What’s with the LeBron James rookie year? On average, most rookies in the NBA are not expected to make significant contributions their first year in the league.
This is especially true of players who arrived in the NBA straight out ofhigh school. The game is fast, demanding, and you’re competing againstthe greatest players in the world.
However, when your nickname in high schoolis “King James,” you received more exposure than most college basketball superstars, and you’re the number one pick in the draft – the demands are going to be a little higher. Especially when you sign a $90 million shoe contract with Nike before your professional debut.
The critics were out. How would LeBron James do in his rookie year? James was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. The situation appeared ideal, as Cleveland was close to LeBron’s hometown of Akron.
However, the Cavaliers were one of the worst teams in the NBA from a season before, and were desperate for someone, something to resurrect this NBA cellar dweller.
In LeBron’s first game against the Sacramento Kings, “King James” recorded 25 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, and shot 60% from the field. Needless to say, it didn’t take long to sway the doubters during LeBron James rookie year. After recording a season-high 41 points against the New Jersey Nets, James became the youngest player in league history to score at least 40 points in a game.
By the end of LeBron James rookie year, the young sensation had averaged 20.9 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game. LeBron was named the 2003-04 “NBA Rookie of the Year,” officially becoming the first Cavalier and youngest NBA player ever to receive the award. LeBron also joined Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game in their rookie year.
Not only were James’ numbers fantastic, but the player also provided some hope for a horrible basketball franchise. The Cavaliers improved by 18 wins in LeBron James rookie year and concluded the regular season with a 35–47 record. Although they failed to reach the playoffs in 2003-04, the Cavs finally made it back in 2005-06 and went to the NBA Finals the following year.
Highlights from LeBron James rookie year: James played in 79 games and also started in all 79. The mark was just three games shy of playing a full-82 game season in his first season. LeBron showed remarkable durability to go along with his consistency. James also nearly logged 40 minutes a game in his rookie year. His combination of rebounding, assists, steals, and points spoke of a player well beyond his tender age of 19.
The Ugly: LeBron’s averages from the field were not that high, although that was consistent with your average rookie in the NBA. James only shot 41% from the field, a disastrous 29% from the three-point line, and a decent 75% from the free-throw line. James also turned the ball over 3.4 times per game.
The numbers from his rookie campaign proved that the player was legit, well worth the hype, and like any other rookie in the history of the league – sporting some flaws in his game that needed to be improved throughout the course of his career.