The Los Angeles Lakers are closing in on their first championship since 2010, but Anthony Davis insisted he is not looking too far ahead following another stellar performance against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

Davis posted 32 points on 15-of-20 shooting from the field as the Lakers defeated the short-handed Heat 124-114 in Game 2 for a commanding 2-0 series lead at Walt Disney World Resort on Friday.

The Lakers star joined Kevin Durant (2012), Michael Jordan (1991), Rick Barry (1967) and Hal Greer (1967) as the only players in NBA Finals history to score 30-plus points in their first two career games in the league's showpiece decider.

Davis – a high-profile recruit from the New Orleans Pelicans at the start of the season – also became the first Lakers player with back-to-back 30-plus point games in the Finals since Kobe Bryant in 2010.

But as the top-seeded Lakers near a first title in a decade, Davis is remaining grounded inside the Orlando bubble.

"It's huge," Davis told reporters when asked how important is it to stay in the moment. "This team [Miami] have shown in both games that they are able to fight back. Even when they are down 20, 30, whatever it is, they are able to fight back and make plays.

"So we can't get too high, especially with this team. They didn't even have two of their top scorers, two of their best players. They always have that next-man-up mentality. They come every night, they play hard, they play physical, they play aggressive.

"We came in tonight and said this is a must-win for us. We're going to come in the next game and say it's a must-win, and the next game it's a must-win and so on and so forth.

"We know what this team is capable of. I think they had four guys or five guys with 15-plus. Guys coming off the bench scoring and playing well. We have to lock in on those guys and show them respect, as well, which we do. But this team can play. We have to be wary of that and make sure we come in and be better in our defensive schemes, which is going to help us win."

Lakers team-mate LeBron James also dominated, finishing with a game-high 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

James and Davis became the first Lakers duo to score at least 32 points in a Finals game since Kobe Bryant – who died in a helicopter crash in January – and Shaquille O'Neal in 2002.

Amid comparisons to Lakers greats Bryant and O'Neal, Davis said: "Those two guys are obviously special. They are a duo that's special together. They are the best duo we've seen. Multiple championships. They both were so dominant.

"I know they had a little sit-down and they were talking about they were arguing because they both wanted to be so dominant, they both wanted to be great and they both wanted to win, and that's why they jelled together outside of everything else that you might have heard that they were going through.

"But you know, those two guys were selfless. They both had a competitive spirit with themselves to will their teams to win. I think me and Bron are the same way.

"We are two guys who want to win no matter the circumstance. We both want to make sure that we do whatever it takes to help our team win. When you have two guys that are selfless ...

"It's not always going to be pretty. Sometimes we are going to argue and have disagreements, but we know it's coming from the right place. When you have two guys who want to win as bad as we do and want to be dominant every single game, you have games like tonight where two guys, we're able to score the basketball and able to rebound and able to find guys.

"It's rare you see it. We know we have something special with us two and this team, and just trying to capitalise on it."

LeBron James said he was humbled after the Los Angeles Lakers superstar and team-mate Anthony Davis were compared to franchise greats Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal following Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

James and Davis produced another dominant performance as the Lakers topped the injury-hit Miami Heat 124-114 for a 2-0 series lead at Walt Disney World Resort on Friday.

Three-time champion James had 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while fellow All-Star Davis finished with 32 points in Orlando, where the Lakers are eyeing their first title since 2010.

James and Davis became the first Lakers duo to score at least 32 points in a Finals game since Bryant – who died in a helicopter crash in January – and O'Neal in 2002.

"Watching the Kobe-Shaq duo was the most dominant duo that I have personally seen in my life from a basketball perspective," James told reporters.

"Obviously we knew the force that Shaq brought to the table, but the elegance and force that Kobe played with, as well. They were very dominant in what they did on the floor, on both sides of the floor. So to be in the conversation with those two guys, myself and Anthony, myself and AD -- he's going to kill me -- myself and AD, is just very humbling, because I know I grew up watching those guys.

"I grew up admiring Kobe; obviously, a kid coming straight out of high school. Admired that, as a kid when I was young, and obviously got the opportunity. And the force that Shaq played with. It's very humbling that we can be even mentioned with those greats."

James moved up to sixth on the all-time Finals list for games played after making his 51st appearance, while the 35-year-old also climbed up to fourth for all-time Finals rebounds.

Pressed on the Bryant-O'Neal comparisons and how he and Davis play, James – who was not satisfied with the team's defensive effort against Miami – added: "I guess if you look in the sense of the size and the power and the speed that Shaq at his size played with, you could look at my game throughout the course of my career and say that.

"And then you look at the elegance and the ability to shoot the ball and the ability to play in the paint as well as post up and get to the perimeter, I guess you can say that you can have some of AD's game that could compare to Kobe's game in that sense.

"Obviously, all four of us are all different positions. Kobe was a natural two-guard. I'm kind of a, I don't know, whatever position. Shaq is a center.

"AD is kind of a hybrid, as well. But I guess all four of us, we have a winning mentality and we just tried to make enough plays out on the floor throughout the course of the game that would benefit not only ourselves individually but for the most important thing, for the better of the team.

"I can't even believe I'm up here talking about myself and AD with Kobe and Shaq."

June 15 is a momentous sporting date that the Detroit Pistons and their fans will not forget in a hurry.

Sixteen years ago on this day, the team earned an emphatic 4-1 win over favourites the Los Angeles Lakers to seal glory in the NBA Finals.

This date also represents the 40-year anniversary of a famous day in golfing history, when Jack Nicklaus broke a record at the U.S. Open.

We look back at some of the top moments to occur on June 15 in the world of sport.


2004 - Pistons top Lakers 4-1 in NBA Finals

The Pistons sealed a stunning 4-1 series win over the Lakers on this day in 2004, with a 100-87 win in Game 5 ensuring they secured glory in Michigan.

Richard Hamilton top-scored with 21 points, Ben Wallace starred with 22 rebounds and Chauncey Billups had a game-high six assists.

Billups was named Finals MVP as coach Larry Brown savoured his first championship, his underdog team having won three straight after going down to an overtime loss in Game 2.

Game 5 was notable as the last game for Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton for the Lakers, who had won previously three straight titles between 2000 and 2002.

This remains the Pistons' most recent NBA title, as they lost a thrilling Finals series 4-3 to the San Antonio Spurs the following year and have not returned since.

The Lakers, meanwhile, reached three straight Finals when coach Phil Jackson returned to the team later in the decade, winning two, including their last triumph in 2010.

Kobe Bryant top-scored with 24 points in a losing effort against the Pistons in Game 5.

He would go on to be named NBA Finals MVP in each of their 2009 and 2010 successes, moving on to five rings in the process.


1980 – Nicklaus sets record in U.S. Open triumph

Jack Nicklaus' fourth and final U.S. Open victory was a special one in 1980.

The American set a new tournament scoring record with an eight-under par score of 272 to win his fourth title at the event, finishing two shots clear of Japanese challenger Isao Aoki.

Nicklaus had started the week with a magnificent 63 to take a share of the first-round lead, and led by two after a more steady effort of 71 on day two.

After moving day, he was in a share of the lead with Aoki while four other players, including Tom Watson, were within two shots.

A thrilling finale was in store for June 15 and Nicklaus delivered with a 68 to claim his 16th major, 18 years after winning his first U.S. Open.

He romped to US PGA glory later that year, before his 18th and final major arrived six years later at the 1986 Masters.
 

1974 - Evert wins first of seven French Opens

American Chris Evert holds the women's singles record with an astonishing seven French Open titles.

She won the first of her Paris crowns on this day in 1974, emphatically defeating the third seed, Russian Olga Morozova, 6-1 6-2.

In the absence of Margaret Court, who had beaten her in a three-set thriller in the previous year's final, top seed Evert thrived.

She went through the whole tournament without losing a set, with German Helga Masthoff, the fourth seed, seen off in the semi-finals in a tougher test than she ended up having in the showpiece.

Evert also won Wimbledon that year as part of a sensational 55-match winning streak.

She successfully defended her French Open title the following year, and her third success in 1979 started a streak of five wins in the space of five years.

June 12 was a day when Michael Jordan finally became an NBA champion, while the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors also enjoyed Finals celebrations.

Jordan became widely regarded as the greatest player of all time but had to endure a couple of heartbreaks before finally tasting glory with the Chicago Bulls in 1991.

Shaquille O'Neal made history with the Lakers on this day 18 years ago, while you only have to go back to 2017 for Kevin Durant's moment to shine.

The St. Louis Blues also had reason to celebrate 12 months ago as their long wait for Stanley Cup glory came to an end.


1991 - MJ and the Bulls earn first of six

Having been beaten twice in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Bulls finally bested their rivals in the 1990-91 playoffs.

That led to a Finals series with the LA Lakers and Jordan was not about to miss his opportunity.

The Bulls wrapped it up in five with Jordan the fulcrum of their success en route to being named Finals MVP.

He scored 30 points and Scottie Pippen put up 32 as the Bulls defeated the Lakers 108-101 to win their first NBA title on this day. They would go on win six in eight years in one of sport's greatest dynasties.


2002 – 'Get ready for the Shaq attack!' Lakers rout Nets

It was a night of history for Shaq and Phil Jackson as the Lakers completed a 4-0 series of sweep of the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals.

Finals MVP Shaq put up 34 points in the 113-107 victory in New Jersey as the Lakers became the fifth team to win at least three straight NBA Championships.

With 145 points in the series, Shaq became the highest scorer in a four-game Finals, beating the 131 of Hakeem Olajuwon, which he achieved in 1995 for the Houston Rockets against O'Neal's Orlando Magic.

For legendary coach Jackson, it represented a ninth NBA title as a coach - levelling Red Auerbach's benchmark.


2017: Durant the Golden boy as James' Cavs beats

Just a year earlier, LeBron James had inspired the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2016 NBA championship from a 3-1 deficit to avenge their loss to the Golden State Warriors the season before.

But in the third year of their fourth straight battle in the NBA Finals, it was the Warriors who celebrated a 4-1 series triumph.

Kevin Durant, signed as a free agent at the start of the 2016-17 season, was named Finals MVP after averaging 35.2 points, including putting up 39 in Game 5.

James had 41 but was unable to prevent the Cavs slipping to a 129-120 loss.


2019: St Louis finally end Stanley Cup Blues

In a back-and-forth Stanley Cup Finals series, it all came down to Game Seven between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins.

But the Boston fans were left disappointed at TD Garden as St. Louis ran out 4-1 victors.

It marked the Blues' first Stanley Cup triumph in their 51st season as a franchise.

After four NBA championships, an MVP award, two scoring titles, 15 selections to the All-Star Game and All-NBA First Team honours on eight occasions, Shaquille O'Neal called time on his illustrious career on June 1, 2011.

Nine years on and the Hall of Famer remains one of the most dominant centers the league has ever seen.

After being drafted first overall in 1992 by the Orlando Magic, O'Neal was named Rookie of the Year and went on to provide the focal point of a team that reached the NBA Finals in 1995.

The Magic failed to go one better the following year and lost him to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he teamed up with Kobe Bryant and three-peated under Phil Jackson.

He was traded to the Miami Heat and won one more NBA championship there, before stints at the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and, finally, the Boston Celtics.

O'Neal had his jersey numbers retired by the Heat and the Lakers, while the latter also erected a statue of him outside of Staples Center.

Using Stats Perform data, we look at some of the most notable aspects of O'Neal's career.

 

Controlling the paint

From his first year in the league until 2004-05, O'Neal averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in each of those seasons. That is 13 straight and is more than anyone else in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon each accumulated 12 in succession.

During that run, there were 10 consecutive seasons (from 1993-94 until 2002-03) in which O'Neal averaged at least 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. Abdul Jabbar's run of nine from 1969-70 until 1977-78 is the next best.

He is one of just four players in NBA history to score more than 25,000 points and block over 2,500 shots.

A man for the big occasions

While he shared the spotlight with Bryant at the Lakers, O'Neal showed how important he was to the team when needed.

He was named the NBA Finals MVP in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The only other player to win the award in three straight years is Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan.

O'Neal also holds the record for the most offensive rebounds in postseason history, with his 866 comfortably outstripping second-placed Tim Duncan's 778.

 

Struggles from the stripe

While he may have had the beating of most opponents in the paint, O'Neal found life much harder from the free-throw line.

He was often subjected to intentional fouls, with opposing coaches looking to manage the game clock and limit his team's scoring by sending him to the stripe. The strategy was dubbed the Hack-a-Shaq.

O'Neal missed 5,317 free throws across his entire career, the second-most all time in the NBA; only Chamberlain (5,805) missed more.

Of players to have made at least 1,200 free throws in the NBA, O'Neal has the fourth-worst percentage (52.7). Chamberlain is third with a 51.1 per cent success rate, with DeAndre Jordan (47.4) second only to Andre Drummond (46.1 per cent).

O'Neal also holds the single-game record for the most free-throw attempts without making one, failing to hit any of his 11 against the Seattle SuperSonics in December 2000. He still finished the game with 26 points.

Roger Federer and Anthony Joshua have become accustomed to winning in their respective sports, but both suffered notable defeats on June 1 through the years.

Federer saw his hopes of a second successive title at the French Open dashed in 2010, while nine years later Joshua lost his heavyweight titles - and his perfect record - to Andy Ruiz.

The date has better memories for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, plus it is also memorable for marking the end of Shaquille O'Neal's stellar NBA career.

Take a look back at some of the great sporting moments to happen on this day.

 

2008 – Royals overcome Kings to be crowned

The inaugural IPL season concluded with a last-ball thriller. 

Rajasthan Royals, who were the top seeds at the end of the round-robin stage, just about overcame Chennai Super Kings in Mumbai, Sohail Tanvir the unlikely hero with the bat as he hit the single they required from the final delivery of the match.

Captain Shane Warne was also out in the middle for the winning run but Yusuf Pathan was the star performer for the Royals in the final, following up figures of 3-22 with the ball by making 56 in their successful chase. 

2010 – Federer's slam streak comes to an end

For a second successive year, Robin Soderling caused a huge upset at Roland Garros. 

The Swede had sensationally knocked out Rafael Nadal in the fourth round in 2009, though he went on to lose in the final to Federer. However, 12 months on, he gained revenge in the French capital, ending the champion's reign with a 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 win in their last-eight meeting.

With the loss, Federer saw his impressive run of reaching 23 consecutive grand slam semi-finals come to an end. 

2011 – Shaq stops: NBA legend announces retirement

After a 19-year career that saw him score 28,596 points, O'Neal decided the time was right to retire. The man nicknamed 'The Big Diesel' had come to the end of the road.

Drafted by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick in 1992, the center won three successive titles after moving to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he teamed up with Kobe Bryant.

O'Neal - voted the league's MVP in 2000 - won a further championship after switching to the Miami Heat. There were also stints with the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the latter stages before a final stop in Boston with the Celtics.

2019 – Replacement Ruiz stuns AJ in New York

Ruiz was not even originally due to be in the opposite corner to Joshua in Madison Square Garden.

The challenger was called in as a replacement when Jarrell Miller was removed from the headline act - and he seized the unexpected opportunity by producing a stunning result that sent shockwaves through the boxing world.

Joshua had won 22 straight as a pro and came into the bout as the IBF, WBA and WBO champion. However, he was dropped and stopped by Ruiz, who climbed off the canvas in the third round to sensationally turn the fight around. 

Shaquille O'Neal was instantly a dominant force when he entered the NBA in 1992.

After being taken by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick in the draft, 7ft 1in center O'Neal averaged 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game in his first season in the league.

On May 6, 1993, the Magic sensation, who joined a select group of players to be selected for the All-Star Game in their debut campaign, was unsurprisingly named Rookie of the Year.

The NBA is a very different place now, though, with three-point shooting an increasing requirement from every player on the floor. It is the age of the so-called 'unicorn'.

We use Stats Perform data to look at how the role of the big man has changed since O'Neal's incredible rookie season. For the below, a 'tall player' is anyone in the league that is 6ft 10in or above.

 

A rarer sight

To start with, tall players are less common in the NBA.

The percentage of them with at least one appearance in a season was around 30 per cent from 2000-01 until 2004-05 - the high in that period was 32 per cent in 2002-03.

This season the percentage of tall players is just 19.1, which is the first time the number has dropped below 20 since 1979-80 (17.1 per cent)

Lower usage

It is perhaps therefore unsurprising there has been a clear decrease in the percentage of league-wide minutes from tall players.

At the turn of the millennium, they claimed just over a quarter of the minutes (25.8 per cent) across the NBA. Their share over the following five seasons ranged from a high of 27.9 per cent in 2004-05 to 27.2 per cent in 2001-02.

It dipped below 22 per cent in 2017-18 and this season their overall share stands at just 18.8 per cent.

It would be the first campaign in which taller players played less than 20 per cent of the league's minute since 1979-80 (17.1 per cent).

Sharing the boards

Tall players accounted for upwards of 36 per cent of the total rebounds in the league between 2000 and 2010. The peak during that period was 39.6 in 2004-05 and 2005-06.

The ratio has fluctuated since, going down to 33.5 per cent in 2012-13, up to 36.3 per cent in 2014-15, and back to 34.3 in 2018-19.

This season, however, they have claimed just 30.2 per cent of the boards.

Less prolific

There has been a decrease in the percentage of points scored and field goals attempted by tall players.

Between 2000 and 2010 their share of points scored only dropped below a quarter in 2006-07 (24 per cent). It went as low as 22 per cent in 2012-13 and this season stands at 19.8.

It would be the first time since 1980-81 (19.5 per cent) that tall players accounted for less than 20 per cent of the league's points.

From averaging over a quarter of all field-goal attempts between 2001 and 2006, they are now contributing less and less.

This season tall players have attempted just 18.1 per cent of all field goals – a decrease of 3.1 per cent from the previous season and 8.1 since 2004-05.

Finding range

It's not just the number of tall players scoring that has changed, but the way they are doing it too.

Between 1979-80 and 1984-85, three-point attempts accounted for just 0.5 per cent of field-goal attempts by tall players.

That share jumped to 3.5 for the period from 1990-91 until 1994-95 – when O'Neal entered the league – and up again to 6.1 over the next five-season stretch.

We have now reached a point whereby, since 2015-16, big men have attempted 18.3 per cent of their field goals from beyond the arc.

Sticking with the times

That coincides with a league-wide trend of increased success with the three-point shot.

Before 2013-14, no more than four of the 10 players in points per game in a given season averaged at least two three-pointers made from range per game. Since then, at least five of the top 10 have done so in six of the seven seasons, with 2019-20 boasting seven players fitting the criteria.

When expanded to the 25 scorers in a given season, the number for 2019-20 increases to 18. Between 2007-08 and 2014-15 the number of players only went above five once (nine in 2013-14).

Roger Bannister produced a feat most thought impossible on May 6 many years ago, while more recently Shaquille O'Neal was rewarded for a memorable debut season in the NBA

Bannister laid to rest the demons of Olympics heartbreak to produce a moment that would stand the test of history in 1954.

Almost 40 years later, NBA legend O'Neal was receiving one of countless prizes he earned during a sensational career.

Here are the best sporting moments from this day down the years…


1954 – Bannister breaks through the barrier

It was described as "sport's greatest goal" and there were warnings from physiologists that running a sub four-minute mile was impossible and dangerous to attempt.

Yet Bannister, a medical student who had suffered disappointment when finishing fourth in the 1500 metres at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, achieved what was deemed unthinkable.

Helped by two pacers, Bannister managed to do a mile in three minutes and 59.4 seconds at Oxford University's Iffley Road track.

The record stood for just 46 days before John Landy of Australia shaved almost a second off that time, but it was Bannister who broke the barrier.


1970 – Feyenoord's Dutch courage downs Celtic

Just three years previously, Celtic's 'Lisbon Lions' had become the first British team to win the European Cup in a famous triumph over Inter.

On this occasion, the Bhoys were favourites at Milan's San Siro stadium for European football's showpiece.

But it was Feyenoord's turn to make history in a 2-1 triumph over Celtic, who had overcome the heavily fancied Leeds United in the semis.

Tommy Gemmell's 30th-minute opener proved a false dawn as Rinus Israel equalised. Swede Ove Kindvall then scored an extra-time winner three minutes from the end as Feyenoord became the first Dutch team to win Europe's top prize.

 

1993 – Shaq's rookie reward

Big things were expected of the gigantic O'Neal when he was selected first in the 1992 draft by the Orlando Magic - and he did not disappoint.

The center averaged 23.4 points (eighth in the NBA), 13.9 rebounds (second) and 3.53 blocks per game (second) as the Magic finished 41-41 to improve by 20 wins, though they still missed out on the playoffs.

O'Neal was named Rookie of the Year and went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career.

He won three NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and another with the Miami Heat, while he was named Finals MVP three years running between 2000 and 2002.

It is exactly 35 years since Wrestlemania I took place and never has the mantra 'the show must go on' been more apt than in the world of WWE.

While the globe has been ground to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic, Vince McMahon's global sports entertainment behemoth has continued with its weekly television shows Raw and Smackdown filmed in the absence of live audiences at the company's performance center.

Indeed, WWE's flagship event Wrestlemania is going ahead in the same fashion despite the breakout of COVID-19, which curtailed hosting the show at the original location of the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Fan favourites including John Cena, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Charlotte Flair, Edge, Randy Orton and Bill Goldberg are scheduled to appear on a bumper card shown over Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

But there will also be the presence of former NFL star Rob Gronkowski, who is slated to serve as host of Wrestlemania 36.

The ex-New England Patriots tight end – who helped his buddy Mojo Rawley win the 'Andre the Giant Battle Royal' during the Wrestlemania 33 pre-show – is not the first athlete to show up in WWE. Here we take a look at some others.

WAYNE ROONEY

England and Manchester United's record goalscorer had a run-in with Wade Barrett during a November 2015 edition of Monday Night Raw.

Preston fan Barrett, incensed by what he felt was a dive by Rooney in an FA Cup tie between his team and United nine months prior, said the now Derby County midfielder embarrasses his son "every time you step on a football pitch". Rooney retaliated with a slap.

RONDA ROUSEY

"Ronda's gonna kill ya..." was the chant emanating around Levi's Stadium as the fearsome Ronda Rousey stepped between the ropes at Wrestlemania 31.

Accompanied by WWE great Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, now a worldwide movie star, UFC icon Rousey was involved in a spat with the legendary Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon.

Three years later, Rousey partnered Olympic gold medallist Kurt Angle to defeat 'The Game' and 'The Billion Dollar Princess'. In January 2018, she became an in-ring regular and won Raw's women's title, which she dropped to Lynch a year ago.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL

Better known for slam dunks, former Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal got in a choke slam at Wrestlemania 32.

The four-time NBA champion had a stare down with the Big Show, before the two combined to slam the 'Big Red Machine' Kane.

RICKY HATTON

Ricky Hatton earned hordes of fans throughout a brilliant boxing career.

In November 2009, 'The Hitman' stepped into a different kind of ring to host an episode of Raw from Sheffield Arena.

Hatton even donned the gloves to land a knockout punch on Chavo Guerrero Jr., with whom he had feuded on the evening.

FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has beaten them all in the boxing ring, as his 50-0 record proves.

But it was a true case of David vs Goliath when Mayweather, approximately 5'7" and 150lbs, came up against the 7'2", 500lb giant The Big Show at Wrestlemania 24.

Despite the notable size advantage, Big Show was distracted by a member of Mayweather's entourage hitting him with a chair and 'Money' delivered a telling blow, albeit while wearing brass knuckles, to knock out his huge opponent.

PETE ROSE

Pete Rose is a legend of the baseball world, holding MLB's all-time hits record and winning the World Series on three occasions.

Rose was part of the 1970s Cincinnati Reds team that earned the nickname 'The Big Red Machine'.

But his run in with WWE's own 'Big Red Machine' Kane during the late 1990s and 2000 have become the thing of wrestling folklore.

On one such occasion at Wrestlemania 15, Rose was disguised as a chicken and earned a beatdown from Kane, including his devastating tombstone finishing manoeuvre.

MIKE TYSON

'Iron' Mike Tyson is no stranger to a WWE ring.

'The Baddest Man on the Planet' had an infamous showdown with 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, one of the all-time greats in WWE, on an episode of Raw and had seemingly sided with one of the company's most famous stables D-Generation X before one of its members Shawn Michaels faced Austin at Wrestlemania 14.

However, during the event Tyson showed his true allegiance, counting the pin for Austin and clocking Michaels. Some 12 years later, Tyson buried the hatchet with his DX foes, unveiling a shirt with their logo on and knocking out Chris Jericho during a Raw segment.

MUHAMMAD ALI

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee - did you know this boxing legend starred in WWE?

Okay, sure, back then it was known as WWF when Ali was one of the guest referees at the first Wrestlemania at New York's Madison Square Garden for the main event between 'Hollywood' Hulk Hogan and A-Team star Mr. T versus 'Mr. Wonderful' Paul Orndorff and 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper.

BROCK LESNAR

Few men strike fear in their opponents quite like Brock Lesnar, who is as well known for his two stints in WWE as he is for being a former UFC heavyweight champion.

Lesnar is a multi-time champion in the organisation and will defend his WWE title against Drew McIntyre this weekend.

TYSON FURY

'The Gypsy King' recently crowned his own personal road to recovery by knocking out Deontay Wilder to become the WBC heavyweight champion.

The big-talking Briton warmed up for that bout by enjoying a short run in WWE, feuding with 'The Monster Among Men' Braun Strowman, which resulted in Fury in earning a count-out win over his huge opponent at WWE's Crown Jewel pay-per-view last October.

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.

Joel Embiid used criticism from Hall of Famers Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley as fuel to produce a stunning display on Thursday.

The Philadelphia 76ers dished out a first home loss of the season to the Boston Celtics, with Embiid the star man.

He registered a double-double as the 76ers triumphed 115-109, ending the Celtics' 10-match winning run at TD Garden.

Embiid's eye-catching performance came after NBA legends O'Neal and Barkley suggested he was failing to live up to his promise.

"For them to say that I have the potential to be the best player in the world, and I haven't shown that, and I should let it be shown, that says a lot," Embiid said in quotes reported by ESPN.

"They've been there, they've done it, they're Hall of Famers, so it just shows me I have to play harder and like I can.

"I actually called Shaq [on Wednesday] - he thought I was mad at him. I was like, 'No, I understand what he was saying.'

"I've had a bad year so far. I've been kind of frustrated, just because you're not seeing the teamwork and you try to fit in with your new team-mates. Just be aggressive ... just go out there and just dominate.

"Whatever they said, I think it was good for me."

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