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Magic Johnson against the Sixers.

5 NBA legends who did not win the Rookie of the Year award

The race for the 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year award is heating up and winning the award is certainly a big deal for the current rookies. LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, Immanuel Quickley, and Anthony Edwards are among the best rookies in the league right now. Who will take the Rookie of the Year? In the end, winning it or not will not determine how their future in the league turns out.

5 NBA greats evaded by the Rookie of the Year award


Winning the Rookie of the Year award is all about timing sometimes, as some rookie classes might be more stacked than others and some players might simply be ahead on the development scale. In NBA history, several superstars and legends were not able to win Rookie of the Year honors, but they turned out just fine.

In this piece, we will take a look at five legendary NBA performers who were not awarded as the best rookie of their classes..

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#5 Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors.

Stephen Curry is a two-time NBA MVP winner and a three-time champion with the Golden State Warriors. He is a legend and due to what he represents today, many could imagine that he won the Rookie of the Year award in his first NBA campaign and some could even be tempted to think he was the highest-rated player on his draft.

None of those things are true. Curry, the seventh pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, had a solid rookie year in the NBA, averaging 17.5 points, 5.9 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game with 46/44/89 shooting splits. However, Tyreke Evans won the 2009-10 Rookie of the Year award after averaging 20 points, five rebounds and six assists.

#4 Hakeem Olajuwon

Olajuwon in the 1994 NBA Finals.

Hakeem Olajuwon is a basketball legend and arguably the greatest center in the history of the NBA. Of course, Olajuwon was one of the greatest offensive weapons in the low post the NBA has ever seen, and he hit the ground running as a rookie with the Houston Rockets after the team picked him with the first selection of the glorious 1984 NBA Draft.


'The Dream' would go on to win two titles with the Rockets, two Finals MVPs, one regular-season MVP and a couple of Defensive Player of the Year awards. However, there is something missing in his resume, and if you are a diehard NBA fan, you could imagine who stopped Olajuwon from winning the Rookie of the Year award.

Olajuwon averaged 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 2,7 blocks per game as a rookie in the 1984-85 NBA season. But Michael Jordan won the Rookie of the Year award after adding MVP-worthy numbers of 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.4 steals per game.

#3 Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant with the LA Lakers in 2000.

Kobe Bryant will always be a legendary figure in the NBA and the most iconic individual in the LA Lakers' history. Bryant's legacy is unblemished and his basketball record with the LA Lakers is full of greatness.


Though he won five NBA championships, two Finals MVPs and a regular-season MVP, Bryant constructed his basketball skills step by step after entering the league directly from high school.


In his first season, at just 18 years of age, Bryant played in 71 games, but started just six times. Moreover, he averaged 7.6 points in less than 16 minutes of action per game. Allen Iverson, the first pick of the 1996 NBA Draft, won the Rookie of the Year that year, while Bryant was not considered for the award.

#2 Magic Johnson

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson made the NBA explode in the 1980s.

Magic Johnson entered the NBA as the first pick of the 1979 NBA Draft, and he had an extraordinary rookie year that ended with him being named Finals MVP after his iconic performance of 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in game six of the 1980 Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers.


Johnson went on to win four more NBA championships, three Finals MVPs and three regular-season MVPs. Though he won more collective trophies than his rival Larry Bird, Bird took the Rookie of the Year award from Johnson in 1980 with 63 votes to just three for Magic.


Magic had averaged 18 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game, but Bird put up 21 points, 10 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game and took the Rookie of the Year award from him.

#1 Bill Russell

Bill Russell and Red Auerbach.

Bill Russell has arguably the most unbreakable record in NBA history, as he won 11 titles in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, and he even won a couple as the player/coach of the squad.


Russell led the Celtics to their first NBA championship as a rookie in the 1956-57 NBA campaign, and he went on to win five regular-season MVP awards in his career.

However, it was his teammate Tom Heinsohn who won the 1956-57 Rookie of the Year award. Russell averaged 14.7 points and 19.6 rebounds per game, while Heinsohn put up 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. However, Russell played 48 regular-season games, and Heinsohn played a team-high 72 matches and won the Rookie of the Year award.

Also read: 3 players that could help the Golden State Warriors get back into playoff reckoning | NBA Trade Deadline 2021

Edited by
Prem Deshpande
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