The Sacramento Kings left LeBron James a sentimental gift at his locker on Sunday: a bottle of wine and a photograph from a game that was played on Oct. 29, 2003. The picture is so old that James, then just 18 years old, legally couldn’t have drank the wine when it was taken. But the night holds a special place in the story of his career. That game, a 14-point Kings victory, was the first James ever played in the NBA. Sunday was the 20th anniversary of that illustrious debut.
Sadly, it ended as the original did: a Kings victory. This one was a bit more difficult, as Sacramento needed overtime to overcome James and the Lakers, but there were a few more positive similarities that James will be able to look back on a bit more fondly.
James notched 25 points in 42 minutes and 50 seconds on that night in 2003. He scored a few more points (27) with slightly less playing time (39 minutes and five seconds) this time around. There’s no easy way to track the list of players who have played over 39 minutes per game in the same city 20 years apart, but you can rest assured that it’s brief.
James looked back on that first night in the NBA ahead of Sunday’s battle with the Kings in a video with the Lakers social media team. Within it, he detailed the sequence that led to his first NBA basket.
“Coming off a floppy action. Our coach at the time, Paul Silas, we used to run floppy and that’s like one of the most basic foundation plays,” James explained. “It’s two guards starting underneath, you got the two bigs on the block and you decide which side you want to come off of. So I was able to come off a pin down from our big. So I faded to the corner, took one bounce, and was able to just shoot over the top. I was nervous as hell, I’m not even going to hold y’all. It was my first game in the NBA, something I always dreamed about.”
Whatever dreams James brought with him into the NBA have now long-since been achieved. In 21 NBA seasons, he’s won four championships and four MVP awards. He is the league’s all-time leading scorer and perhaps its greatest player. It all started with that night in Sacramento 20 years ago. Two decades later, he’s still going strong.
If there’s any silver lining, he may not have won these two especially notable games against the Kings, but he’s beaten them plenty throughout the years. In 39 attempts, James has a 25-14 record against Sacramento. If he needs slightly fonder memories to look back on as he sips that wine, he’s got plenty to choose from.