Greatest pro sports debuts: Auston Matthews joins elite company

Here are all four of Auston Matthews' goals from his debut against the Senators. He's the only player in league history to score four times in his NHL debut.

No assists, a failed stick check that led to an Ottawa Senators overtime winner, and a shooting percentage only slightly less than 70 per cent? Toronto Maple Leafs rookie centre Auston Matthews clearly has a lot to work on after his disappointing NHL debut.

Perhaps that’s putting a negative spin on things? Of course it is. It’s nearly impossible to downplay what the 19-year-old did in his first regular season NHL game. The top pick in the 2016 NHL Draft has hockey fans across the globe buzzing following an unforgettable four-goal outing Wednesday.

Matthews set a record by becoming the first player in the NHL’s modern era to score four goals in his debut game.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to look back at some other memorable debuts from athletes across the four major North American sports leagues.


Alex Ovechkin

Prior to Matthews’ debut, The Great 8 was the only other first-overall pick to score multiple goals in his NHL premiere. He netted a pair 4 1/2 minutes apart in the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Fun fact that has nothing to do with their accomplishments: Ovechkin and Matthews share a birthday.

Troy Grosenick

Grosenick has played just two career NHL games and his debut was one of the best in NHL history. On Nov. 16, 2014 Grosenick got the start for the Sharks against the Hurricanes ahead of Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock and the results were unexpected to say the least.

Grosenick made 45 saves and blanked Carolina to set an NHL record for most saves in an NHL debut shutout. The previous record was held by Bruins goalie Andre Gill who stopped the Rangers 41 times on Dec. 23, 1967.


Wilt Chamberlain

The basketball legend made his NBA debut on Oct. 24, 1959 for the Philadelphia Warriors. If a rookie in today’s game came close to logging 43 minutes or scoring 28 points they’d be overjoyed, but Chamberlain set the tone for his remarkable Hall of Fame career by putting up an absurd 43 points and 28 rebounds in his first game. This performance wasn’t an aberration either. He averaged 37.6 points and 27 rebounds per game during his 1959-60 rookie campaign.

Allen Iverson

The first-overall pick from the 1996 draft showed the Philly faithful what he was capable of in his 76ers debut. The Georgetown University product scored 30 points and added six assists in a loss to the Bucs. It was performances like that which led to Iverson winning the NBA Rookie of the Year Award that season.

LeBron James

The King James era began with the Cavaliers superstar coming one assist shy of a double-double. He led his team in minutes (42), points (25) and assists (nine) in a loss to the Kings. He also showed off his defensive prowess with four steals.


J.R. Richard

The 6-foot-8 righty was taken second overall in the 1969 amateur draft and his debut on Sept. 5, 1971 remains one of the most impressive in baseball history. Richard, who spent his entire 10-year career with the Houston Astros, tossed a complete game against a stacked San Francisco Giants team in the second game of a double-header. Richard’s 15 strikeouts tied a 17-year record for most by a starting pitcher in his MLB debut. Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds were among the batters Richard made whiff multiple times that game.

Trevor Story

The “Best Sports Debut of 2016” is currently a two-horse race between Story and Matthews. The Rockies shortstop debuted with two homers off three-time all-star and 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke back in April. Story didn’t stop there. The 23-year-old became the first player in MLB history to go yard in each of his first four games. He had seven home runs in his first six games. We’ll see if Matthews can stay hot like Story did over his next few games.


Marshall Faulk

Faulk is known mostly for what he did with the Rams and the “Greatest Show on Turf” but he had four 1,000-yard seasons with the Colts in the mid-to-late-90s before being traded to St. Louis. His first game in particular was something to behold. The Hall of Fame running back carried the ball 23 times for 143 yards and found the end zone thrice.

Anquan Boldin

Boldin is an elder statesman in the NFL, putting in work with the Lions these days, but he burst onto the scene with the Cardinals more than a decade ago with a 10-catch, 217-yard, two-touchdown game in 2003 — against the Lions of all teams.

Marcus Mariota

There have been many impressive first starts from high profile rookie NFL quarterbacks in recent years. Cam Newton threw for 422 yards, two touchdowns and ran in another score in 2011, and Robert Griffin III looked like a perennial Pro Bowler throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns in his 2012 debut. However, Mariota outdid them both last season becoming the first rookie in NFL history to throw four touchdown passes the first half of a game. He finished his first contest with a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

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