LeBron James entered his professional debut as all rookies should: lugging his own stuff into the TD Waterhouse Centre on Tuesday.
It was his first, and last, rookie moment.
Because this kid is good.
Good, mind you, not great. Not yet anyway. But in Tuesday night's summer-league opener against Orlando, Cleveland's No. 1 overall draft pick, high school legend and $100-million man proved it's not just hype.
He can play.
"It's all about the game," he said. "We win. I'm happy."
The Cavaliers drummed the Magic's rookies, perennial free agents and other lesser-knowns 107-80.
Not that it mattered. There was only one reason why 15,123 fans would attend a summer-league game and why 12,000 of them would pay $5 a ticket, and only one reason why 175 media credentials were issued: to see James for themselves.
"He proved me wrong," Orlando's Wesley Morton, 17, said. "I didn't think he was as good as they said he was. I thought it was just hype."
It's not. James had 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 23 minutes, and maybe solved Cleveland's point-guard problem, too. He made 5 of 11 shots from the floor and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line. The only negatives: 0-for-3 from the 3-point line and three turnovers.
James was like a man among, well, men, and his presence was quickly felt. The rookie's first shot was a blown layup, one batted back inbounds by Orlando's Alton Ford and into James' waiting arms under the basket. His one-handed slam ignited the crowd with 9 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
A minute later James took a Darius Miles pass inside for a reverse layup. A minute after that James took the ball, sprinted to the top of the key and hit DeSagana Diop with a no-look pass for an easy layup.
There was little James could not do. He dished off no-look, cross-court passes as easily as he buried free throws. He sank open jumpers as easily as he buried a reverse, over-the-shoulder layup while falling out of bounds. He combined the flashy and the fundamental.
His debut should be taken with several caveats. Summer-league competition is hardly All-Star caliber. At times James did look human. He had plenty of help, too, since Cleveland was stocked with players such as Miles, Dajuan Wagner and Carlos Boozer.
And a fellow rookie named Britton Johnsen of Utah did humble James in the third, dunking over the newest spokesman for Nike, Upper Deck and, any day now, Gatorade.
But through all of it, James never looked like a rookie.
"He looks like a grown man," said 19-year-old Donovan Redden of Orlando.
At 6 feet 8, 240 pounds, with long, muscular arms and powerful legs, James doesn't even look like a teenager just out of high school. Nor does he sound like one when asked why his teammates looked so often to an 18-year-old for leadership.
"I think my teammates look to the point guard," James said. "If I'm the point guard, I'll put it on my back. Offense starts with me. Defense starts with me. I'll put the team on my back and do whatever they need me to do, if it's rebound or get assists, I'll do it."
He never looked nervous or excited. He was composed as the crowd cheered his showmanship and his rare miscues.
At age 18, what James showed is he has the talent and savvy to become a complete player.
"It was pretty fun, I like playing in front of big crowds," James said. "I like the bigger stage and my teammates like it, too. Like I keep telling them, my crowds were bigger than the Cavs crowds last year."