Unseld, a 6-foot-7-inch center, was crowned Rookie of the Year and NBA MVP in 1968-69. He averaged 13.8 points per game and finished second only to Chamberlain in rebounds, averaging 18.2 per game. Unseld had at least one piece of evidence supporting his claim to be the best rookie in league history: he scored more points than any other rookie in NBA history until Michael Jordan came along 20 years later.
In addition to being named Rookie of the Year, Unseld won the first of what would have been two consecutive Most Valuable Player awards if the NBA had voted on it at the time. The other winner was Chamberlain. Unseld received 35 votes, while Chamberlain got 38. The award now includes both players as nominees since its inception in 1999. In fact, no rookie has ever won the award twice because there can be only one winner in each season.
Chamberlain, who is still the all-time leader in many statistical categories, including games played (more than 1,000), points (per game, 1,995), rebounds (per game, 2.24), and field goals made (9,994), entered the season as the favorite to win the ROY award. However, due to an injury that prevented him from playing for part of the season, Unseld emerged as the leading candidate by mid-season.
He demonstrated his promise in his first season, when he averaged an amazing 19 PPG, 6.5 APG, and 3.1 RPG to earn unanimous Rookie of the Year honors (just the 4th player to achieve this). His propensity to dominate in the NBA was evident from his debut, when he scored 23 points and dished out 11 assists in a win over the Lakers. The 76ers were able to avoid being swept by the Knicks that year, thanks in large part to Moses' play.
His award-winning rookie season made him one of the most exciting players in basketball, and it's not hard to see why he won the honor. Moses could have looked past his first season on account of its small sample size, but instead he proved himself worthy of being called a future Hall of Famer by leading the Sixers to a 50-31 record and making them contenders in the early going of their existence as a franchise.
In addition to being one of the best rookies of all time, Moses also ranks among the top 10 in several other categories including: highest scoring debut (23 POINTS), most rebounds per game (6.5)*, and highest percentage of shots taken at home (56.4%).
* According to research done by Sports-Reference.com.
O'Neal was crowned Rookie of the Year after averaging 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game. He was also chosen for the NBA All-Star Game in 1993. Kerr signed as a free agency with the Chicago Bulls after the season, while head coach Matt Guokas was sacked and Terry Catledge retired.
Orlando finished with 41 wins under new head coach Brian Hill, who would later become general manager. The Magic lost to the Seattle SuperSonics in the first round of the playoffs. O'Neal would go on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award again in 1994.
Malone was the NBA's top player in 1979, but it was with the House Rockets in 1981 that he reached his first finals. He has received three MVP honors. James received his first MVP title the same year when the Cleveland Cavaliers dominated all major categories, including points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. In 2012, James became only the second player to win multiple championships with different teams (the other being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), doing so by leading the Miami Heat to victory in six games over the San Antonio Spurs.
James' teammates included future Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Walt Frazier, and Michael Jordan. This is also likely the last season before the 3-point line was introduced into NBA play, so many more records were broken then as well.
James is still among the top players of all time, and it's very likely he will be voted back to the throne next year. For now, he is tied with Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant - two greats who played during the 1990s.
Bryant, Kobe We witnessed a new Kobe after Shaq won the title. In 2006, he had 81 points. He was named All-Star Game MVP in 2007, regular-season MVP in 2008, and Finals MVP in both 2009 and 2010.
He has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine seven times and is one of only three players to have their portraits hang from the ceiling at the Time Warner Center in New York City. The others are Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Kobe Bryant made his debut as the face of the NBA in 2003 when John Salley wore his number (8) during All-Star Weekend in Atlanta. Since then, Bryant has been on the cover every year except for 2004 when he was out due to injury. He also won the award twice (2005, 2010).
In addition to his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant has also played with the Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Hornets, and Boston Celtics. He finished his career with the Lakers in 2016 after 17 seasons in the league.
Since 1993, Michael Jordan has been the face of the NBA. He is one of only four players who have appeared on the cover more than once (Jordan, Bryant, LeBron James).
The other player to appear on the cover more than once is Larry Bird who did it in 1994 and 1995.
This is what Reggie Lewis is alluding about. In his debut season, he averaged only 4.5 points per game but performed brilliantly for the injured Bird, scoring 18.5 points per game. Brian Shaw, the Celtics' guard, departed the organization to play in Italy. 15.7 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Reggie Lewis went on to become one of the best power forwards in NBA history. He played 19 seasons in the league and scored over 1000 points each time he stepped onto the court. At the end of his career, he was considered by many to be one of the greatest power forwards of all time. In 2004, he was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
So, Reggie Lewis was not only a great player but also a great role model who inspired many young people along with John Salley who will be discussed later.
By the way, here are the other finalists: Rick Barry, Dan Majerle and Vlade Divac.