Both Chris Paul and Giannis Antetokounmpo are playing in the NBA Finals for the first time in their careers, and they’ve performed extraordinarily so far. Whenever NBA superstars make it to their first NBA Finals, it is interesting to see how they respond to such a high-pressure situation.
Legendary players have performed at a high level right from their first action on the league’s biggest stage, though not every star player is able to maintain their composure and deliver. The 2021 NBA Finals are interesting in that regard, as Paul, Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker are all making their debuts on the biggest stage of basketball.
Greatest debut performances of all time from a player in an NBA Finals series
Legends of the past have had extraordinary outings in their first appearance in the NBA Finals, though some have struggled at the same stage.
In this article, we rank the five-best debut performances in an NBA Finals series in league history. Naturally, the efforts that led to an NBA title will mean more than anything else.
#5 Rick Barry – 1967 NBA Finals
Rick Barry was playing in his second NBA season back in 1966-67 when the San Francisco Warriors made it to the NBA Finals, mainly due to his scoring prowess. Fresh off winning the Rookie of the Year award after the 1965-66 season, Barry put up 35.6 points per game as a sophomore to win the scoring title.
In the postseason, Barry averaged 34.7 points per game and put the Warriors in the NBA Finals against Wilt Chamberlain’s Philadelphia 76ers.
Giannis has scored 103 points in this series, the 4th-most by a player in his first 3 career Finals games. pic.twitter.com/UQke2XKONS— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 12, 2021
Although the Warriors fell in six games, Barry had a historic series averaging a then-record 40.8 points per game and 8.8 rebounds.
Barry had three 40-point games in the series, including his career-high in the NBA Playoffs with 55 in Game 3.
#4 Dwyane Wade – 2006 NBA Finals
In his third NBA season, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat had already played deep in the postseason in 2005, with Shaquille O’Neal guiding the team to the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the 2006 NBA Playoffs, the team and Wade were ready to go a step further and reached the NBA Finals against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.
Wade averaged 34.7 points in the six-game series and led the Heat to win the championship after falling 0-2 early in the series. Wade earned the Finals MVP award after also averaging 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game in the series.