As we close in on the start of 2015-2016 Philadelphia 76ers regular season, all eyes will be on the debut of rookie center Jahlil Okafor. Okafor’s debut will be amongst the highest anticipated in franchise history. For many former Sixers it took time, but for others they showed their potential right from the start. Let’s take a look at the top five rookie debuts in 76ers history.
Honorable Mention- Larry Hughes – Stat Line – 11 Points, 9 Rebounds, 1 Block, 1 Steal
Many look at the Hughes pick in the ’98 Draft and instantly think of the Hall of Famers taken with the next two selections (Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce), and rightfully so. However, during Hughes’ rookie year, there was no denying the excitement that the flight bros (Hughes and Iverson) provided each night. You could catch Iverson and Hughes on the ESPN highlights every night throwing alley-oops to each other.
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Unfortunately, the high flyer was someone who could never fully discover his potential. He instead gave you flashes of what could be. His debut vs. the Hornets being one of them. It never clicked in Philadelphia, as he quickly grew tired of Larry Brown‘s demanding coaching style. In his 2nd season, he was traded away in a three-team deal that sent him to the Golden State Warriors. In the trade, the Sixers received Toni Kukoc from the Chicago Bulls. Hughes went on to have a solid NBA career, but never lived up to the expectations set by Larry Brown.
Number 5- Clarence Weatherspoon – Stat Line – 17 Points, 6 Rebounds, 2 Blocks, 2 Steals
Clarence Weatherspoon is a name often overlooked by Sixers fans. It was unfortunate timing for the Southern Mississippi product. Weatherspoon has always been considered the best player on the worst teams in Sixers history. In his debut vs. the New Jersey Nets, his stat line fell right in line with his career averages in Philadelphia. During his time as a Sixer, the team never managed to win more than 26 games. Despite the promising start to his career, he was slowly derailed by injuries once he left Philadelphia. For all intents and purposes, he’ll always be remembered as the guy between Barkley and Iverson.
Number 4- Jerry Stackhouse-Stat Line – 27 Points, 3 Steals, 61% FG
The one thing that no one doubted Jerry Stackhouse could do from the moment he stepped on an NBA floor was score. The former Tar Heel lit up the Washington Bullets for 27 points in his NBA debut, and he would continue to effectively score the basketball throughout his rookie season. Stackhouse averaged 19 points per game, and then followed that up with 20 during his sophomore campaign.
In his second year, he would share the backcourt with rookie Allen Iverson. That season, the Sixers only managed to win 22 games, and the following year, he grew frustrated with the playing style of Iverson. After a 6-16 start to the 97-98 season, Larry Brown felt like it was time for a change. The Sixers traded Stackhouse to the Pistons in exchange for Theo Ratliff and Aaron McKie. Both of whom would become crucial parts of the Sixers rise to contention in the Eastern Conference.
Number 3- Allen Iverson– Stat Line – 30 Points, 6 Assists, 1 Steal, 63% FG
At number three we have none other than number three himself, Allen Iverson. In his rookie season, “The Answer” showed a little bit of everything that made him such a special player during his 11 years in Philly. The hustle, quickness, grittiness, and of course the scoring were all things that made him a fan favorite. Iverson wasn’t the only future hall of famer on the court that night, Derrick Coleman was also on the floor for the Sixers (just kidding). Iverson went up against fellow rookie Ray Allen in what would be the first of many battles between the two throughout their NBA careers. Iverson would go onto win the Rookie of the Year award that season. Just like the man who is number 2 on our list.
Number 2- Michael Carter-Williams– Stat Line – 22 Points, 12 Assists, 9 Steals, 7 rebounds
If anyone reading this saw this debut coming, tell me your NFL picks this week and lets fly to Vegas this weekend. For my money, this was one of the best all around performances I have ever seen from a rookie in my life. Many will argue that he was an overrated ball hog with a broken shot. Others will say he had potential and could have been groomed into the next great Sixers point guard. Regardless of how you feel, that night against the Heat “MCW” put on a performance no one watching will forget. There wasn’t much to look forward to in regards to Sixers basketball that season. However, for one night, Carter-Williams helped everyone forget the Sixers were supposed to be the NBA doormat.
Number 1- Wilt Chamberlain– Stat Line – 43 Points, 17 made FG
Seeing as how his rookie year was more than 55 years ago, I had a difficult time finding the exact stats for his debut game. I think its safe to assume he probably racked up somewhere near his rookie average of 27 rebounds per game in his debut. This would continue to be the norm during his hall of fame career. Prior to Wilt’s debut, the league had never seen such a dominant force.
Despite what people say about how Wilt had no competition, there is no denying his numbers, impact on the game, and countless battles with Bill Russell. He is touted by many experts as not only the greatest Sixers of all time, but the most impactful player in NBA history. According to my elders, Wilt was the best player of all-time. It could be truth, it could be folklore. However, I’ll go by the numbers, history and say Wilt had the most impressive debut in 76ers history.