The NBA Championship is a coveted prize every player in the league wishes to get his hands on, but there are only a few who succeed over the course of their careers. The 'super-team era' has made it even more difficult for stars to win the Larry O'Brien trophy, but there are some players in league history who have managed to win the elusive title in their rookie season itself.
5 NBA players who won a championship in their debut season
Winning an NBA Championship at the first attempt requires a stacked roster with a competent coach who can outline a well-defined role for a rookie. Some budding stars have been fortunate to be in such a situation, leading to success in their rookie year.
On that note, let's look at 5 players who an NBA Championship in their rookie year.
#5 Kevin McHale, Boston Celtics (1980-81)
In a lopsided trade that took place right before the 1980 NBA Draft, Celtics president Red Auerbach managed to deal the then No.1 overall pick and additional pick for center Robert Parish and third overall pick from the Golden State Warriors. The Boston Celtics used that pick to draft forward Kevin McHale, who went on to win the NBA Championship in his debut season.
Playing a bench role, McHale made a useful contribution despite being a rookie, putting up 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. He deputized for starting forward Cedric Maxwell effectively, doing his work in the paint on both ends.
#4 Jamaal Wilkes, Golden State Warriors (1974-75)
Jamaal Wilkes had a rookie year most NBA players can only dream of, as the small forward won two distinguished honors in his first season - the Rookie of the Year award and an NBA Championship. Nicknamed 'Silk', Wilkes averaged a solid 14 points, 8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Wilkes won the ring with the Golden State Warriors, and then went on to win three more with the LA Lakers in 1980, 1982, and 1985. He entered the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2012, and his number 52 jersey has been retired by the LA Lakers.
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#3 Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs (2002-03)
Despite being selected by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the 1999 NBA Draft, Manu Ginobili made his debut for the franchise in the 02-03 campaign. After finding it difficult to adjust to the NBA's pace and style in his early days in the league, Ginobili later became an integral part of the rotation in his rookie season.
Ginobili took up the sixth-man role for Gregg Popovich, registering 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists per contest, as the Spurs prevailed over the Brooklyn Nets and won the NBA Championship.
#2 Bill Russell, Boston Celtics (1956-57)
One of the most decorated American athletes of all time, Bill Russell achieved the ultimate basketball success in his first season in the NBA, winning a ring with the Boston Celtics. Russell averaged 14 points and an astronomical 19.6 rebounds per game in his rookie year, apart from playing some stellar defense in the paint.
Russell won an absurd 11 titles in his 13-year-long career, carving out his legacy as the most successful basketball player of all time in terms of rings. Two of his eleven championships came as a player-coach, illustrating his importance to the franchise and the league.
#1 Magic Johnson, LA Lakers (1979-1980)
Magic Johnson had a career littered with accolades and got off to the perfect start by winning a ring in his rookie year with the LA Lakers. Combined with fellow Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and the Lakers defeated the Julius Erving-led Philadelphia 76ers in six games.
Johnson lit up the floor in game six, putting up 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists while playing at center in Abdul-Jabbar's absence. He played at guard, forward, and center during the game, later collecting the NBA Finals MVP award as well.
Earvin 'Magic' Johnson went on to win four more titles with the LA Lakers, etching his name amongst the best players in the history of the NBA.