Playing as a beginner is difficult, clear and simple. It’s not the same as playing with high school kids, or like college kids. It’s a different breed when a 19 year old faces a 31 year old adult. Finding points can be difficult, but history shows that is not always the case. That said, history shows it’s as easy as it ever was.
The highest rookie scoring average for a rookie player comes from Blake Griffin, who has the 22nd highest score with 22.5 points per game in 2010-11. At the time, Griffin was technically a sophomore but missed his rookie season with injuries. Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson are on the leaderboards, but aside from those two players, the list includes a plethora of older generation players.
The league evolved or these players were just good at the time. These are the 10 best rookie averages for a season.
10. Geoff Petrie (Trail Jackets)
Recruit Statistics: 24.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.8 APG (1970-71)
Petrie led the Princeton men’s basketball team to eighth place in the AP poll. The following year, he dominated the Ivy League with 23.9 points per game in conference games, including an appearance in the 1969 NCAA Division I tournament. In college, Petrie scored 1,321 points, which was the third in school history and remains seventh today. At 6-foot-4, he could play guard or attacking positions and was eventually drafted by the Trail Blazers.
In his first year, he was named Co-Rookie of the Year with the Celtics’ Dave Cowens after averaging 24.8 points per game. Until Damon Stoudemire’s 54-point game in 2005, Petrie held the Trail Blazers’ individual scoring record at 51. Petrie’s career then derailed with knee injuries.
9. Elgin Baylor (Minneapolis Lakers)
Recruit Statistics: 24.8 PPG, 15.0 RPG, 4.1 APG (1958-59)
Baylor played three college seasons at College of Idaho and Seattle. Baylor averaged 31.3 points and 19.5 rebounds per game and led the NCAA in rebounds during the 1956-57 season. As a rookie, Baylor was second in scoring, third in rebounds and eighth in assists.
He once recorded 55 points in a single game, which was the third best score in league history behind Joe Fulks’ 63 points and George Mikan’s 61. Baylor won Rookie of the Year and led the Lakers to the NBA Finals, just one year after the Lakers finished bottom in the standings. The Lakers were swept away in four games by the Celtics and it sparked an intense rivalry between the two franchises.
8. Terry Dischinger (Chicago Zephyrs)
Recruit Stats: 25.5 RPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.1 APG (1962-63)
When Dischinger left Purdue, he held almost all college goal scoring records. Dischinger was named All-Big Ten for three years in a row and named the team’s MVP. He remains the record holder of nine games at 40 points, 713 free throws out of 871 attempted and 14.3 rebounds per game. He’s also second in rebounds behind Joe Barry Carroll’s 1,148.
Scoring-wise, he averaged 28.3 points, which is why he was picked with the 8th overall pick. He took home the Rookie of the Year award with a stellar stat line, but the team stank. The Zephyrs finished 25-55 under two different coaches. That said, Dischinger won the award out of four future Hall of Fame members Zelmo Beaty, Dave DeBusschere, John Havlicek and Chet Walker.
7. Rick Barry (San Francisco Warriors)
Recruit Statistics: 25.7 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.2 APG (1965-66)
Barry played varsity ball at the University of Miami because the team played a pro style of basketball with Bruce Hale. That’s where Barry won All-American honors three times and led the NCAA with 37.4 points per game in his senior year. The team did not participate in the NCAA tournament because Miami was placed on probation. Still, Barry did enough to earn the second pick in the draft.
Barry was replaced by Princeton star Bill Bradley by the Knicks. Barry didn’t forget as he set Madison Square Garden on fire for 57 points in his debut. Barry had many great moments, including scoring 36 points in the All-Star Game, which featured Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson. Barry won the rookie of the year award at the end of the season.
6. Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls)
Recruit Statistics: 28.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG (1984-85)
Jordan was a consensus of America’s first all-team all-star in his sophomore and sophomore seasons in North Carolina. After winning the title of Wood varsity player of the year, Jordan was chosen No.3 by the Chicago Bulls. At the time, Portland passed Jordan as the team already had a goalie in Clyde Drexler and the team needed a cross. This turned out to be a huge mistake.
Jordan shot 51.5% from the field and helped the team become a playoff contender. Jordan’s rookie season was marked by Isiah Thomas’ famous freeze out in the All-Star Game, where players refused to pass the ball to him. The controversy did not affect him when he won the Rookie of the Year award and returned against Thomas years later.
5. Elvin Hayes (San Diego Rockets)
Recruit Statistics: 28.4 PPG, 17.1 RPG, 1.4 APG (1968-69)
Hayes has had an incredible career in Houston. It involved leading the team to the Final Four in 1967. It was a historic clash with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at UCLA, who ended up winning. In the game, Hayes finished with 24 rebounds, which is the second in Abdul-Jabbar’s latest record of 27. In the rematch, the two faced the first-ever nationally televised college basketball game. Hayes scored 39 points and limited Kareem to 15 points. He ended a 47-game winning streak.
In college, Hayes averaged 31.0 points and 17.2 rebounds, while setting an NCAA tournament record with 222 rebounds. Hayes was drafted by San Diego and went on to lead the NBA in scoring and was named to the rookie squad. His scoring average remains the last time a rookie led the league in scoring. That featured a career-high 54 points against the Pistons in the regular season.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks)
Recruit Statistics: 28.8 PPG, 14.5 RPG, 4.1 APG (1969-70)
When Kareem left UCLA, he was a three-time National Player of the Year and won Naismith College’s inaugural player of the year. He also holds records for highest career goal average, most career field goals, most points in a season and most field goals. This led to the Harlem Globetrotters offering him $ 1 million to play for them. Instead, he refused and was selected No.1 in the draft.
The Bucks were only in their second year of existence and they won the first overall pick in the draw against the Suns. The Bucks took second place in the East Division, improving by nearly 30 wins. He was named Rookie of the Year after finishing second in the league in scoring and third in rebounds. During the season, his 46-point, 25-rebound game saw him join Wilt Chamberlain as the only rookie to score at least 40 points and 25 rebounds. He also set a rookie record with 10 or more games over 20 points scored during the playoffs, which was tied by Jayson Tatum in 2018.
3. Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati Royals)
Recruit Stats: 30.5 RPG, 10.1 RPG, 9.7 APG (1960-61)
Robertson led Cincinnati to a combined 79-9 overall record in three seasons, including two trips to the Final Four. When he left school, he was the all-time leading scorer until future Hall of Fame member Pete Maravich overtook him in 1970. He remains at the top of the record books at Cincy, which includes points in a game (62), career rebounds, and career points.
In the NBA, Robertson was a territorial choice, which meant that since dating Cincy, he was going to join the Royals. Prior to Russell Westbrook in 2017, Robertson was the only player to average a triple-double in a season, which he did in his second year. In his rookie season, he almost did it from the start. Robertson was a part of the All-NBA first team and won the Rookie of the Year award despite winning just 33 team games.
2. Walt Bellamy (Chicago Packers)
Recruit Statistics: 31.6 PPG, 19.0 RPG, 2.7 APG (1961-62)
Bellamy was a force at Indiana University where he set the school’s record for career rebounds with 1,087 in 70 games. He still holds the Big Ten Conference rebounding record in a game with 33 in a win over Michigan. When he walked into the NBA and set the second best score as a rookie, it may have taken some by surprise.
In the 1961 NBA Draft, Bellamy was selected No.1 overall and became the first Indiana player to become Rookie of the Year. His rookie season is the second highest mark in NBA history. His score is second, while his rebound is his third. No NBA rookie has surpassed his 973 field goals in a season, while he also led the NBA in field goal percentage.
1. Wilt Chamberlain (Warriors of Philadelphia)
Recruit Statistics: 37.6 PPG, 27.0 RPG, 2.3 APG (1959-60)
Chamberlain tried to turn pro after his junior year in Kansas, but the NBA only accepted players after their promotion ended. This led Chamberlain to join the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958 for a salary that would today be worth $ 449,000. Chamberlain was ultimately drafted with a home pick by Philadelphia and he put on the best rookie season we’ve ever seen.
Chamberlain broke Bob Pettit’s all-time regular-season scoring record. He only needed 56 games compared to Pettit’s 72 games. He was named Regular Season MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season. He closed his rookie season by being named All-Star Game MVP with a performance of 23 points and 25 rebounds. At the end of the year, Chamberlain threatened to retire because of all the double and triple team defenses thrown against him. In the end, he received a raise in salary of $ 40,000, which was enough to keep him in the league.