The Orlando Magic may have fallen 109-113 to the Detroit Pistons in their season opener, but SLAM 235 cover athlete and rookie Paolo Banchero quickly enchanted the City Beautiful.
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Banchero recorded a monster debut stat line with 27 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists. The No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft became the first rookie to record a 25-5-5 statline in his first game since LeBron James in 2003. Additionally, the guard scored the most points by a No. 1 overall pick since Allen Iverson in 1996 and scored the most points by a Magic player in his first career game in team history.
“It means a lot, I guess,” Banchero said after the game, per ESPN. “Obviously, would have liked to win. But I just wanted to play hard, play for the team, and that happened, so it’s a blessing.”
The 19-year-old Duke product joins an esteemed company of LeBron James, Allen Iverson, and the previous “most points by a Magic player in his first career game” record holders: Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dwight Howard.Banchero started hot and ended hot. He knocked down Orlando’s first two buckets and finished the first quarter with seven points on 3-3 shooting from the field, and led a Magic comeback that fell short despite scoring 13 points on 5-8 shooting in the fourth. Oh, and he did this: Banchero passed all credit to his teammates.
“Credit to my teammates for finding me. It’s always nice to see the ball get in that early, get easy buckets around the rim. That’s how I try to play, inside out. Try to get easy stuff around the basket and expand out and do more stuff throughout the game.”
Jalen Suggs, who finished the game with 21 points and four triples, including an 18-point surge in the third quarter, had reciprocal praise for Banchero.
“He handled himself very well. He got to his spots. He ran in transition. He was physical. He boarded. He made the right play when it was there. Paolo did a fantastic job tonight. We’re going to continue to ride with him, we’re going to continue to grow, and moments like this are important for us. We got to be in this to grow, and he showed us a lot tonight.”
In a Magic-Pistons matchup featuring an abundance of young talent, including Suggs and Pistons guards CadeCunningham (18 points, 10 assists) and Jaden Ivey (19 points, four assists, three steals), Banchero headed the show with his record-breaking performance.