It is a common misconception that NBA rookies can’t win the NBA MVP award. It has happened twice in NBA history. The first time was in 1960 when Wilt Chamberlain won the NBA MVP award at age 23. The other time was 1968 when Wes Unseld won the NBA MVP award at age 22. It should be noted that both players were centers and not guards or forwards. Like most of today’s superstars are positioned on teams. There have also been two rookie winners of the NBA Finals MVP Award. Jerry West in 1969 and Magic Johnson in 1980.
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Wilt Chamberlain’s 1960 NBA MVP Season
In 1960 Wilt Chamberlain averaged 37.0 points, 27.0 rebounds and had an NBA-record 100 blocks (a record since broken by Mark Eaton). He averaged 44 minutes per game in 80 games played for the Philadelphia Warriors. Who won 49 of their 82 NBA games that year.
In the NBA Finals, Chamberlain averaged an NBA-record 44.83 points per game in a six-game series against Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics. The Warriors won Game Two by 40 and Game Five by 36 to take the series from the favored Celtic team. Which was led by Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn who had 62 wins that season compared to Philadelphia’s 49 victories.
In addition to winning the NBA MVP Award, Wilt was also named NBA All-Star Game MVP when he scored 23 points on 11/17 shooting from the field to go with 25 rebounds and five assists during his 1960 NBA All-Star Game at Boston Garden. He averaged 50 minutes per game for an entire regular season. Which is still a record today (broken only by the Warriors Don Nelson who averaged 59 minutes per game in 1973).
Wilt Chamberlain went on to become arguably one of the top 20 greatest players in NBA history. He led the NBA in NBA regular season scoring seven times, NBA rebounding 11 times, and NBA assists once. He holds the NBA records for most points (100) scored in a single game; 55 rebounds in a single game; 60 minutes played per game during an entire NBA regular season; averages of 50+ points & 48+ minutes per game over an entire NBA postseason; 42 consecutive field goals made including his 100-point performance on March 1962 at Hershey Sports Arena vs New York Knicks while playing for Philadelphia Warriors.
Wes Unseld’s 1968 NBA MVP Season
In 1968, Wes Unseld averaged 18.0 points, 19.0 rebounds. And an NBA-record 13.86 assists per game for the Baltimore Bullets. Who won 54 of their 82 NBA games that season (the most regular wins by a rookie in NBA history).
Unseld was one of three rookies named to the NBA All-Star Game starting lineup. Along with Sam Jones and Earl Monroe. Who were both first-year guards on Unseld’s Washington Bullets team. Which went from last place in 1967 to winning the Eastern Division title in 1968 without changing any players or coaching staff between seasons. Wes Unseld became only the fourth player behind Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West to win NBA MVP honors. Despite never making it out of the first round of NBA playoffs.
The Bullets lost their NBA Finals series to Wilt Chamberlain’s Philadelphia 76ers in six games. But Unseld averaged 19 points and 22 rebounds per game despite playing with a torn groin muscle. This severely limited his contributions during the final three NBA playoff games where he only scored two total points combined! Wes was named NBA Finals MVP for having that kind of impact on the season. Even though they didn’t win the championship. He also finished second to Rick Barry (23/14) in voting for NBA All-Star Game honors at Madison Square Garden.
Wes Unseld went on to become a Hall of Fame player. He helped lead Baltimore & Washington Darts/Bullets teams to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and NBA Championships in 1978 & 1979. He is now an NBA front-office executive with the Washington Wizards. Where he coached their NBA D-League affiliate team from 2005 to 2011. Then he became Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for four years (2011-2015) under Ernie Grunfeld, GM.
Wes Unseld was named NBA Executive of the Year by his peers twice during this period. As well as being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame again back in 1988. Which makes him one of only five people ever to be honored that way both as a player and an administrator/executive!
Jerry West in 1969 | The First Rookie to Win The Prestigious Honor
1969 was the year for Jerry West, the first-ever rookie to win the NBA Finals MVP Award. West averaged 37.0 points per game in NBA Finals for Los Angeles Lakers. They beat the Boston Celtics in seven games to claim the NBA championship that year and was named NBA Finals MVP Award after leading his team in scoring (37 ppg), three-pointers (seven in 14 attempts) and assists (nine).
West also won NBA All-Star Game MVP honors while averaging 33 points, five rebounds, and four assists during the season. Including a record-breaking 61 point performance against New York Knicks with Elgin Baylor out injured on national television at Madison Square Garden. Where Jerry shot 25/46 from the field along with grabbing 15 rebounds… he was simply amazing!
Jerry West went on to become one of only six players ever to win an NBA MVP Award in NBA Finals game. Where he also made the NBA All-Defensive First Team five years in a row (1969–1974). Becoming one of only four players to make NBA All-NBA Defensive Teams for at least seven seasons along with Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Kobe Bryant.
Magic Johnson’s NBA Finals MVP | 1980
In 1980 Magic Johnson won NBA Finals MVP Award as a rookie during the NBA Finals. Where his Los Angeles Lakers defeated Julius Erving’s Philadelphia 76ers in six games after going down three games to one. Johnson averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists per game throughout that NBA regular season. But he also won NBA All-Star Game MVP honors by scoring 17 points on just nine field-goal attempts while adding 15 assists along with seven steals against no turnovers which led L.A. to come from behind victory over Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics who had been leading for most of this contest until Magic took it upon himself to win it at the end!
It was not only an extremely impressive performance but also a sign of things to come since Johnson would go on to be NBA Finals MVP for that NBA championship season along with NBA regular season (1995-96) and All-Star Game (1992 & 1996) honors as well. He also won four more NBA Championships with the Lakers in 1982, 1985, 1987 & 1988. While earning three NBA Finals MVP Awards during this stretch which means he totaled seven overall!
We’ve covered all of the NBA MVP Award winners and those who have won the Finals MVP Award, as rookies. Did we miss any other player? If you know any other rookies who were either an NBA MVP or NBA Finals MVP winner let us know in the comments below!
Here are Some of our Favourite Basketball Sneakers
Here we will be giving more of an opinion, rather than facts. Are the sneakers worth the price that they are being sold at? Should you upgrade from your current sneakers, depending on what boots you own? What features stand out on these sneakers? If any. Does it do the job? Speed, control, stability etc. Depending on your needs/preferences. We can also mention its durability, if we have collected enough data on the specific sneakers.
What did we expect vs. what we got. Is it maybe overrated/underrated?
Here’s our pick from the very best of the bunch.
On your way to the pro leagues? Here’s our pick.
Want something to start with? Have a look at our pick.