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Phenom LeBron's Impressive Debut

Cleveland Cavaliers rookie guard LeBron James before reg. season debut vs. Kings
AP
Perhaps NBA super-rookie LeBron James didn't get enough hype after all.

From the opening assist to the final dunk, the 18-year-old basketball phenomenon's debut was even more impressive than nearly every starry-eyed expectation.

And though his Cleveland Cavaliers lost 106-92 Wednesday night to the Sacramento Kings in both teams' opener, James showed all the makings of a superstar — and none of the nerves that could cripple a normal teenager under such constant scrutiny and pressure.

Instead, LeBron was a smash hit.

"Running up and down with the NBA players, it's a dream," James said. "I was just fortunate to get some shots, and they fell through. Most of the moves I used in high school, I could use here."

James had 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals, mesmerizing one of the league's loudest crowds with skills no teenager had ever displayed at this level. His numbers were outstanding, but they didn't capture the flair and explosiveness he showed against one of the NBA's top teams.

"I think that was LeBron's statement to the league that he's here. He's for real," said James' agent, Aaron Goodwin.

James' point total was by far the most by any recent prep-to-pro rookie, eclipsing the 10 points scored by Jonathan Bender of Indiana in 1999 and Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix last year.

In fact, James' 25 eclipsed the combined totals of Kevin Garnett (eight), Kobe Bryant (no points), Jermaine O'Neal (two), Kwame Brown (two), Eddy Curry (two), Tyson Chandler (one) and Tracy McGrady (none) in their professional debuts.

James even helped the Cavaliers play competitively against the powerful Kings, who beat Cleveland for the sixth straight time. After falling behind by 19 early, the Cavs briefly took a two-point lead in the fourth quarter.

If James and his teammates frequently play at this level, good things seem bound to happen to a franchise that hasn't seen many good times in its 34-year history.

Cleveland coach Paul Silas graded his lanky point guard's performance as a B-plus.

"I didn't expect him to have this kind of night," Silas said. "But I knew he was capable of it. I just didn't think it was going to happen. I'm glad it did. This is a great start for him."

Just 88 seconds in, James earned his first assist on an alley-oop pass to Ricky Davis for a dunk. James swished his first shot from the right corner, then followed it with an identical shot from the opposite corner.

Moments later, James twisted his body to shoot a long jumper over 7-footer Brad Miller from the corner. Swish again.

"He obviously was good tonight. He's got a lot of talent. He gets to the basket, he sees the floor. For the first game, you had to be impressed," Kings coach Rick Adelman said.