November 8th, 1984: Michael Jordan (33 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists)
October 26th, 1985: Patrick Ewing- (18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks)
November 21st, 1992: Shaquille O’Neal- (18 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks)
November 5th, 1996- Kobe Bryant (1 point)
February 22nd, 2003- LeBron James (22 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists)
These are the stat lines from the five most anticipated rookie debuts in Madison Square Garden history.
Tonight, November 8th, 2023, will forever be noted in the NBA’s history books as the date that Victor Wembanyama made his Madison Square Garden debut. The San Antonio Spurs (3-4) will be in the Garden tonight to take on the New York Knicks (3-4). Remarkably, it was exactly 39 years ago today that Michael Jordan made his Madison Square Garden debut. Given Jordan’s place among the game’s legends, it’s no surprise that his debut remains one of the most celebrated in Garden history. While Wembanyama is poised to surpass Kobe Bryant’s 1-point debut, the question arises: where will he rank among these Hall of Fame legends?
Wembanyama’s first seven games have showcased moments of rookie uncertainty interwoven with glimpses of an emerging superstar. In his fifth game, he treated fans to a scintillating performance, posting 38 points and securing 10 rebounds, leading his team to a 132-121 triumph over Kevin Durant’s Phoenix Suns. In the preceding game, also against the Phoenix Suns, Wembanyama showcased what could be the dunk of the year—a left-handed tomahawk slam executed from the three-point line off a single dribble gather, soaring over Suns center Drew Eubanks.
Despite the excitement surrounding Wembanyama, the Spurs have encountered a slow start, with a 3-4 record. Two nights ago, they suffered a loss to the Indiana Pacers, a game that showcased Wembanyama’s rookie struggles as he shot 3-12 from the field, contributing just 13 points in a lopsided 152-111 defeat.
One the other side, the Knicks share the same lousy 3-4 record, but enter tonight’s game on a high note following their most impressive performance of the season. After a lackluster 3-3 start, the Knicks dominated the new-look Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night, securing a convincing 111-97 victory. Things finally looked like they began to click for the team on Monday giving Knicks fans the type of performance that they have become accustomed to seeing over the past two seasons. Mitchell Robinson had his first double-double of the year, R.J. Barrett returned from injury and scored 26 points, and Julius Randle finally found his shooting rhythm hitting 42% of his 21 shots. The only blemish on this otherwise stellar night was Jalen Brunson’s uncharacteristic performance, shooting just 2-of-12 from the field and finishing with seven points, three rebounds, and six assists.
While Brunson is expected to bounce back tonight, the Knicks will still need to rely heavily on their bench to pick up any slack. The Knicks went to just four of the players on the bench Monday, but all were invaluable in their own ways. Donte DiVincenzo had his best game in a Knicks uniform scoring 12 points in 16 minutes. Josh Hart did what Josh Hart does best, a little bit of everything registering 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals. And although Immanuel Quickly had his lowest scoring night of the season, he still finished with a plus/minus of +22, the most of any Knick Monday night.
San Antonio Spurs:
G- Jeremy Sochan
G- Malaki Branham
F- Keldon Johnson
F- Zach Collins
C- Victor Wembanyama
New York Knicks:
G- Jalen Brunson
G- Quentin Grimes
F- RJ Barrett
F- Julius Randle
C- Mitchell Robinson
The stage is set tonight for the Victor Wembanyama show hitting 7th Ave. But once that dust settles, the Knicks have an opportunity to seize the spotlight from Wembanyama in front of a nationally televised audience. The matchup that the Knicks present to the Spurs tonight is an intriguing one. The Knicks have the roster and capability to neutralize Wembanyama’s impact, particularly given his challenge in matching up with the robust Mitchell Robinson. Wemby lacks the frame and strength to bang down low with Mitch. He looked out of place on Monday against Myles Turner. While Randle’s defensive efforts have been questioned this season, look for the Knicks and Randle to force Wembanyama to shoot from deep where he is shooting just 32% on 37 attempted three pointers.
The stars are sure to be out tonight, and there won’t be an empty seat under the bright lights of the Garden for one of the most highly anticipated Knicks games of the season. The Knicks are coming into tonight’s game on a one-game winning streak, which they hope to double—and should, if the Knicks’ big men step up tonight.
Prediction: Knicks 112, Spurs 97
Who: San Antonio Spurs at New York Knicks
When: 7:30 pm EST, Wednesday, Nov. 8
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Watch: MSG Network, ESPN