Wind-back Wednesday marks 40 years since arguably the most inauspicious debut in NBA history.
Indiana University star Kent Benson was drafted as the No.1 pick in 1977 by the Milwaukee Bucks, but the 6’10 center’s debut against the Los Angeles Lakers lasted just two minutes following an ill-advised elbow on five-time MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
After doubling over, Kareem gathered his thoughts, approached his 22-year-old assailant and sucker-punched him in the face, breaking Benson’s jaw – and his own hand.
Kareem was fined $5,000 by the NBA, while his hand injury kept him out for 20 games.
The unsavoury incident shadowed Benson’s career, but he nevertheless went on to have an 11-season career in the NBA with the Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers, tallying 6,168 points (9.1 ppg), 3,881 rebounds (5.7 rpg) and 1,203 assists (1.8 apg).
Kareem, who coincidentally started his career with the Bucks (winning a title and the Finals MVP award in 1971), also played on until 1989 and went on to win five championships with the Lakers, adding another season MVP award in 1980 and taking out the Finals MVP gong in 1985.