Has A Rookie Ever Won MVP In The NBA?

rookie that won mvp award

Key Takeaway: Wilt Chamberlain and Wes Unseld are the only two rookies in NBA history to win the MVP award in their first year, showcasing exceptional talent and skill. Their achievements set a high bar for rookies aspiring to make a significant impact in the league from the start.

The Most Valuable Player or the MVP award is the most precious award for every individual player. Having this kind of award means that you had a good season and astounding performance inside the court. 

It is nice to see a basketball player win the Most Valuable Player Award. However, seeing a rookie winning the MVP award is impressive. Why is it so? Usually, people have low expectations for a rookie because he is a fresh fish. Rookies have no experience in playing in the NBA because it’s their first time, and they have to compete with older players that have more experiences than them. If a rookie won an MVP award in his first year, people expect that the rookie will have a great career. 

We are going to check out different players that have won an MVP award during their rookie year. The skill and performance they have shown are so impressive that is why they deserve such recognition. Let’s take a look! 

Has A Rookie Ever Won NBA MVP?

In the history of the NBA, there are only two rookies who have managed to win an MVP award during their rookie year. 

Wilt Chamberlain is the first player who won an MVP award in his rookie year. During that year, he played for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1960. The other rookie who has won an MVP in his first year was Wes Unseld. Unseld was a center for the Baltimore Bullets in 1969. 

First Rookie To Win NBA MVP Award

Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain is a center, and he was considered the greatest player in NBA history. He was known for his 100 points game and his astounding blocks. Wilt had a successful career, and from his rookie year, people started to notice that he will have an impressive career. 

Before Wilt had an opportunity to play in the NBA, Wilt had played with the Harlem Globetrotters before. Wilt wanted to play in the NBA immediately, but sadly he was not yet applicable. He chose to play with the Globetrotters first because he didn’t finish his fourth year of college yet, and the NBA does not accept players that didn’t graduate college at that time.

Wilt Chamberlain has been drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors as a territorial pick. He became the highest-paid player after he signed for a $30,000 contract. During his first game, Wilt showed immediately that he isn’t just a rookie. Wilt’s final stats in his NBA debut was 43 points and 26 monstrous rebounds. After that impressive NBA debut, Wilt had consecutively good games. Wilt immediately dominated the league even though he is a rookie. He averaged 37.6 points per game, 27.0 rebounds per game, and he shot an astounding 46.1% field goal.

Wilt’s nemesis was Bill Russell. He beat Bill Russell as the league winner for the MVP. Even though Wilt won the MVP award, he didn’t manage to get to the NBA finals for a chance of winning a chip. Bill Russell and his team won the NBA championship at that time, and Russell averaged 18.2 points per game. 

Wilt Chamberlain played for three teams in his entire NBA career. His first team was his hometown, Philadelphia Warriors who then moved to San Francisco and became the San Francisco Warriors. Wilt played three years for San Francisco Warriors (Golden State Warriors)

After his great years with the Warriors, Wilt was traded back to his hometown, the newly named Philadelphia 76ers during the 1964-1965 season. He played four seasons with the Sixers, and he won an NBA championship in 1967. 

The last move Wilt made was to play for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1968-1969 NBA season. Wilt helped the Lakers to win a championship ring in the 1972 NBA season. Winning the 1972 NBA championship was Wilt’s second ring. 

Wilt Chamberlain’s career was very astounding. He won multiple awards and he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last 1978. His awards list are as follows:

  • Rookie of the Year 1960
  • NBA All-Star Game MVP 1960
  • 4 MVP 1960, 1966, 1967, 1968
  • 7 All-NBA First Team 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966 1967, 1968
  • 3 All-NBA Second Team 1963, 1965, 1972
  • 2 NBA champions 1967, 1972
  • 1 Finals MVP 1972
  • 2 All-Defensive First Team 1972, 1973

Wilt also had a long list of NBA records. His most well-known recognition awards were most points by a rookie in a game (58), highest average points per game in a single season (50.4), and most points in one game (100). 

Second Rookie To Win NBA MVP Award

Wes Unseld

Wes Unseld was one of the best players the Baltimore Bullets had. He was drafted by the Bullets as the second pick in the 1968 NBA draft. During his rookie year, Unseld became a dominant player in the league. In his rookie year, Unseld had averaged 13.8 points, 18.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. For sure it was Unseld’s memorable year in the NBA because he won two titles. Unseld won the rookie of the year and the NBA MVP. 

The Baltimore Bullets were in the last seed in their division before Unseld played for them. After the draft night, the Bullets saw hope in Wes Unseld and believed that he would be a fit on their team. During Unseld’s rookie year, Unseld brought the Bullets to the first spot in their division. He also helped the Bullets to have a playoff spot, but sadly, they lost to the New York Knicks in the first round.

Wes Unseld was so loyal to the Bullets. Unseld played for the franchise throughout his entire career. He stayed with the Bullets until their move to Washington, the rebranded Washington Bullets. After numerous season with the Bullets, Wes Unseld retired from the Bullets. The Bullets retired his number 41 jersey and was inducted into the Hall of Fame last 1988. 

After retiring, Wes Unseld decided to become a coach. He became the coach of the Washington Bullets for seven straight seasons, with a total of 1136 games. 

Throughout his career, Unseld managed to win multiple awards. He won an NBA championship and Finals MVP in the 1978 NBA season. Unseld was a five-time NBA All-Star, a J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, and a gold medal in the 1967 Pan-American Games.

Final Words

Winning an MVP award during the rookie year is rare. Over the last few years, I wonder who will be the third rookie to win an MVP award during his rookie year. Aside from that, most people think that a rookie cannot win an MVP award in today’s era because of the evolution of the game. But for me, it is not impossible. If a rookie is dedicated and hard-working, he would have a high chance of winning the MVP. 

Do you think there would be another player that will win an MVP award during his rookie season? Comment your answers below!

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