Correction: A previous version of this article stated Britton Johnsen never played in an NBA game. He played in 26.
With Zion Williamson set to make his NBA Summer League debut against the Knicks (LOL) on Friday night, I thought it would be a good idea to look back at LeBron James’ first Summer League game so we could properly adjust our expectations for the Pelicans rookie. Little did I know I would be stumbling upon one of the greatest games in NBA history that nobody remembers.
The game was not particularly good, nor was it even remotely competitive. LeBron and the Cavaliers cruised to a 107-80 victory over the Magic, but that doesn’t mean the game wasn’t thoroughly entertaining. Now, I didn’t watch the entire game. Instead, I just watched this 10-minute highlight video. The title of the video alone had me hooked…
Note the TWO exclamation points!! The guy who uploaded this is definitely a Kobe Stan. At the same time, this is info that should be relayed in every NBA box score. I don’t care how many points you scored, how many rebounds you grabbed or how many dimes you dropped; if you got yammed on during the game, none of it matters. I don’t even care if your team wins. Does anybody remember Brandon Knight’s stat line or the final score from this night?
No, reader, they do not.
We need a “Dunked On?” column in box scores is all I’m saying.
This is a Summer League game — an Orlando Summer League game, at that — but NBA TV brought out the big guns to call the game. We got Bill Raftery in the booth, people.
The Cavs’ roster is loaded, by the way. Look at this starting lineup…
The team was so loaded, future NBA 3-Point Champ Jason Kapono was relegated to the bench. That’s honestly better than what the Cavs had around LeBron in his first NBA Finals against the Spurs. Cleveland is winning at least one game with this squad.
Also, the graphics people just butchered DeSagana Diop’s name. Sometimes “sound it out” isn’t the best way to spell, kids.
This is how I imagine that conversation went down:
Graphics Person 1: “OK, at center is DeSagana Diop. DeSagana is spelled ‘D-E-S-A-G-A-N-A’ and Diop is spelle–”
Graphics Person 2: “I got it.”
Graphics Person 1: “Are you sure?”
Graphics Person 2: ” Yeah, I know how to spell, dude.”
But, seriously, that’s a damn good Summer League lineup. LeBron is LeBron. Dejaun Wagner was a walking bucket before his career was cut short. Darius Miles was a fourth-year pro who, I’m assuming, just wanted to stunt on a bunch of rookies. Carlos Boozer was a future All-Star. DeSagana Diop started for the Mavericks team that lost to Miami in the Finals.
The Magic squad wasn’t nearly as good, but there were some familiar faces…
No, Zaza Pachulia does not have a brother who played in the NBA, and the graphics person did not botch another name; it turns out that Zaur is his actual name.
And don’t sleep on Reece Gaines. He could play and was part of one of the wildest finishes in college basketball history…
He also crossed up LeBron at one point in this game…
LeBron’s night got off to a shaky start. He was still adjusting his shorts when the game tipped off and it caught him off guard. Raftery even got on him a little.
This would not be the most unfortunate pregame uniform-adjusting moment of LeBron’s career.
From the start, it was clear that Darius Miles was the best player on the court.
And, well, yeah … the dude had played 230 NBA games by this point. This was AFTER he made the 2001 All-Rookie Team AND appeared in Van Wilder. He should be dominating a bunch of rookies and scrubs. To be fair to Miles, this was a good play by him and LeBron…
Sadly, these two wouldn’t even finish one season together. Miles was traded to Portland in the middle of LeBron’s rookie year.
One of my favorite parts about this video is the news ticker at the bottom of the screen. Apparently, NBA TV had yet to discover the magic of scrolling text, so viewers had to read headlines in parts.
It takes a good 12 seconds to get through one headline. So dramatic. While we’re on the the news ticker, it kind of predicted LeBron’s future…
Summer League is great because it provides those little peaks into the future, and that was definitely true in Zaza Pachulia’s case.
You see that little kick? Zaza’s been doing this dirty thing for 16 years now. Gotta respect that longevity. Now, you might be saying, Why is Zaza going so hard in a Summer League game? Well, this was no ordinary Summer League game. The energy in the arena was palpable. Just listen to this fan…
Or maybe that was just a loose bird. Moving on…
Carlos Boozer was doing Carlos Boozer things in the game, which was a sign of things to come.
He won Most Improved Player that the following season and a year later, he’d spurn the Cavs, who declined a team option so they could give Boozer a raise. Then the Jazz offered him more money, and Boozer wisely took it. Guess who Boozer’s agent was at the time? Let’s allow Boozer to tell the story…
I go into a meeting with the GM and the owner, Jim Paxson and Gordon Gund, my agent Rob Pelinka, and me. We’re in a meeting. We want to take care of you. You’ve had two great seasons here. I almost made the All-Star team as a second year player. I almost got Most Improved Player. I was on the come-up.
They were like If we take away your option to make you a free agent and I was like Cool. I’m ready to get paid. I’m 100% on-board with staying in Cleveland, there wasn’t a handshake because that would’ve been illegal. I couldn’t do any of that. So we just had a great conversation.
That’s Lakers GM Rob Pelinka! It wouldn’t be the first time Pelinka let LeBron James down, amartie?
Speaking of LeBron, here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: LeBron getting dunked on!!
PLOT TWIST! It was a white dude! I know I wasn’t expecting that when I clicked on the video. That white dude is Britton Johnsen, who played in only 26 NBA games. There’s no way he doesn’t bring this up in conversations every day. I know I would if I were him.
“Yes, I’ll pay extra for the guacamole and, by the way, I dunked on LeBron in his pro debut.”
The crazy thing is, that wasn’t even the best poster dunk of the game. That goes to Boozer, who dunked all over this poor dude’s NBA dreams.
I suppose that’s something you can tell the old grandkids, but “I got dunked on by Carlos Boozer” is not as good of a flex as “I dunked on LeBron Freaking James,” obviously.
Even if Zion goes off for 50 on Friday night — considering the Knicks’ luck, it’s possible — it won’t top LeBron James’ Summer League debut, which is arguably the greatest game in NBA history in this writer’s humble opinion.