The NBA has long been an impressive demonstration of teamwork, agility, and intense competition. The bar for rookies is always getting higher, and some of the predecessors within the NBA are to thank for that. These are some of the most legendary rookies that helped get the NBA to where it is today.
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First is a player who put his dedication and service to the country before his professional career as a basketball player. Robinson entered the 1987 draft after signing with the San Antonio Spurs two years ago. Completing his time with the Navy, Robinson had the advantage of an impressive baseline for strength, speed, and agility. Unlike other rookies, Robinson showed that he meant business after completing his rookie season with an average of 24.3 points.
Another key player who helped raise the standard for future recruits was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who began his rookie season with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969. The center player had the advantage of height, as he towered over most of his opponents at seven feet tall. His height wasn’t the only impressive part of this rookie, as Abdul-Jabbar went on to play for 20 seasons with the NBA, and was named MVP six times.
Johnson is an iconic part of NBA history because he helped generate a huge amount of spectators during his time in college. Johnson was named first overall during the 1979 Draft and used his speed and agility to finish his first season with an 18-point average. In spite of being on the shorter side of other frontcourt players, Johnson has been given a lot of credit for his efforts to impress crowds and modernize the NBA.
Chamberlain was another immense player who towered over his opponents. At seven feet tall, the player had a bird’s eye view of the court, which allowed him to maximize movements with less effort. Beginning his rookie season in 1959, Chamberlain finished that season with an average of 37.6 points. Among other impressive accomplishments, this was part of the reason why Chamberlain was the first rookie NBA player to achieve MVP status.
Another impressive rookie who worked with Magic Johnson to change the sport into what it is today is Larry Bird. Beginning his 1979 rookie season as a small forward, Bird was highly influential and effective at what he did. He led the Boston Celtics to the Eastern Conference and went on to play professionally for 13 seasons.
Also known as “The Big O”, Oscar Robertson was known for generating video game-like numbers during his rookie season. In spite of being 6’5”, which is considered to be the shorter side of NBA players, Robertson was a powerhouse guard. He averaged 30.5 points at the end of his rookie season and became known as the original King of the Triple Double.
In spite of high expectations before he had even begun, Bellamy somehow managed to exceed expectations. At 6’11”, he joined the NBA in 1961 under the Chicago Packers, who helped turn the player into an exceptional professional. It proved to be effective, as Bellamy finished his rookie season averaging 31.6 points.
Although his reputation exceeds him, Jordan saw a great deal of his persona evolve during the later years of his career. That said, he still completed his rookie season with a respectable average of 28.2 points and led the Bulls to a playoff appearance.
Another player who came into his own during his time with the NBA was Elgin Baylor. The 6’5” forward started the 1958 Draft with the Lakers, where he completed his rookie season averaging 24.9 points. Baylor went on to leave an impression on managers and other players, which is one of the reasons why he went on to lead an All-Star career.
Finally, another player who helped turn around the NBA franchise is Wes Unseld. As a rookie, Unseld joined the Baltimore Bullets in 1968. The young player impressed the masses who hadn’t seen anyone like him before, which made him a valuable player that was guaranteed to draw in crowds. Unseld was one of the few NBA players to be named Rookie of the Year and MVP within the same year.
There are a lot of other players who have had their role to play in terms of the NBA, and bring it into the modern age. However, these players in the list above are some of the most legendary rookies who started off strong and went on to lead even stronger careers.