The Best NBA Rookie Seasons Of All Time

Voting Rules
Vote up the best rookie seasons in NBA history.

What are the best best rookie seasons NBA players have ever had? The criteria to assess the best NBA rookie seasons varies from year to year. Some rookies are great scorers with high field goal percentages; others are great rebounders and defensive players. Many of the best rookies have averaged a double-double, made All-Rookie Teams or won the Rookie of the Year Award. So who had the best rookie season in NBA history? Which NBA rookie seasons stood out most to you? 

When it comes to the best rookie seasons of NBA players ever, look no further than Wilt Chamberlain who average 37.6 points and 27 rebounds per game. The league was a bit different back then but you can't deny his stats were out of this world. Other great NBA rookie seasons include Magic Johnson winning the title in his first year, LeBron James becoming the first teenager to average 20 PPG, or Oscar Robertson nearly averaging a triple double.

Vote up the best NBA rookie seasons of all time, and help decide who had the best rookie showing in NBA history.

Photo: Keith Allison / flickr / CC-BY-SA 2.0

  • Damian Lillard
    Photo: Trailblazers / Instagram

    In his first game, Dame Lillard recorded 23 points and 11 assists to join Oscar Robertson and Allen Iverson as the only players in NBA history with at least 20 points and 10 assists in their NBA debut. In spite of playing in the same conference as Anthony Davis, Lillard earned Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors for every month, becoming one of just eight players to sweep NBA Rookie of the Month honors. He was one of 10 NBA players to score 1,500 points, and he led all rookies in scoring, assists, field goals and free throws. With averages of 19.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 0.90 steals, and 38.6 minutes starting all 82 games, Lillard not only claimed the NBA Rookie of the Year Award but joined Blake Griffin (2011), David Robinson (1990), and Ralph Sampson (1984) as the only unanimous winners. He also joined Oscar Robertson and Allen Iverson as the only rookies in NBA history to tally in excess of 1,500 points and 500 assists for a season.

    Rookie Year: 2012-13

  • Elgin Baylor
    Photo: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License / GNUF
    41 votes

    In his rookie season, Elgin Baylor averaged 24.9 points and 15 rebounds per game and helped take the Los Angeles Lakers from last place to an appearance in the NBA Finals. Baylor ranked in the top 10 in points, rebounds and and assists per game and even dropped a season high of 55 points in one game.

    Rookie Year: 1958-59

  • Jerry Lucas
    Photo: flickr / CC0
    20 votes

    Jerry Lucas averaged more than 17 points and 17 rebounds per game in his rookie season, in spite of being the fourth scoring option on a team with Oscar Robertson. Lucas is one of only three players in NBA history to grab 40 or more rebounds in a game, joining the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and  Bill Russell. 

    Rookie Year: 1963-64

  • 4
    37 votes

    The first overall draft pick in 1961, Bellamy was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1962 after having arguably one of the three greatest rookie seasons in NBA history along with Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. His 31.6 points per game as a rookie is only second all-time to Wilt Chamberlain's 37.6, and the 19 rebounds per game he averaged that season is the third-best all-time rookie mark (to Chamberlain's 27 and Bill Russell's 19.6). No NBA rookie has since surpassed Bellamy's 973 field goals during the 1961–62 season. Bellamy also led the NBA in field goal percentage in his rookie season, and had a 23-point, 17-rebound performance in the 1962 NBA All-Star Game.

    Rookie Year: 1961-62

  • The triple-double king Oscar Robertson came oh-so-close to averaging a triple double in his rookie year. "The Big O" put up 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game and was only 20 total assists shy of averaging 30-10-10. Robertson obviously won the Rookie of the Year Award, too.

    Rookie Year: 1960-61

    • Team: Cincinnati Royals
    • Position: Point guard, Shooting guard
  • 6
    40 votes

    Magic Johnson was the No. 1 overall pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1979 NBA Draft. He quickly emerged as a triple-double threat, averaging 18 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. Magic was snubbed for the Rookie of the Year award, with it going to Larry Bird, but he was named that season's Finals MVP, thanks in large part to an incredible performance (42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists) in the series-clinching Game 6 victory that won the Lakers the championship.

    Rookie Year: 1979-80