17 Years Ago Today: King James Arrives In Sacramento

Oct 29, 2020, 9:48 AM | Updated: 9:54 am
(Rocky Widner/Getty Images)...
(Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
(Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

On this date in 2003, LeBron James made his NBA debut against the Sacramento Kings at ARCO Arena

“The Chosen One.”

That is what LeBron James was famously named when he was just a youngster in high-school as he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. Shortly after, James was drafted with the number-one pick in the 2003 NBA draft.

When the schedule arrived for the 2003-04 NBA regular-season, it was discovered that the first game of James’ career wouldn’t be played in Los Angeles against the Lakers or in his home state of Ohio: it would be played in Sacramento, California.

(AP images)

On October 29, 2003, the 18-year-old kid from Akron, Ohio made his NBA debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers at ARCO Arena, facing a Kings team that has just posted a 59-win season in 2002-03.

The usual sellout crowd of 17,317 at ARCO Arena welcomed James as he ran onto the floor for pregame warmups, something that the future Hall of Fame forward will always remember.

“It was great,” James said in a March, 2016 interview with Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“Obviously the fans, they came out for that game for two reasons. They wanted to see if I was worthy of what everybody was talking about, but also they had a great team at the time, still. That team was winning a lot of ball games at that time, still, and they had an opportunity to have a great run, so it was just great to be a part of the atmosphere. It was my first time in the NBA and then to be able to be a part of an atmosphere like this, it was pretty cool.”

James delivered–and then some–in his debut, wowing the thousands watching from the seats and the millions watching from home with slick passing, impressive mid-range ability and the first of his many high-flying fast-break dunks.

After one quarter of action, James put the league on notice.

The rookie knocked down a baseline 15-foot jumper for his first NBA basket in the first-quarter, a basket that James later would claim was the most difficult shot that he attempted in his debut.

“I made my first shot,” he said to McMenamin. “It was a fadeaway baseline jumper right over there by our bench. That was probably the toughest shot I took all that night, besides my left-hand finger roll on the break, I think in the second [quarter]. Usually you try to get like a layup or a dunk, I made a jumper and that just kind of settled me down. To get a fast-break dunk in that game, we were kind of making a run, we were making a run to get back into the game at the time, it settled me in.”

James would go on to finish the game with a stat-line that would become all too familiar over the next 17 years: 25 points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals.

The rookie also converted 12 of his 20 field goal attempts.

It was an incredible introduction to the league from the most highly anticipated superstar in the league’s storied history.

Sacramento would go on to win the game 106-92, led by 22 points and seven rebounds from Peja Stojakovic and 19 points from Mike Bibby. Vlade Divac contributed with 18 points and four blocked shots in the victory over James and the Cavaliers.

As the Kings moved on from ARCO Arena in 2016, James shared the importance that the building has his to his career, claiming that this was the first step in his professional career.

“Like I said, this building means a lot to my career. When I — I don’t know if it’s a movie made of me or my book gets [written about] my NBA career getting started, this will be the first place it starts, here at Sleep Train … or Arco Arena. This will always be the beginning of it.”

Longtime NBA veteran and current Sports 1140 KHTK host Doug Christie had a chance to breakdown that first game, as the former Kings guard was tasked with covering the 18-year-old rookie during his NBA debut.

Listen to the former four-time NBA All-Defensive Team guard analyze key points in a game that basketball fans will remember forever.


(Chris Watkins / Sactown Sports Digital)...
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