People may not know this about my basketball fandom, but I love a good rookie. I watch them on draft night, choose them for my fantasy teams, and read David Thorpe’s rookie report and weekly rankings to see how this year’s crop is performing. I figure that tomorrow’s best players are today’s rookies and watching them learn, grow, and mature as players is one of the things I enjoy most about basketball.
And while I’m high on the two Lakers’ rooks, Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks, this isn’t really about them right now. They’re bit players on this current team and even though I think they’ve got very good chances of developing into contributors that can make an impact, they’re both probably a year or two away from cracking the rotation on a contending team like the Lakers.
Instead, this is about John Wall and your chance to see him in action next Tuesday, December 7th when the Wizards make their one and only visit to Staples to play the Lakers. Thanks to the good folks at StubHub*, Forum Blue & Gold is giving away two tickets to the game so you can see Wall (and Arenas and the rest of the Wiz) in action and marvel at some of the things that he can do on the court (and I don’t mean doing the Dougie). (For those wondering, the tickets are in section 107, row M at the Staples Center. Pretty good ducats, I’d say.)
Winning the tickets is easy. All you have to do is tell us about your favorite moment from a rookie in NBA history. Just go into the comments of this post and relay what rookie moment you’ve found most memorable and why. The staff here at FB&G will read them, group the best of them, and then randomly select the winner. That person will win the tickets**. If you’d like to know mine, it has to do with a young man from Michigan State who played a pretty good game in the playoffs against Philly, but that’s just me. Surely you have your own moment that you’ve found to be classic or character building or truly memorable that you’d like to share. So, comment away and we’ll announce the winner in the next couple of days. Good luck to all!
*A truly special thanks to StubHub for providing these tickets. If you’re ever looking for tickets for a Lakers game, you can click on the link in right hand side bar. Or if you’re looking for tickets to any other event, just visit their site and they’ve got you covered.
**While we encourage anyone to enter to win the tickets, local readers are preferred as only the tickets will be provided. Once a winner is chosen I will reach out to you and make arrangements for you to receive the tickets. When leaving your comment, please fill out the email address section on the commenting box (will not be published) so we have an easy way to contact you.
Good luck to whomever wins this, I can only watch with envy as I am stuck in S. Korea 😉
Given all the Andrew Bynum-bashing going on, I harken back to the game where Bynum received a “this is who you replace me with” nasty dunk on the young pup Bynum. Bynum picks himself up, knowing that the balance of his future is beholden to how responds to Shaq in the next two minutes. Young Bynum establishes position, and spins around Shaq for a dunk. Destiny established (or so we thought).
So while we wait upon Bynum, once again, I’d like to remember Bynum for that moment.
Forgot to follow the rules. My e-mail (which “will not be published”) is now included.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall” – Confucius
This brings me back to the ’96-97 season when one young rising star was on the biggest stage so far in his ascent to greatness. While the details escape me, all I remember was the impression that it had on me. With time ticking away, the ball eventually ended up in his novice hands and without hesitation, he fired away. As I held my breath, I had all the faith in the world that this would be the beginning of something great. My confidence was only a resonance of what I was witnessing. Guts. Killer instinct. Cold. And when the gust of air that resulted from that ill-fated shot settled, somehow I was still unmoved by the result. It was as if he knew in the back of his mind that he would come through for us yet. Even more so, it was as if he, in his own way, was sending me the same message.
Lakers ’10-11 Champs!!!
Jason Sapir says
I’d have to go with Eddie Jones (1995)…bare with me for a moment…
Due to the Lakers not qualifying for the 1994 playoffs (an indirect result of Magic’s retirement); the Lakers drafted Eddie Jones with the 10th overall pick. He had a stellar rookie season; became a fan favorite; and would eventually mentor Kobe Bryant.
Eddie was the first player since Magic’s retirement to bring excitement and pride back to the Forum. I can still hear the “Eddie…Eddie…Eddie” chants. He had a fluidity and smoothness that reminded me a little of James Worthy (although not nearly as legendary and “big-game”).
Due to Bryant’s elevation as an NBA player, and the Lakers need for some outside shooting, he (along with E Campbell) was traded for Glen Rice (and Reid and Armstrong). This trade opened up playing time for Kobe, helped the team win their first Shaq-Kobe title; and enabled the Lakers to eventually trade Glen Rice in a multi-player trade to net Horace Grant…and the most dominant post-season (2001) in NBA history ensued…
I believe Eddie Jones was a significant piece in resurrecting this Lakers organization and being a part in subsequent trades that ultimately resulted in a 3-peat.
Thanks and I hope I get the tickets!!!
P. Ami says
Cap’s last season was 88-89. His last game was a loss to the Detroit Pistons and some of you might also remember that Lakers fans were pretty concerned about the center position. Mychal Thompson was an excellent player but more of a power forward then center and we had lost a fixture of the Lakers who can be argued to have been the greatest player ever. Enter one of the most impactful Euros to have ever played the game.
Keep in mind that this is the same year Petrovic came to the Blazers and the Warriors played Marcelonis. The Eastern Block was in the process of becoming irrelevant in it’s current form and the NBA was about to taste the flavor of international basketball.
January 23rd 1990, Madison Square Garden. Some say the biggest stage in the world (mostly New York scribes say this but anyway) and starting at center, against Patrick Ewing is Mychal Thompson. About half way into the 1st quarter Riley sends his rookie center onto this stage. Standing in the lane Vlade’s length forces an out of control shot by the Knicks. Vlade then collects the rebound, turns and leads Coop into a football style catch over his shoulder, ahead of the pack at the Lakers’ three-point line. Coop get an uncontested layup. Later in the game Vlade takes the ball out of bounds after a Knicks make and with another Joe Montana toss, hits Coop so he doesn’t even need to put the ball on the floor before nailing a layup. He has these two blocks on Oakley and finishes each throw back with that same, “what me” expression he wore after earning an offensive foul with a flop. This against the most intimidating player of his generation outside of maybe Jordan. You could see that A) he was having fun and B) he wouldn’t be intimidated. It’s a fun combination to watch.
The Lakers wound up winning 63 games but lost in the second round. The next season they get beat by the Bulls in the finals. A few years later Vlade is traded for the rights to Kobe and as far as I’m concerned it’s all history. The wall that fell in Berlin let players like Vlade, Drazen and Sarunas into our lives. This brought guys like Dirk, Pau and even Yao to us today. We just don’t have the same game without those flops, those blocks and those full court outlets. Without Vlade we don’t have that bridge from Showtime to the Lakeshow and without him we don’t have Kobe. All that history aside, the game is about the moment and when Vlade swatted away that weak (beep) from Oakley, I thought the Lakers could make it without Kareem and as we watch Kobe age, I think it’s important to remember that we just never know where the next great Laker is hatched from. Stop me if I wax nostalgic on some fumbled catch by Kwame in his rookie season.
Airballs in Utah. Airballs in Utah. Airballs in Utah. 5 rings later, he’s still taking the shot.
Craig W. says
Magic’s jump into Kareem’s arms in game 1 of his rookie season and Kareem’s response to slow down, there are 81 more of these things before we get to ones that really count.
Last year, I decided to watch a Cleveland and Jazz game on TV to witness LeBron pummel all of Utah. Little did I know, that an undrafted rookie named Sundiata Gaines, was about to his the game winning three pointer against the Cavs. After he hit the trey, it was a golden moment to see the whole Jazz team smother Gaines with pride and happiness. This was amazing, because Gaines had apparently only practiced with his new team once. It was also his first three of his entire NBA career. One of the best moments from the ’09-’10 season.
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video is worth 10,000 right?
No further description is needed.
I’m going to have to go with the Allen Iverson crossover on Jordan in ’97. It signified a changing of the guard in terms of how the speed and tempo of the game was speeding up along with the changing rules.
Kobe had some sick crossovers in his rookie season as well, but none as well known as that one by Iverson on Jordan.
P. Ami says
That was preseason of Kobe’s second season. Still… an awesome moment.
At the risk of sounding blasphemous to some, I’m gonna have to pick Shaq for my favorite rookie play. During the 92-93 season against the New Jersey Nets, he went baseline past a couple of defenders for a dunk and brought the hoop to the ground.
This was way more than the glass-shattering dunks Daryl Dawkins used to do. The ENTIRE hoop came down.
I liked this play because
1) The league had to start making stronger, reinforced hoops after that
2) getting out from under the hoop before it fell on him, may be the fastest Shaq has ever moved
3) I can’t think of another play like that in any sport. Shaq basically said to the world: “you have never seen a physical talent like me before, and you may never again” It was Bo Jackson-esque
I’m going with a recent one, where I attended Blake Griffin’s first game as a rookie this year. Seeing his high flying antics really surprised me, especially after watching the NBA for so long now. It’s hard to imagine a rookie bouncing around as if he had his own trampoline, among all the NBA pros.
Andres Garcia says
Game 3 of the 1996-1997 playoffs against Utah. My freshman college dorm mate and I took the bus from Westwood to Inglewood, running the final mile or so through Inglewood, after buying tickets that same day. We left like 3 hours early and just made tip off.
Lakers were down 2-0 and things looked bleak. I had been on the fence about Kobe that whole year, shifting between “man, he’s going to be really good” to “man, he takes some bad shots and I don’t know about him.” This was my first chance to see him live (and my first real game at the Forum though I am a Laker lifer).
Kid Kobe was nails and his arsenal of drives to the hoops and jumpers, though still in its nascent stages, was on full display that night. Seeing him live, it was clear that he was a cut above athletically and he could create his own shot whenever he wanted. The Jazz looked like they were in slow motion when he had the ball in his hands.
The Lakers won handily that night but they went on to lose the series (and the infamous airball game followed).
However, after this game and even after the meltdowns against Utah that followed, I felt confident that Kobe would grow into a great player, and not just a really good one. The future was bright.
My favorite rookie moment took place last season.
It was my first season of fantasy basketball and I had drafted poorly (thank you 3rd round draft pick Jose Calderon). After posting a near triple double in the first game of the season, I scooped Brandon Jennings up off of the waiver wire.
Little did I know that in November of 2009 as I sat in class watching the fantasy gametracker on my laptop that I was witnessing something special.
Against the vaunted defense of the Nellie-led Golden State Warriors (haha), Brandon Jennings erupted for a season high (for all players) 55 points. I thought there was something wrong with my laptop as his point total kept increasing!
Young Buck had the NBA abuzz for the early portion of that season, and that game in particular is one I will never forget…
My favorite rookie moment ever was seeing Dwight Howard drop 30+ courtside from my buddy’s Clippers Tickets. It was his first huge game of the year and I knew i’d seen something special… I say this because I was there.
The absolute best rookie moment of all time was probably Magic’s sub for Kareem, but i was only a month old at the time.
It was 1990 and I was getting into collecting basketball cards. My dad bought me some NBA HOOPS cards, 2 boxes worth!!! I couldn’t wait to tear them open to get at my rookie cards. Vlade Divac baby!! He brought the flop to the game and never looked back! Sadly that was one and only year I collected basketball cards but I still have them to this day.
And off course we also have him to thank for being eventual trade bait to help bring in Kobe!
Magic Johnson… starting at CENTER for an injured Kareem Abdul Jabbar in game 6 of the 1980 Finals and putting up a line of 42 points, 15 boards, 7 assists and 3 steals, en route to winning the Finals MVP (first rookie to do so). Holy sheeeesh, rookies!!! The ONLY time a point guard has filled in at CENTER and put up a stat line like that to lead his team to a championship. And that was just the beginning…
Jon Chen says
The year was 2003.
He had been picked first 9 months ago, before all the other “sure-thing” players. Had he proven himself in the league? Not quite. The weight of a nation’s pride fell upon the shoulders of a gentle giant.
At the end of the night, his stat line showed:
# 11: 33 mins/23 pts/14 rebs/4 blks/1 3 pt fg
Impossible is nothing.
I’ve had a soft spot for Laker shooting guards ever since Byron Scott. After Scott left, Anthony Peeler became my dude. Heading into the 1994-5 season, I felt sure Peeler was ready for a breakout year. When I tuned in to the first game of that season I was surprised to find that AP wasn’t starting, but rather it was Eddie Jones. Eddie Jones who? Who is this guy taking away AP’s starting spot? Oh, he was their first round draft pick. Wait, you mean to tell me a rookie is starting over my beloved Anthony Peeler? This is blasphemy. Rookies generally have to earn their’s, Jones should be no different.
So I began that season a bitter fan. As the season progressed, I could tell that Eddie was a quality player, but I was still miffed. And then, one day in January, Eddie won me over for good. The Lakers were visiting the 76ers, and Eddie absolutely DEMORALIZED Shawn Bradley, all 90 inches of him. Eddie dunked on Bradley not once, but twice that day, including a vicious tomahawk from a step inside the free throw line. I became a part of the Eddie Jones Fan Club that day. I wore #25 in high school because of him. And one of my saddest moments as a Laker fan was when they traded him away.
I just found the clips of his dunks that day – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWx4y9v7urM. Listen to the Philly fans chant “EDDIE! EDDIE!” Amazing for a rookie.
I am a Lakers lifer, mostly because of the quality of the team, management, and desire to be the best. But I was introduced to the Lakers at the age of 9 while watching a couple regular season games and getting to know how the game was played. I remember all the teams that were good, but not good enough through the years…Iceman’s Spurs, Tarpley:s Mavs, the Kelts of course and the great 76s teams. A moment of greatness occurred in Game 6 of the 1980 finals. As I watched in disbelief, a guard replaced one of the best centers EVER, NBA legend, all-star, proven winner, champion, and captain…#33. This kid, with all the hype, pressure and history on his shoulders produced, and produced big. I remember watching the game with my dad who is from Boston and a really big Celtics fan. Winning one isnt winning 11 son. Lakers can never match the championship years of Mr. Red. The next 12 years were glory watching the 2 best franchises battle, me and my dad on opposite ends of the rainbow. Bird, McHale, Parrish, Johnson, Ainge…Magic’s baby skyhook, back and forth games, finals excitement. I hated the Celtics but have come to appreciate them and happy they won 3 years ago. It made my dad happy to see his team win again. It all started long ago for this 41 year old who witnessed the greatest game, in the biggest game…maybe ever.
My favorite Laker rookie of my lifetime had to be Nick the Quick in ’93. I’ve never seen a 37th pick play with so much swagger. The spin moves, the alley oops, right-handed dunks, pull up 3’s. I used to play around in my backyard trying to shoot just like him, left foot forward, body turned to the right, slightly leaning back, holding the follow thru til it hits the net. To me, he’s the most exciting Laker we’ve had (minus Kobe) come in as a rookie since I started watching basketball.
It was game 2 of the 2004 NBA Finals. The Lakers were just shocked in a game 1 loss to Detroit. Lakers were in a surprise must win game. Phil decides to insert Laker rookie Luke Walton (son of legendary Bill walton was all I really knew about him) into the biggest game of his life. He didnt play at all in game 1. I was wondering what in the world is Phil thinking at the time? But Phil was rewarded as Luke played superbly. He really sparked the Lakers in the 27 minutes that he played. He had many great passes. The lob to Shaq I remember most. He was playing great in crunch time in the 4th as well. It was just amazing. He helped set up the Kobe Bryant heroics in that game. This game being the only highlight of the series. It was awesome to watch. Lukes stat line in that game.
3-3 FG One three pointer, 5 rebs, 8 assists, 7 points. 2 blocks, 0 Turnovers in 27 minutes. Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke!
dave m says
I’m not in this race, currently living in Austin and all… and have no earthly idea why I’m still up and tip-tapping keyboard keys at 3:30 in the morning (with work looming ever closer). Lots of great rookie moments here but I have to say – #6, that’s some truly memorable writing.
While it was Magic that inspired me growing up, my favorite rookie moment was Kobe’s dunk over Ben Wallace in a preseason game. The bench’s reaction after the dunk was priceless. I took the photo of the dunk from Slam and laminated it, and hung it on my cubicle wall. All of my friends (all Kings fans, ’nuff said) gave me grief that Kobe would never amount to anything, that he was overrated. But I knew that Lakers had found someone special.
I can not participate in the contest, because I live in Spain.
My best memory is from Pau Gasol’s rookie season.
We had been verbally (and phisically) abused by Kevin Garnett during the game.
At one point, Pau drove thru the baseline for a one-handed slam dunk in Garnett’s face.
I still remember the satisfaction expression in Pau’s face, incredulity in Garnett’s face and the feeling I had that Pau would be the first Spaniard to succed in the NBA.
Greetings from Spain.
Phillip Barnett says
I love some of these rookie memories. Keep them coming in! In the mean time, the morning links are up:
Ron Miller says
So many recent players mentioned above, but I have to go back for the memorable rookie moment.
I know, it would be too easy to say Magic in the 79-80 Finals game 6 (although no one mentions this). How could you top that for a Rookie moment.
But I’m picking a more obscure moment, yet I feel was a key to that 80’s run. Michael Cooper in a game against the Nuggets. The Nuggets back then were a team that didn’t really want to play defense. They figured if they let the other team shoot, they would get the ball back all that much quicker. There were many a game that went 135 – 140 between the Lakers and the Nuggets.
Coop’s moment came early in the season. A Laker fast break that was stopped, Magic “yo-yoing” at the top of the key. Looking over at Silk man in the corner when suddenly Coop flies to the hoop, rising up above the Nugget defenders, and hang in mid air for what seemed like the half the shot clock. Magic see’s him hanging in the air from the eyes he has in the side of his head and lofts the ball up towards the rim. Coop, still hangin above the rim, takes the lob and puts is through the hoop.
The “Coop-A-Loop” is born and the Lakers head to 9 finals and 5 championships in 11 years.
(OK stat geeks, so Coop was really a rookie in 78-79, but he only played 2 games. 79-80 was his actual rookie year, but who’s counting)
T. Rogers says
I have to tread into blasphemous territory and agree with post #13. When Shaq brought that backboard down his rookie season I knew he was unlike any center I would ever see. And that turned out to be true.
Travis Y. says
My favorite rookie was definitely of Mark Madsen.
That was the 00-01 season, fresh off the long awaited championship the newly ringed Lake Show were looking to replace Horace Grant.
Kupchak and the rest did what they could with their 29th pick and signed Madsen up. It was like bringing a Chihuahua from the street into Paris Hilton’s luxurious purse.
The Lakers needed a banger that would do the dirty work and alleviate the rigors and punishment that Shaq was taking on a nightly basis.
By doling out bits of punishment on the opposing forces Shaq was able to appreciate Madsen, and appropriately named him the “Mad Dog”. Shaq took him under his wing and famously bought him a suit, his down payment for his Chevy Tahoe, and other clothes.
It was a match made in Laker blue and gold, and if we weren’t certain if he was right for us, he fit right in at the championship parade exclaiming Spanish sayings and doing the now infamous mad dog dance.
Mad Dog brought nothing but joy to the fans and was a class act, very fitting for the Lakers.
It’s already been stated by #19 but, as a lifelong Lakers fan (39 years), when I think of outstanding rookie moments the first memory is Magic the point guard starting at center in game 6 of the Finals (FINALS!!!).
Has any rookie ever come up bigger in a more pressure filled game than that? I don’ t believe so.
Darius Soriano says
The game preview and chat for the Grizz game is up:
P. Ami says
Woops, I had the wrong e-mail address posted. It is now corrected.
Strangely, the favorite rookie moment that comes to my mind is not based in success, but rather in abject failure. May 12, 1997 the Lakers are in a playoff series in Utah. The series was not going well. Elimination was staring them in the face.
Following what will turn out to be their destiny, and with 11 seconds to go in regulation and the score tied at 89 – 89, coach Del Harris and the Lakers go to their 18 y/o rookie Kobe Bean Bryant. Brimming with confidence, he casually brings the ball up the court before starting his drive and putting a 15 foot airball from just below the right elbow.
Overtime tells a story of a young man filled with the confidence and the moxie to put up 3 more airballs. Mere mortals would have cowered into passing mode after the first or certainly after the second shot. Rather we were allowed a glimpse at the psyche of someone who knows that they should not fail. Previous failures only increase the likelihood of his next shot. Only he realizes the work he has put in to get to this point. Studying Elgin Baylor tapes as a child, he knows his capability.
Apparently , coaches and teammates believe also.
Of course had Phil been coaching I wouldn’t have the chance to even write this story.