How Zion Williamson's Astonishing Debut Compares to Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant

Zion Williamson's NBA debut was a long time coming but looks to have been worth the wait.

After missing the first 44 games of the season as he recovered from a meniscus injury he suffered in October, the first overall pick of the 2019 draft played his first professional game on Wednesday as the New Orleans Pelicans hosted the San Antonio Spurs.

The Pelicans lost 121-117, but for once the result was a long distant second in the list of priorities for New Orleans fans who finally got to see the first overall pick of the 2019 draft.

Included in the starting line-up for the first time, Williamson finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes. The former Duke star went 8-off-11 from the field, including a perfect 4-of-4 from behind the three-point line, which will go some way in quashing doubts over his mid-range and long-range threat.

Understandably for a player who had not played since October and had never experienced the demands of an NBA game before, Williamson struggled to find his feet in the first three quarters.

Repeatedly double-teamed by the Spurs defense, the 19-year-old had four turnovers, four rebound, an assist and just five points as the final period began.

He then produced the kind of scoring explosion Duke fans grew accustomed to last year, hitting a three-point shot, finishing a layup over LaMarcus Aldridge's head and then hitting two more 3s, which gave the Pelicans a one-point lead.

With just over five minutes left in the game, Williamson returned to the bench as the Pelicans wisely opted to rest him.

With Williamson on the bench, the Spurs mounted a late rally that was just enough to seal their third consecutive win. The teenager, however, insisted losing had not spoiled his NBA's debut.

"It was everything I dreamed of, except for the losing part," Williamson said.

"Just the energy the crowd brought, the energy the city brought, it was electric and I'm just grateful that they did that. So it was a dream come true to finally get out there, but at the end of the day I did want to win, so we've got to look to the next game."

Williamson's debut was arguably the most anticipated since LeBron James played his first professional game in 2003. So how does the former Duke's introduction to the league compared to that of some all time greats?

Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans looks on during the game against the San Antonio Spurs at Smoothie King Center on January 22 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Chris Graythen/Getty

Magic Johnson

The first overall pick of the 1979 draft, Magic finished with 26 points, four assists, eight rebounds and four blocks as the Los Angeles Lakers won 103-102 on the road against the then-San Diego Clippers.

Magic would end the season averaging 18 points, 7.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game and would be named MVP of the NBA Finals as the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 4-2.

Michael Jordan

Selected with the third overall pick by the Chicago Bulls, Jordan's debut was solid enough as he finished with 16 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four blocks.

MJ was named Rookie of the Year and took the Bulls to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, but Chicago fell 3-1 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

A whole lot more, however, was to come.

Shaquille O'Neal

O'Neal is probably the closest comparison with Williamson in terms of physical dominance and expectations surrounding his arrival in the NBA.

Shaq had a jaw-dropping eight turnovers in his NBA debut, but made up for it as he finished with 12 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks before being fouled out.

The pattern had been set and he was crowned Rookie of the Year in 1993.

Kobe Bryant

It seems incredible now, but 12 teams passed on Kobe Bryant in the 1996 draft.

Bryant's debut did not give any indications as to the kind of dominant player he would become, as he accumulated the grand total of one block and one rebound in just over six minutes.

LeBron James

The first overall pick of the 2003 draft wasted no time in making his mark in the league.

LeBron finished with 25 points, nine assists, four steals and six rebounds as the Cavaliers lost on the road against Sacramento.

No. 23 secured the Rookie of the Year award after finishing the season with an average of 20.9 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game.

Kevin Durant

The second overall pick of the 2007 draft, Durant had a typically solid NBA debut, finishing with 18 points, five rebounds and three steals.

Seattle lost by 17 against Denver, but Durant was named Rookie of the Year at the end of the season and he has never looked back.

How Zion Williamson's Astonishing Debut Compares to Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant | Sports