lost but 'The Chosen One' delivered exactly what the television executives were looking for, a steal and a dunk providing the first of many highlight-reel plays the four-time MVP would produce.

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    Cristiano Ronaldo brought up 1,000 career appearances in Juventus' trip to SPAL in Serie A on Saturday.

    A hero for Portugal, Sporting CP, Manchester United and Real Madrid across a decorated career, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has racked up a succession of impressive landmarks.

    And there have been plenty of moments of magic that live long in the memory along the way.

    Here, we take a look back at 10 of Ronaldo's very best goals.

     

    Manchester United v Portsmouth: January 30, 2008

    Perhaps the finest free-kick Ronaldo has struck in his career.

    The Portuguese developed his reputation as a set-piece master at United and he lashed a phenomenal 25-yard effort past David James as part of a double to send Alex Ferguson's side to the top of the Premier League.

    His knuckleball technique sent the ball swirling into the top-right corner for one of his defining Old Trafford moments.

     

    Porto v Manchester United: April 15, 2009

    He had absolutely no right to score this one.

    Back in his homeland for a Champions League quarter-final against Porto, Ronaldo picked up the ball in the middle of the opposition half, got it out of his feet and sent a searing strike flying past Helton to seal a 1-0 win at the Estadio do Dragao and a 3-2 aggregate triumph.

     

    Almeria v Real Madrid: April 15, 2010

    Ronaldo has developed into more of a penalty-box poacher in recent seasons, but this effort against Almeria was a reminder of how devastating he could be when starting from outside the area.

    Rafael van der Vaart won back possession in the Almeria half and the ball was worked to Ronaldo, who accelerated past two challenges, left a third defender for dead with a stepover, and drilled home with his left foot. The visitors would go on to win 2-1.

     

    Sevilla v Real Madrid: December 17, 2011

    Sevilla have grown sick of the sight of Ronaldo – he has scored 27 times against them, after all – but this strike in a 6-2 thrashing is perhaps the best of them all.

    Collecting Karim Benzema's pass 30 yards out, Ronaldo took advantage of the time and space given to him by the defence to blast a shot into the top-right corner, the swerve on the ball making it totally unstoppable. It was one of three he scored that day at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

     

    Real Madrid v Valencia: May 4, 2014

    It was not enough to keep Madrid's title chase alive, but this was another goal that showcased Ronaldo's killer instinct and dexterity.

    In second-half injury time, with Valencia 2-1 ahead, Angel Di Maria volleyed over a cross from the left and Ronaldo swivelled to score a backheel volley and snatch a point.

     

    Real Madrid v Espanyol: January 31, 2016

    Although his game had become more refined from those buccaneering early days, Ronaldo showed here he was not quite done when it came to solo runs and spectacular finishes.

    With Madrid already 3-0 up in what would prove to be a 6-0 thrashing, James Rodriguez's pass was deflected into Ronaldo's path and he did the rest, showing brilliant footwork to skip beyond three challenges before rifling home from the edge of the area with his left foot.

     

    Hungary v Portugal: June 22, 2016

    Portugal fell behind to Hungary three times in Lyon during Euro 2016, and Ronaldo brought them level on the second occasion with a display of fine skill.

    The captain added a deft flick with his trailing leg to Joao Mario's right-wing cross to make it 2-2, and he cancelled out Balazs Dzsudzsak's second with a double of his own. It was enough to send Portugal into the knockout stages and from there they went on to claim a maiden international title.

     

    Juventus v Real Madrid: April 3, 2018

    Arguably the best goal Ronaldo has produced.

    Moving away from goal as Dani Carvajal dug a cross towards the penalty spot from the right, he rose into the air to connect with a marvellous overhead kick. His leg was at a right angle to his body as he struck with the sweetest of volleys that flew past Gianluigi Buffon.

     

    Portugal v Spain: June 15, 2018

    Having twice given his side the lead, Ronaldo found Portugal 3-2 down to their Iberian neighbours in their thrilling opener at the 2018 World Cup.

    The was a sense of inevitability when he stood over an 88th minute free-kick, but the execution was sheer perfection – power and dip combined to leave David de Gea with no chance.

     

    Juventus v Manchester United: November 8, 2018

    Another decorated Portuguese was celebrating at full-time when Jose Mourinho watched his Manchester United team complete a 2-1 comeback win.

    But Ronaldo struck first with a sumptuous and technically brilliant strike, watching Leonardo Bonucci's raking ball over his shoulder to volley home.  

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    Cristiano Ronaldo is set to make his 1,000th appearance for club and country when Juventus face SPAL in Serie A on Saturday.

    The Portugal superstar was named in Maurizio Sarri's starting XI after being rested for the 2-0 win over Brescia last weekend.

    Providing the 35-year-old comes through the warm-up unscathed, he will bring up his incredible landmark and seek to add to his tally of 724 goals. 

    It will be the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's 73rd outing for Juve, with the bulk of his matches having come for Real Madrid (438).

    Manchester United sit second on that list (292), with 31 of his games coming for Sporting CP, a further two for Sporting B and 164 for his country. 

  • Wilder v Fury II: Redemption & risk define Las Vegas rematch Wilder v Fury II: Redemption & risk define Las Vegas rematch

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    The in-ring reunion between the pair has been near the top of boxing fans' wish lists ever since Fury incredibly climbed off the canvas in the 12th round of their drawn first meeting 14 months ago.

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    It all makes for a tantalising prospect and, if this weekend's bout delivers the same drama as the first, it will surely go down as one of the great heavyweight rematches.

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    Fury has spoken openly about his battle with drugs and depression and his return to the kind of level he displayed in the first fight with Wilder is one of modern-day sport's most remarkable redemption stories.

    However, the one thing his journey from losing the belts he won in a shock victory over Wladimir Klitschko to his return to the big stage lacks is a storybook ending. 

    He has the chance to deliver that in Las Vegas. If he is indeed "match fit" as he has repeatedly claimed, Fury can afford to have great hope of seizing that opportunity.


    CAN WILDER FINISH THE JOB?

    As with Fury, the December 2018 stalemate is the only blemish on Wilder's record.

    The Bronze Bomber could hardly have done more to secure the victory, but he goes into this fight facing questions over whether he can put Fury down for good this time around.

    Wilder has said he will target a cut around the eye Fury suffered in his last fight. His success in opening up that old wound could prove key to settling things in his favour.


    THE CHALLENGER'S GAMBLES

    In the gambling capital of the world, Fury has signalled his intent to put everything on the line to win the WBC strap.

    The Briton has spoken frequently about his desire to knock Wilder out. A more aggressive strategy would carry an inherent risk and potentially give Wilder more chances to unleash fearsome flurries of his own.

    Wilder is not infallible and looked close to being stopped in the first of his two victories over Luis Ortiz. However, Fury's apparent change in strategy seems counter-productive given how he controlled the first fight.

    A late change in trainer from Ben Davison to Sugarhill Steward also served to raise eyebrows and questions will be asked of that move and the change in approach should the challenger fall short.


    WHAT NEXT FOR THE WINNER?

    Regardless of who wins the sequel, there are already reports of an agreement being in place for the pair to complete a trilogy of fights. 

    Yet, if there is a victor this time around, the spectre of Anthony Joshua, who holds every other world title belt in the division, will loom large for the champion.

    Joshua appears to have a laundry list of opponents to keep him busy in the meantime. Yet eventually Fury and Wilder will have to end their spell as dance partners and the focus will turn a unification bout with Joshua that would mark the most significant heavyweight fight in decades.

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