Kyrie Irving, much to my surprise, is running away with the rookie of the year award. I thought his abbreviated college career and a lack of a training camp would really hinder his rookie campaign. Whoops. He seems to be picking up his play more than hitting any type of rookie wall. This motivated me to look into past great rookie seasons.
Sidebar: I still think Alex Burks, the rookie from Colorado who was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 12th pick could have been a dark horse for R.O.T.Y. But his lack of playing time to date pretty much insures that he basically “redshirted” this season. Too bad, his knack for scoring and ability to create his own shot are exactly what the Utah Jazz need.
The list is not just about who won the rookie of the year award, but more about who made an immediate impact upon entry to the NBA. I looked at not just individual stats, but how they aided in the teams overall improvement.
Some guys were straight out of high school, while others were fresh off of a 2 year Naval commitment. Either way all of these players needed little time to adjust to the higher level of competition that the NBA provide.
As with all of my lists I am only ranking players that I actually witnessed play. Regardless of how great I know Oscar Robertson played as a rookie or looking over Wilt Chamberlien’s dominant stats, I cannot rank them just off of my dad’s accounts or stats. Having said that Wilt’s stats are staggering. The former Kansas star led the league in both scoring with 37.6 per game and rebounding with 27 per game.
To the list:
1. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls , 1984-85
It is only fitting that the greatest player of all time wasted little time in establishing himself as a true super star in his rookie season. Jordan wasted no time in proving he would be a legendary player when he averaged 28.2 points per game as a rookie.
2. Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers, 1979-80
Whenever you are drafted as a point guard and end your rookie campaign playing center in the NBA finals, you had one hell of a rookie season. Magic scored 42 points and grabbing 15 rebounds, as the Lakers won the NBA title. That season he averaged 18 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game, and started in the All-Star Game. Even though Larry Bird was rookie of the year, Magic won an NBA title.
3. Larry Bird, Boston Celtics , 1979-80
As a 23-year-old rookie, Bird instantly became the focal point of a 60-win team. Bird averaged 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game during that season. Like Duncan, Bird also made the first team All-NBA as a rookie. The most important stat of all, the Celtics improved by 32 wins.
4. David Robinson, San Antonio Spurs , 1989-90
Robinson, or as he came to be known, The Admiral, was even a year older than Bird as a rookie following his stint in the Navy. He averaged 24.3 points, 12 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game.
5. Shaquille O’Neal, Orlando Magic , 1992-93
O’Neal lived up to the great hype surrounding his entry into the NBA by averaging 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game (the second two being career highs). He helped turn the Magic into a .500 team after going 21-61 the season before. They missed the playoffs by just one game.
6. Allen Iverson
No Braids, no ink, no problem. Allen Iverson showed no signs of intimidation or stage fright although standing a shade under 6ft and bearing the pressure of being the No. 1 overall pick of the Philadelphia 76ers. Allen Iverson averaged 23.5 points, 7.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He was named the Rookie of the Year and topped Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie record by scoring at least 40 points in four straight games.
8. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs 1997-98
Duncan is the last ROY to be a four-year college player and it showed, as he was an immediate first team All-NBA. He averaged 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, helping David Robinson lead the Spurs to a 53-29 record. While never flashy “Timmy” was garnering double teams from almost his first game in the league. His flawless footwork, and confidence from college, led to little trouble for Duncan in his rookie season.
9. Lebron James
He was dubbed the chosen one before he ever set foot on an NBA court. The Cleveland Cavaliers lost games on purpose just to secure the most ping pong balls in the lottery. While us Piston fans remember the draft of 2004 as the year “we” took Darko Steal-a-check, Lebron was the #1 overall pick in one of the greatest drafts in NBA history. He led all rookies in steals (1.65 spg), was second in scoring (20.9 ppg), third in assists (5.9 apg) and fifth in rebounding (5.5 rpg). James joins NBA legends Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to average more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game in their rookie season.
10 . Alonzo Mourning
Mourning averaged 21 points, 10.3 rebounds, and finished fourth in the league with 3.5 blocks per game as he helped lead an exciting, young Charlotte Hornets team to their first ever postseason appearance. His game-winning bucket in Game 4 eliminated the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 1993 NBA Playoffs.
11. Blake Griffin: 2010-2011
Griffin received every first-place vote from a panel of 118 media members, becoming the first unanimous choice since San Antonio’s David Robinson in 1990, and just the third in NBA history after Ralph Sampson in 1984. Griffin led all rookies in scoring and rebounding while playing in all 82 games for the Clippers, finishing 12th in the entire NBA in scoring (22.5) and fourth in rebounds (12.1) while ranking second among rookies in assists (3.8).
Honorable mention: Tyreke Evans 2009-2010
As crazy as it may seem at first glance to have Tyreke on this list of current or future hall of famers, take a look at what he accomplished just two short years ago. Evans is one of only four rookies in NBA history to top the 20-5-5 mark in his rookie season, joining the likes of LeBron James, Oscar Robertston and Michael Jordan. He averaged 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Sacramento Kings along with 1.5 steals, and won the Rookie of the Year award.
Who did I miss?