Top 10 Rookie Seasons In NBA History

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin (photo. Rob Hammer)

This piece first appeared on the Foot Locker Unlocked Blog

Without a doubt, Blake Griffin had a great rookie season last year averaging 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He played in the All-Star Game, won Rookie of the Year and made his team better overall. But does he crack the list of the Top 10 Rookie Seasons In NBA History? Not even close. With that, take a minute to see the 10 most amazing freshman campaigns ever.

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Honorable Mention

Elgin Baylor, Minneapolis Lakers (1958-59)
Stats: 24.9 points, 15.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game
Awards: All-Star Game, All-Star Game MVP, Rookie of the Year

Elvin Hayes, San Diego Rockets (1968-69)
Stats: 28.4 points and 17.1 rebounds per game
Awards: All-Star Game

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers (1996-97)
Stats: 23.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game
Awards: Rookie of the Year

Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (1997-98)
Stats: 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game
Awards: All-Star Game, Rookie of the Year

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-04)
Stats: 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game
Awards: Rookie of the Year

Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings (2009-10)
Stats: 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game
Awards: Rookie of the Year

Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers (2010-11)
Stats: 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game
Awards: All-Star Game, Rookie of the Year

Now on to the list…

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Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan Rookie Card

10. Shaquille O’Neal, Orlando Magic (1992-93)
Stats: 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game
Awards: All-Star Game, Rookie of the Year

Drafted by Orlando with the first pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, O’Neal became the first rookie ever to be named Player of the Week in his first week, and the first rookie to be start in the All-Star Game since Michael Jordan in 1985. By the end of the season, the Magic finished 41-41, winning 20 more games than the previous season.

9. David Robinson, San Antonio Spurs (1989-90)
Stats: 24.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game
Awards: All-Star Game, Rookie of the Year

Drafted by San Antonio with the first pick in the 1987 NBA Draft, Robinson had to serve two years in the Navy before making his NBA debut, leading the Spurs to the greatest single season turnaround in league history at the time. By the end of the season, the Spurs went from 21-61 to 56-26, a remarkable 35-game improvement and good enough to garner him All-NBA Third Team honors.

8. Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers (1979-80)
Stats: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.4 steals per game
Awards: All-Star Game, NBA Finals MVP

Drafted by Los Angeles with the first pick in the 1979 NBA Draft, Johnson is the only rookie on this list to be named NBA Finals MVP. Playing alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he started in the All-Star Game and compiled a 60-22 record in the regular season.

7. Wes Unseld, Baltimore Bullets (1968-69)
Stats: 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds per game
Awards: All-Star Game, Rookie of the Year, MVP

Drafted by Baltimore with the second pick in the 1968 NBA Draft, Unseld joins Wilt Chamberlain as the only rookie to be named both the Rookie of the Year and NBA MVP. By the end of the season, he helped lead the Bullets to a 57-25 record and a division title, earning him All-NBA First Team honors.

6. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (1984-1985)
Stats: 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.4 steals per game
Awards: All-Star Game, Rookie of the Year

Drafted by Chicago with the third pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, the legacy of The G.O.A.T. started this year. And to think he only made the All-NBA Second Team.

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Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain Rookie Card

5. Larry Bird, Boston Celtics (1979-80)
Stats: 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game
Awards: All-Star Game, Rookie of the Year

Drafted by Boston with the sixth pick in the 1978 NBA Draft, Bird was an almost unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year, picking up 63 of 66 ballots – an amazing feat considering Magic Johnson was also a rookie that season. The Celtics were 29-53 the year before his arrival, but with Bird improved to 61-21, posting the NBA’s best regular season record and earning Larry Legend a spot on the All-NBA First Team.

4. Walt Bellamy, Chicago Packers (1961-62)
Stats: 31.6 points and 19.0 rebounds per game
Awards: All-Star Game, Rookie of the Year

Drafted by Chicago with the first pick in the 1961 NBA Draft, Bellamy’s name is often forgotten when discussing the best rookie seasons in NBA history. His 31.6 points per game is second all-time for a rookie, and the 19.0 rebounds per game is third best. If that’s not enough of a reason to make this list, he also led the NBA in field goal percentage during his rookie year too.

3. Lew Alcindor, Milwaukee Bucks (1969-70)
Stats: 28.8 points, 14.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game
Awards: All-Star Game, Rookie of the Year

Drafted by Milwaukee with the first pick in the 1969 NBA Draft, Alcindor became the face of the franchise right away. His presence enabled the Bucks to finish with a 56-26 record, up from 27-55 the previous year, earning him All-NBA Second Team honors.

2. Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals (1960-61)
Stats: 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game
Awards: All-Star Game, All-Star Game MVP, Rookie of the Year

Drafted by Cincinnati with the first pick in the 1960 NBA Draft, all you have to know about Robertson is that he almost averaged a triple-double his first rookie year. Exactly. That’s a surefire way to earn a spot on the All-NBA First Team.

1. Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors (1959-60)
Stats: 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds per game
Awards: All-Star Game, Rookie of the Year, MVP

Drafted by Philadelphia with the third pick in the 1959 NBA Draft, Chamberlain became the impact player everyone expected him to be. Setting NBA records with 2,707 points and 1,941 rebounds, the Warriors went 49-26 after finishing 32-40 the season before. Oh yeah, he also won Rookie of the Year, MVP and a spot on the All-NBA First Team.

This piece first appeared on the Foot Locker Unlocked Blog

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