If you’re wondering whether an NBA rookie has won the MVP award in the history of the NBA, you’re not alone.
Winning the NBA MVP is a feat, let alone winning it in your rookie season. But has a rookie won the MVP award during its first year?
There are only two rookies that ever won an MVP award in their rookie seasons, that’s Wilt Chamberlain and Wes Unseld.
Today, I will take a deeper look into how these two amazing NBA players were able to dominate the league during their NBA rookie seasons. Read on!
The Only Two Rookies Who Won MVP in League History
Only two guys have won the Most Valuable Award in their first season in the league, and the first rookie to ever accomplish this astonishing feat was Wilt Chamberlain, and the last rookie to do so was Wes Unseld.
I’ve got you covered if you want to know more about these incredible NBA players and how they have become fantastic players during their rookie years.
1. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt might be known for his 100 points scored in a single game, but he was also the first NBA rookie to have won the Rookie of The Year Award and Most Valuable Player award during their first NBA season in the league.
During his rookie season, when the San Francisco Warriors drafted him, he was just a man among boys and went on to average a whopping 37.6 points and 27 rebounds a game. A remarkable feat considering rookies do not usually dominate the league in this manner.
He was also named as one of the players to play during the All-star game while playing for the Philadelphia Warriors and was the better player to challenge Bill Russell for that coveted MVP award. The rivalry between Wilt and Bill are one of the greatest during their time.
However, during his first playoff series, his Philadelphia Warriors team got swept by the New York Knicks and easily manhandled.
Most people believed he was the first rookie ever to dominate the league because he didn’t spend all his college years playing for his collegiate team. Instead, during his last year, he played for the Harlem GlobeTrotters.
During his time with the Harlem GlobeTrotters, he made fans go crazy about his elite basketball skills at a young age.
The transition to the pros was smooth as projected, and the writings were on the wall when he played phenomenally since his first game as a professional NBA player.
2. Wes Unseld
During the 1968 NBA draft, the Washington Bullets picked Wes Unseld and quickly showed why he belonged in the league.
He averaged 13.8 points 18.2 rebounds during his rookie season and was soon named the rookie of the Year and MVP honors during his first season.
He might not have scored the most points for a rookie of the year awardee, but his outstanding play gave Baltimore Bullets their first winning season after he was drafted.
Before that, the team was performing poorly season after season.
But after he was picked, the organization took on a whole new journey as they immediately marched their way into the NBA playoffs.
However, much like what happened to Wilt’s rookie season, they were also beaten by the New York Knicks in the first round.
It’s quite a rarity that the same team defeated both rookie sensations.
Although they both had extraordinary rookie years, Wes Unseld and Wilt Chamberlain couldn’t reach the NBA finals until the latter years of their respective careers.
The Best Rookies in NBA History
There are so many great NBA players in league history, and quite a few were able to peak during their first years.
I’ve trimmed down some of the best players who were able to play exceptionally well during their rookie years. This list will be based on their numbers during their rookie season.
1) Oscar Robertson
Drafted by the Cincinnati Royals, Oscar Robertson was known for being the only player to average a triple-double during a single NBA season.
However, that feat was soon broken by Russell Westbrook multiple times.
Still, the feat was incredible during that time; considering his small stature, he is an above-average rebounder.
During his rookie season, he could average a whopping 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists per game.
It took 50-plus years before Russell Westbrook broke his record and who was able to maintain such a feat for a few more seasons. Truly, Oscar Robertson was a transcendent player during his time as quite a few were only to match his stats.
2) Walt Bellamy
Only a very rare few were able to dominate the league during their rookie season as Walt Bellamy did.
Despite averaging 32 points and 19 rebounds a game, he wasn’t crowned the league MVP during this single season.
Despite his stellar play during most of his career, he wasn’t able to win a single Most Valuable Player award.
Of the 14 seasons he played for the NBA, he was named All star four times and played for different teams such as the Baltimore Bullets, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Packers, Atlanta Hawks, and New York Knicks, to name a few.
3) Michael Jordan
Who would not remember His Airness, Michael Jordan from the Chicago Bulls? Ever since he stepped foot on the court, he was undoubtedly one of the best.
During his rookie year, he averaged 28 points per game along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists en route to winning the rookie of the year award.
He has won multiple NBA MVP awards and finals MVPs and is considered the greatest NBA player ever to live.
Michael Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame back in 2009.
4) LeBron James
Who could forget King James? Drafted straight out of high school, LeBron James would win multiple NBA MVPs and finals MVP awards in different organizations.
His high-flying antics, speed, athleticism, and elite passing skills were evident when he stepped foot on the court.
He has won multiple finals MVP awards, All-star game MVP, and NBA MVPs and is still carving out multiple accolades in his legendary career.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If you have further questions regarding outstanding rookies who played exceptionally well in the NBA, you might find them below.
How Many Rookies Have Won MVP?
Only two players would win MVP during their first year in the league—Wes Unseld and Wilt Chamberlain.
Wilt won the finals MVP award four times while playing for the Philadelphia Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers.
He won the NBA championship two times while also playing for the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Unseld won his lone MVP award during the first year, and it took almost 9 years before he eventually won an NBA championship while playing for the Washington Bullets.
Has a Rookie Ever Won MVP and an NBA Championship in the Same Year?
As I’ve mentioned, there are only two rookie-MVPs in NBA history, Wes Unseld and Wilt Chamberlain, and both of them were unable to get past the first round and subsequently lost to the New York Knicks.
But, there is only one player in NBA history who won the Finals MVP during his rookie year, and his name is Magic Johnson, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, he wasn’t the league MVP during this time. But he was named Finals MVP during his first year with the Los Angeles Lakers that helped win the NBA finals in 1980.
FUN FACT: Only one player in league history has won the Finals MVP award from the losing team; his name is Jerry West.
Who Has The Most MVPs in the NBA?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He is the only player in NBA history to win MVP six times!
No one else has matched his record of winning MVP six times. I’ve listed down the players who have won MVP awards multiple times and are runners up to this special distinction.
List of Players With Multiple NBA MVP Titles
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 6 times
- Michael Jordan – 5 times
- Bill Russel – 5 times
- LeBron James – 4 times
- Wilt Chamberlain – 4 times
- Larry Bird – 3 times
- Magic Johnson – 3 times
- Moses Malone – 3 times
- Stephen Curry – 2 times
- Tim Duncan – 2 times
- Giannis Antetokounmpo – 2 times
- Nikola Jokic – 2 times
- Steve Nash – 2 times
- Karl Malone – 2 times
- Bob Pettit – 2 times
Winning multiple MVPs is quite an impressive feat, let alone winning one. A lot of these players in the NBA have dedicated themselves to becoming the best NBA players for their respective teams.
With lots of dedication and hard work, they could pull off some of the craziest feats you can think of.
It has been over 50 years since an NBA player achieved the feat, and I think this might be unbreakable as the competition stiffens and players’ quality gets better yearly.