In the NBA, you can establish yourself as a star with sustained high-level play in the regular season
But superstardom? That's reserved for those that show out on the biggest stage - the NBA Playoffs. It's no secret that the playoffs are where superstars - and legends - are made.
This year, there were a number of highly-anticipated postseason debuts and a number of players stepped up to the challenge, rewriting the record books in the process. Before the playoffs get too far underway, look back to a memorable opening weekend of unforgettable debuts.
It was almost like a movie script.
Young, 22, leads the Atlanta Hawks into Madison Square Garden - THE biggest stage in basketball - to take on a New York Knicks team that was making its first postseason appearance in eight years. The MSG crowd had plenty to say to Young, but he let his game do the talking to ensure he'd get the last laugh.
Capped off by a game-winning floater with 0.9 seconds remaining, Young finished the night with 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds and was sure to note that it got quiet at the Garden following his late-game heroics.
COOLER THAN THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PILLOW. pic.twitter.com/JanRzj1hCB- Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) May 24, 2021
With his stat line, Young became just the fourth player in NBA history with 30 points and 10 assists in a playoff debut, joining some pretty elite company.
Who knows what's in store for an encore, but that's a pretty good way to get things going.
It took six seasons, but Booker's first-ever playoff performance made the wait worthwhile.
With Chris Paul limited due to a shoulder injury, Booker stepped up to lead the Phoenix Suns to an impressive Game 1 win over the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. In 45 minutes of action, Booker finished with 34 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
His 34 points are the most points by a Suns player in a playoff debut.
📈 Devin Booker: most points in a playoff debut in Suns history pic.twitter.com/Pq0plRRH5x- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
Not that it's a surprise but Booker seemed completely unfazed by the moment, doing exactly what his team needed from him, even in the face of unexpected adversity. With his stat line, he became the seventh player in NBA history to score over 30 points, pull down five or more rebounds and dish out five or more assists in a playoff debut.
Hours later, Young would join him.
Though it's his sixth season, here's a reminder that Booker is only 24 and there's should plenty more where this came from.
Brooks had himself a night, scoring 31 points on 50.0 percent shooting to lead the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies to a stunning Game 1 victory over the top-seeded Utah Jazz. Not only did Brooks set the Grizzlies franchise record for most points in a playoff debut but he also set a new record for most points from a Canadian in his playoff debut, as noted by Brian Swane.
With Brooks' performance, the list of Canadians to score 30 or more points in a playoff game is now five, as he, too, joins exclusive company.
- Steve Nash
- Jamal Murray
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
- Luguentz Dort
- Dillon Brooks
With a national spotlight on the Grizzlies, Brooks is establishing a reputation as a solid two-way player that plays tenacious defence and can fill it up offensively. As former teammate Solomon Hill put it, Brooks is "that guy you love playing with and hate playing against."
This was a playoff debut fitting for a former No. 1 pick.
Like his teammate Booker, Ayton was prepared for the moment, a fact illustrated by his stat line of 21 points (on 10-for-11 shooting) and 16 rebounds (eight offensive) in Phoenix's Game 1 win over the defending champs.
DOMINAYTON 😈😤 pic.twitter.com/banoF64dMw- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
Ayton didn't break any scoring records but, according to ESPN Stats & Info, he joins Bill Russell as the second player in postseason history to shoot 90 percent or better in a game with 20 or more points and 15 or more rebounds.
It is safe to say that is considered elite company.
His teammate stole the show, but Morant is the Grizzlies player that stands to etch his name in superstardom.
In just his second NBA season, Morant has made it to the postseason stage, where he opened with 26 points (on 11-for-21 shooting), four rebounds and four assists. Any debut records he potentially could have set were outdone by Brooks, but the two combined for quite the debut.
Dillon Brooks & Ja Morant both scored 25+ points in their postseason debut Sunday.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 24, 2021
They are the 4th set of teammates in NBA postseason history to both score 25+ points in their playoff debut & 1st since Ben Gordon & Andres Nocioni in 2005 pic.twitter.com/EThxnD9Cpy
More importantly, they combined to get the win, a big step forward for a Grizzlies franchise that is building to be a real contender in years to come.
His stat line of 14 points and 11 rebounds might not immediately jump off the page, but his poster dunk will.
RJ BARRETT 🇨🇦 gets MSG HYPED! 😤 pic.twitter.com/1z9xCu3Ng0- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) May 24, 2021
It was definitely the biggest dunk of any debut made over the weekend.
In addition to the poster, Barrett made history in his debut. According to Swane, his 11 rebounds are the most of any Canadian in their postseason debut.
Given the fact that Barrett is only 20 years old, he'll one day join the above list of Canadian's to score 30 or more in the playoffs, too.
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