When an athlete enters the professional ranks of his or her respective sport, we tend to view their performance in their first year as a professional as something of an “amuse-bouche” — a small sample that’s representative of the artistry we’re about to enjoy very shortly.
That metaphor works very aptly, when it comes to the National Basketball Association. Many of the league’s greatest players enjoyed incredible rookie seasons, which would effectively be teasers for the career that was about to follow.
That got us thinking: what were the very best rookie seasons in NBA history? With that question in mind, here is our take on the question, with our respective rankings of the top 25 rookie seasons by NBA players (from 25 to 1).
25. Kyrie Irving (2011-2012)
The promise shown by the enigmatic Kyrie Irving during his rookie season was almost enough to make fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers forget that LeBron James had left town just two seasons ago (… to repeat: I did say “almost”).
During his first season in the NBA, Irving showed flashes of the on-ball creativity so many people believed he had (but was barely able to show during his injury-ridden year at Duke University), when he hit almost 47% of his shots from the field as a rookie (which included a shooting percentage of 39.9% from three-point range), while averaging 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game.
He was the only player unanimously selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2012.
24. Tyreke Evans (2009-2010)
I know what you’re thinking… It’s VERY weird to see the name Tyreke Evans on a list featuring some of the greatest players in NBA history. I agree, it’s VERY weird. But believe it or not, Tyreke belongs on this list. And if you’re still in shock, this will surely make your head spin… Evans beat out Steph Curry to win the Rookie of the Year Award.
He finished with a very impressive stat line: 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.5 steals. Evans has been mediocre (at best) throughout his NBA career, but you can’t ignore his brilliant rookie season.
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