Can anyone answer this question? Has a rookie ever won MVP in the NBA? What about the finals MVP. Has a rookie ever won Finals MVP? Recently we’ve been thinking about this question a lot, especially after all the magic we see each night from Luka Doncic.
Every year some amazing players enter the NBA, come on, surely one of them must have been good enough to win the MVP award. We know that this is a very interesting question, so we are going to look into it for you. Today’s article will do an in-depth dive into the MVP award as it relates to rookies in the NBA.
Has Anyone Ever Won MVP as a Rookie in the NBA?
Two rookies were great enough to win the NBA MVP award in their very first season. One of them is extremely famous, while the other not so much. Let’s start with the name not a lot of people know, Wes Unseld.
Wes Unseld was drafted in the 1968 NBA draft by Baltimore Bullets with the number 2 overall pick in the draft. This relatively short 6 foot 7 Center was quite dominant right after he entered the league. He helped the Baltimore Bullets to get to the Eastern Division semifinal during his rookie season. During his rookie season, Wes Unseld averaged 13 points, 18 rebounds, and 2 assists. Eighteen rebounds are remarkable for anyone even more so for a 6’7″ center. Wes was good enough not only to be awarded the NBA Rookie of the Year award, but also to be named the MVP of the NBA in his rookie season.
5x All-Star, 1978 NBA Champion, 1978 Finals MVP, 1969 Rookie of The Year, 1969 MVP, and 75th Anniversary Team member…Wes Unseld! #NBA75
— NBA (@NBA) February 23, 2022
Wes Unseld went on to have a reasonably good career averaging 10.8 points 14 rebounds and three assists throughout. Unseld became a Hall of Famer in 1988. He managed to appear in the NBA Finals four times and won the NBA Championship in 1978.
The next guy is one that we knew very well. Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt the Stilt, Mr. 100. If you are not aware of who Wilt Chamberlain is, think of any NBA scoring record, and very likely, he is the one that has it.
Wilt Chamberlain was the very first rookie to be named the ROY and MVP in the same NBA season. He gained these honors in 1960. Wilt was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors in the 1959 NBA draft. Look carefully at these numbers, 37.6 points, and 27 rebounds. These numbers are incredibly remarkable for anyone, especially a rookie. No wonder he was able to win the award for the MVP of that season.
Despite his incredible numbers, unfortunately, Wilt’s team was swept in the first round by the New York Knicks in the playoffs. Before Chamberlain retired, in addition to winning MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, he won three other MVP awards and won Finals MVP and the two NBA championships.
Has Any NBA Player Won the Finals MVP in their Rookie Year?
The finals MVP is a more elusive title for a rookie than the regular-season MVP award. Jerry West was the first recipient of the finals MVP award, even though he was on a losing team. He is the only player to have won the finals MVP award and not win the championship.
The finals MVP is decided after the conclusion of the NBA Finals. It is voted on by a panel of media members. The trophy for the award was changed in 2005 to commemorate Bill Russell. MJ has the record for the most NBA Finals MVP awards with a record of six. A handful of other players have won the award three times in their careers, including Magic Johnson.
Magic Johnson is the answer to our million-dollar question today. Has a rookie ever won the NBA MVP award for the finals? So, yes, Magic Johnson managed to win the award at the tender age of 20 years old.
Who Have Been Some of the Youngest NBA Rookie of the Years?
Let’s now take a look at some of the youngest greats to have won the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
1. LeBron James, Age 19
LeBron James was drafted first in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his very first NBA game, he scored 25 points against the Kings. This was NBA record for the most points scored by a player in his debut who entered the league directly from Prep School.
LeBron James became the first Cleveland Cavalier player to be awarded the NBA Rookie of the Year award. During his rookie season, he managed a brilliant 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 6assists per game. These averages were good enough for the third player in the NBA’s history to average 20, 5, and 5 as a rookie.
2. Kevin Durant, Age 19
The Seattle SuperSonics drafted Kevin Durant with the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft. Kevin Durant was just 19 in his first NBA game, but that did not stop him from scoring 18 points and grab 5 rebounds. Kevin Durant was named the rookie of the year for the 2007 to 2008 NBA season. He averaged 20 points 4 rebounds and 2 assists for that season. He joined an elite list of players that has LeBron James and Carmelo as the only teenagers in the history of the NBA to average at least 20 points for an entire season.
3. Kyrie Irving, Age 20
Kyrie Irving was drafted with the first overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011. Kyrie Irving was named the rookie of the year in 2012. During the 2011 to 2012 NBA season, Kyrie as a rookie averaged 19 points, five assists, and shot almost 40% from the three-point line.
4. Luka Dončić, Age 20
The then 20-year-old phenom Luka Doncic was drafted with the third overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2018 NBA draft. This pick was made on behalf of the Dallas Mavericks as he was immediately traded for Trae Young.
Luca has been one of the most captivating rookies that we have seen for quite some time. In his very first NBA game, he scored 26 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Luka Doncic is the youngest NBA player to make seven 3-pointers in a game.
Luka scored his first triple-double in his rookie season against the Milwaukee Bucks with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Luka Doncic, in our opinion, was robbed a spot in the Western Conference All-Star Game as he ranked 8th in the press voting and second only behind LeBron James in the fan voting.
This remarkable player has four of the five triple-doubles that any teenager in the NBA has ever recorded. Luka Doncic won the NBA Rookie of the Year award at 20 years old.
5. Andrew Wiggings, Age 20
The Canadian native declared for the draft in 2014 and was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers on the 26th of June. Wiggins was traded shortly after in a three-team deal to facilitate the return of LeBron James. He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who gave up Kevin Love to the Cavaliers.
The other team in the deal was the Philadelphia 76ers. Andrew Wiggins and Chris Webber are the only two players in the recent NBA history to be drafted in the number one spot and then be traded before they play a game for the team that drafted them.
The 5 Best NBA Rookies of All Time
There are so many amazing, great, and remarkable players that have blessed us with their magical basketball abilities. Let’s see if we can narrow down the list to see the top 5 rookies to have entered the NBA. Our list will be based solely on the numbers produced by these players throughout their rookie season.
Starting off our list, we have Walt Bellamy
Walt Bellamy is a 6-11 Center that was drafted number 1 in the 1961 NBA draft by the Chicago Packers. Was Bellamy played14 seasons in the NBA and managed to make it to the playoffs seven of those 14 times. He was also named to an All-Star team four times throughout his wonderful career. Bellamy played for seven teams before he retired. As a rookie Walt Bellamy averaged 32 points, 19 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Next on our list, we have Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson is a 6-5 guard that was drafted with a territorial pick by the Cincinnati Royals in 1960. Oscar Robertson, aka Big O played for two teams in his career. For his rookie season, Oscar Robertson averaged 31 points 10 rebounds, and 9 assists.
This guy managed to almost average of 30-point triple-double in his rookie season. If that is not greatness personified, I have no idea what is.
Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain was drafted with a territorial pick in the 1959 NBA draft by the Philadelphia Warriors. As a rookie Wilt averaged 37 points 27 rebounds, 27 rebounds, yes, we had to repeat it and 2 assists.
Michael Jordan was a great the moment he first stepped on the NBA hardwood. His Airness was drafted with the number three pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 NBA draft. He managed to win the six championships as in Chicago Bull. Throughout his rookie season, MJ averaged 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Last but definitely not least, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was drafted number one by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1969 NBA draft. The 7 ft center won six NBA championships in his 20 seasons. As a rookie, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar averaged 29 Points, 15 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Wrapping Things Up: Has a Rookie Ever Won MVP in the NBA?
This feat is very elusive for rookies. Only two rookies in the history of the NBA have managed to win the rookie of the Year and NBA MVP awards in the same year. Wilt Chamberlain and Wes Unseld are the only two guys to have ever done this.
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