The greatest rookie seasons in NBA history share a number of qualities, starting with individual statistical dominance. However, you can't overlook the context beyond the box score; initial expectations, team success, and overall legacy all matter.
While we wait for the 2019-20 season to resume, theScore's NBA editors have dusted off the record books to determine the top 25 rookie seasons in league history.
No. 14 in our series is late Hall of Fame center Walt Bellamy. Catch up on previous posts in the series here.
Bellamy was a star at Indiana for three seasons, posting averages of 20.6 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. The North Carolina native still holds the school and Big Ten record for rebounds in a single contest with 33.
His strong play led him to become the first Hoosiers player taken with the top overall selection in the draft.
After a standout college career, Bellamy emerged as the clear-cut top prospect in the class of 1961. He was selected first overall by the Chicago Packers, an expansion franchise that after multiple relocations and rebrands became the Washington Wizards.
Only three other players in Bellamy's draft class went on to make an All-Star appearance, while his 130 career win shares are more than double the next closest 1961 draftee. (Bill Bridges accumulated 59.9.)
Bellamy averaged 31.6 points, 19 rebounds, and a league-best 51.9 field-goal percentage in 42.3 minutes across 79 games as a rookie. He owned the league's second-highest scoring average behind Wilt Chamberlain's 50.4 points - still a single-season record - and finished third in rebounding behind Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
His incredible production during the 1961-62 campaign made him the obvious choice to win Rookie of the Year, as he became the first Indiana alumnus to earn the honor. Bellamy also made the first of his four career All-Star appearances that season.
Despite his statistical brilliance, Bellamy couldn't prevent the expansion club from finishing well outside the playoff picture. The Packers were short on reliable options, as six of the team's 10 rotation players were out of the league following the 1961-62 season, according to ESPN.
Chicago finished with an awful 18-62 record that season, by far the worst among the NBA's 10 teams.
Bellamy wasn't able to top his superb rookie numbers over his final 13 seasons, as many of his per-game statistics declined mainly due to the improved talent around him. Still, the Hall of Famer still retired with impressive averages of 20.1 points on 51.6% shooting and 13.7 rebounds in 1,043 NBA contests.
Bellamy remained with the club for four-plus seasons before he was traded to the New York Knicks early in the 1965-66 campaign. His 57 win shares rank third in franchise history behind Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes.
Come back on Thursday to see who came in at No. 13 in theScore's Top 25 Rookie Seasons series.