Zion Williamson dunked so hard during the NBA Rising Stars Challenge that he broke the backboard but jokingly suggested it may not have been his fault.

The rim was left askew after the New Orleans Pelicans rookie threw down a pass from Trae Young late in the second quarter of Team USA's 151-127 defeat of Team World at the United Center on Friday.

Arena staff at the venue for this year's All-Star festivities had to re-align everything during half-time, when Williamson discovered what had happened from team-mates.

Asked if he realised what he had done, Williamson said: "Not at all. I went into half-time and my team-mates started telling me about it.

"I don't know which dunk it was on, but I don't think it was me!"

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and Ja Morant, who played together for AAU team the South Carolina Hornets in 2014, caught the eye with some sensational plays.

Morant produced a through-the-legs alley-oop pass for a Williamson slam, but it was a different sequence that caused the Pelicans star to reflect on how far he and his former team-mate have come.

Asked for his favourite moment from the game, Williamson responded: "When Ja threw me the lob from half court. Reminisced on that, back to ninth grade.

"It was crazy honestly because after I caught it and we got a timeout or subbed out, I was thinking about our Hornets days and never in a million years would I have thought would we have been in this game or be in the situations we're in, so it would've been that moment."

Prior to taking to the floor, Williamson met Barack Obama at an NBA Cares event in Chicago and explained why he developed a newfound appreciation for the former United States president.

"First off he's a cool dude man, it's Obama, c'mon," said Williamson. "I gained so much more respect for him just by him saying that [he kept up with my games].

"I was like you probably have one of the most busy schedules and you're able to keep up with a rookie, superstars, college people, even high school people, and tell them their stats, what they've been doing good, what they can work on.

"When he told me that I just gained so much more respect for him."

Williamson was not born until after Michael Jordan had led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, but he still has a great respect for the 14-time All-Star's exploits.

"It was my mom that led me to watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls. I asked her when I first started playing who should I go watch and she told me Jordan, [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson]," he said.

"I think I started with Magic, I was like man he can pass the ball. Bird, he can shoot and is an all-around player but when I got to Jordan she told me to watch full games, not highlights.

"I watched full games and as a kid the stuff he was doing was incredible to watch. Getting a steal, saving it and then doing a backwards layup or floating through the lane through three people, dunking it.

"So as a kid that really caught my attention and from then I just watched every full game Michael Jordan clip I could find."

Magic Johnson said the "greatest Laker of all-time is gone" as the Hall of Famer mourned the tragic death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna - known as Gigi - died following a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed.

A five-time NBA champion with the Lakers, 2008 MVP Bryant is regarded as one of the all-time greats following 20 years in Los Angeles, where the 41-year-old has two jerseys retired at Staples Center.

Another Lakers great and five-time champion Johnson paid tribute to 18-time All-Star Bryant, who was drafted by the storied Los Angeles franchise in 1996.

"As I try to write this post, my mind is racing. I'm in disbelief and have been crying all morning over this devastating news that Kobe and his young daughter, Gigi have passed away in a helicopter crash. [Johnson's wife] Cookie and I are heartbroken," Johnson wrote. "I love him, his family and what he stood for on the court and off the court.

"My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. It's hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players.

"He gave his knowledge, time, and talent to tutor so many at the youth level, collegiate level, and NBA and WNBA players. Words can't express the impact that he had on the game of basketball. I know basketball fans all over the world will miss him, especially the city of Los Angeles.

"He was such an icon but also did so much for LA. He was passionate about serving the homeless and was an advocate for women's basketball. Coaching his daughter's basketball team brought him so much happiness.

"Kobe and I shared so many special conversations about life and basketball. We had so much in common off the court. I used to love talking to him about Lakers basketball, being fathers and husbands and how much we loved Italy. I will miss those conversations and him so much.

"Laker Nation, the game of basketball and our city, will never be the same without Kobe. Cookie and I are praying for [Bryant's wife] Vanessa, his beautiful daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri, as well as his parents Joe and Pam and his sisters.

"We will always be here for the Bryant family. We love you forever. #8 #24"

Johnson's on-court rival Larry Bird also paid tribute to Bryant in a statement released through the Indiana Pacers.

"I know we will all be struggling to find the words to express our sense of deep sorrow and tragic loss of losing Kobe and his daughter, Gianna," Boston Celtics icon Bird said.

"Kobe was not only an icon in the sports arena, he was a man of the world and touched so many lives and communities in the most positive ways.

"His star was continuing to rise every day and he knew no limits because of his many intellectual and creative talents and desire to give back to others - his passion for the game, for his family and for others was apparent in everything he accomplished.

"My family and I send our condolences to Kobe's family, our hearts are broken."

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.

Luka Doncic shone on his comeback from injury and Gregg Popovich likened the Dallas Mavericks star to NBA great Magic Johnson.

After sitting out four games with an ankle problem, Doncic marked his return to the floor with 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as the Mavs beat the San Antonio Spurs 102-98 on Thursday.

Spurs coach Popovich branded the Slovenian – who had a 42-point triple-double when the teams last met – a "beast" in a TV interview after he scored half of Dallas' 20 first-quarter points.

The five-time NBA championship-winning coach was even more effusive in his praise at the conclusion of the game.

"I hate to say this: he's not Magic Johnson, but it's Magic Johnson-like in the sense that he sees the floor in that same way," said Popovich.

"He's got a real intuitive sense, and you can't teach that. He's just got it and he's great at it.

"I'm not trying to put the Magic Johnson pressure on him – he's not ready for that yet – but he's doing a hell of a job."

After missing out on All-Star selection in his rookie season, Doncic said he hopes to make the grade this time around. However, he is focused on getting back up to speed after experiencing fatigue towards the end of his 33 minutes on the floor.

"I'm not going to lie I was pretty tired going to the end of the game," said Doncic.

"It's difficult when you're out like four or five games, you've gotta catch up and [I'm] just gonna get better.

"[The ankle is] good. I'm gonna keep icing it and the bandage on it – it's good.

"I just want to play, I don't want to miss any games. But I got some rest too and I'll just keep going."

Former NBA commissioner David Stern underwent emergency surgery after suffering a brain haemorrhage on Thursday.

According to reports, the 77-year-old was taken to hospital after collapsing at a New York restaurant.

An NBA statement read: "NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern suffered a sudden brain haemorrhage earlier today for which he underwent emergency surgery.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with David and his family."

Stern spent 30 years in charge of the league before relinquishing the commissioner role to Adam Silver in 2014.

NBA Hall of Famer and former Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson was among the well-wishers who shared messages of support on social media.

"Join Cookie and I in praying for my good friend who helped save my life, former NBA Commissioner David Stern," he wrote on Twitter.

"He suffered a brain haemorrhage and had to have emergency surgery."

Lakers shooting guard Danny Green posted: "Biggest prayers out to David Stern and the Stern Family....sad sad news, but we know he's a fighter and will make it through!"

Russell Westbrook was delighted to pass Magic Johnson on the NBA's all-time triple-doubles list but insisted he does not take a place in history for granted.

Houston Rockets star Westbrook posted 28 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in a 126-123 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.

The 2017 MVP's latest show-stopping efforts took him to outright second on the triple-doubles list on 139, now trailing only Oscar Robertson (181).

"It's a blessing. I give nothing but thanks to the man above for allowing me to be able to go out and play and compete," Westbrook said. "It's something I never, ever take for granted.

"I know, nowadays, getting triple-doubles seems like normal, but I take pride.

"It takes a lot of energy, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of things I do off the floor to put myself out there to compete every single night and play at a high level.

"For me, that's a great accomplishment. Growing up, I was never thinking I'd be playing in the NBA. Now, to be in the history books is a blessing for me and something I don't ever take for granted."

Asked if he had heard from Johnson, Westbrook replied with a smile: "No, no, no - not yet. I'm pretty sure now, maybe..."

The 30-year-old added he rarely gets the opportunity to reflect on his career achievements but hoped to be able to this time before returning to action against former team the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.

"It's crazy, man. For me, it's just surreal," Westbrook said. "Everything happens so quickly. It happened tonight, I broke the record, 'Oh, s***'. Now I get ready for the next one.

"In my mind, I never get the opportunity to sit back and think about some of the things that I've done.

"Tonight will be one of those where I take a second to be thankful and grateful to be able to go and compete and do something like that."

Johnson posted on Twitter: "Congratulations to Russell Westbrook for passing me and having the 2nd-most triple-doubles in NBA history!"

Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook surpassed Magic Johnson on the NBA's all-time triple-doubles list.

Westbrook posted his 139th career triple-double on Saturday to move into second position, leapfrogging Los Angeles Lakers great Johnson.

An eight-time All-Star and 2017 MVP, Westbrook posted 28 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds as the Rockets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 126-123.

Westbrook now trails only Oscar Robertson (181) on that list as he eyes more history.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic wondered if Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson was distracting the El Trafico VAR when Carlos Vela's controversial second goal was allowed to stand.

Los Angeles FC claimed their first victory over rivals LA Galaxy in the MLS Western Conference semi-finals, running out 5-3 winners in an instant classic.

Vela netted twice to open the scoring, but his second effort saw a borderline call go in LAFC's favour, with Brian Rodriguez and the Mexican having appeared to be offside in the build-up.   

LAFC part-owner Johnson was in the stands, prompting Ibrahimovic to playfully suggest he had a role in the referee's failure to reassess the decision with the help of VAR.

Told Vela's strike was offside by a reporter, Ibrahimovic replied: "Was it? Are you sure? Are you 100 per cent sure? And you think we didn't know that? But the referee didn't know that.

"[VAR] didn't [get involved]. What was he doing upstairs? Drinking coffee with Magic Johnson?

"It's difficult, because if you have the VAR, it means the game is extra-controlled by the fifth referee upstairs. But if he's drinking coffee with Magic Johnson, it's difficult to play the game.

"He has to be in control. [The referee] didn't even go out and check. He said he needed a signal from the VAR people to go out and check. So what are the VAR people doing?

"But I don't want to complain about that, guys. We just lost, and I don't want to be a loser complaining about the refs because it's not my level."

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