From John Wall to Bryce Harper: 8 memorable DC athlete debuts

Chase Hughes
NBC Sports Washington

The city of Washington has seen an unusual amount of sports phenoms come through over the past several decades. Here is a look at the debut games for each of the most famous ones in recent memory.

John Wall, Wizards: Oct. 28, 2010 at Magic

This game is still remembered to this day for how Wall danced his way through pregame intros with 'The Dougie.' But he also played well with 14 points, nine assists and three steals in a Wizards loss to Dwight Howard and the Magic. Wall has since gone on to make the All-Star team five times, All-NBA once and lead the Wizards to four playoff appearances.

Stephen Strasburg, Nationals: June 8, 2010 vs. Pirates

Strasburg entered the majors with perhaps more hype than any pitcher before him and in his debut he lived up to expectations in a major way. In front of a soldout crowd, he struck out 14 batters in seven innings with zero walks. Strasburg has since become a three-time All-Star and was the 2019 World Series MVP.

Bradley Beal, Wizards: Oct. 30, 2012 at Cavaliers

Beal may not have had the hype of these other guys, but there were certainly high expectations for him as the No. 3 overall pick. Beal had a modest game of eight points, three rebounds and three assists in his debut, a loss to the Kyrie Irving-led Cavs. Beal has made two All-Star teams in his career.


Robert Griffin III, Redskins: Sept. 9, 2012 at Saints

After the Redskins pulled off a blockbuster trade and spent the second overall pick to acquire Griffin III, there was a ton of interest in his debut, which came at the Saints and opposite Drew Brees. Griffin III led the Skins to a win with 320 yards and two touchdowns in what was just the start of an exhilarating 2012 season. Unfortunately, a torn ACL began his tumultuous downfall in Washington.

Alex Ovechkin, Capitals: Oct. 5, 2005 vs. Blue Jackets

The No. 1 overall pick, Ovechkin began lighting up the NHL right away with a two-goal performance in his debut; one even strength and one on the power play. The Capitals won the game, 3-2. Ovechkin would go on to win three MVP trophies and the Rocket Richard trophy eight times. He also led the Caps to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2018 and is on track to be one of the best NHL players of all-time. 

Bryce Harper, Nationals: April 28, 2012 at Dodgers

Harper had more hype before his debut than anyone on this list, and that is saying something. Hailed as the 'LeBron James of baseball,' Harper played his first game in Dodger Stadium with Vin Scully on the call. And he landed a double in his third at-bat for his first major league hit. The play famously included fans mooning the camera, somehow with perfect timing. Harper made six All-Star teams with the Nats and won the 2015 NL MVP award. He later left in free agency to join the Phillies.

Juan Soto, Nationals: May 15, 2018 vs. Yankees

Soto was the biggest surprise on this list because he didn't enter the league with the distinction as a top draft pick. But there is no question he was and continues to be a phenom. His debut was split between two days due to a rain delay, but it went down in the books as including a home run, a run scored and two RBI. Soto technically has not won any awards, but he was a central figure on the Nats' 2019 World Series team.

Nick Backstrom, Capitals: Oct. 5, 2007 at Thrashers

The fourth overall pick, Backstrom made an instant impact as a 19-year-old in his debut with an assist in a Capitals win. He would turn into one of hockey's most durable and consistent players, making five All-Star teams and becoming a major reason why the Caps won the Stanley Cup in 2018. Backstrom is on track to likely end up in the Hall of Fame when his career is over.

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From John Wall to Bryce Harper: 8 memorable DC athlete debuts originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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