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.
Jordan played three seasons under head coach Dean Smith at North Carolina from 1981-84. Though his entire run with the Tar Heels was certainly memorable, Jordan's most iconic moment playing for the school came during the final game of his rookie season.
With the 1982 NCAA championship game coming down to the wire against Georgetown, a teenage Jordan calmly drained the game-sealing jumper with 15 seconds left to clinch the title for North Carolina.
After winning ACC Freshman of the Year honors, Jordan took a major leap as a sophomore, increasing his scoring average from 13.5 points per game to 20. He could've certainly entered the NBA draft as a surefire top prospect following his second collegiate season, but he instead returned to school for one final year as a junior.
Jordan racked up the accolades in his final collegiate season, winning both the Naismith Award and the Wooden Award as college basketball's top player before finally turning pro.
Given the importance of a dominant inside presence in the NBA of the 1980s, Hakeem Olajuwon was justifiably considered the consensus top prospect entering the 1984 NBA Draft and was selected first overall by the Houston Rockets.
Jordan should have been drafted immediately after Olajuwon, but he somehow slid to Chicago at third overall after the Portland Trail Blazers took Sam Bowie out of Kentucky. Drafted between two talents who developed into all-time greats, Bowie never lived up to his potential due to leg injuries that plagued him throughout his career.
Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, Sam Perkins, and Otis Thorpe were among the other noteworthy members of the superb class of 1984.
Jordan instantly emerged as the face of the Bulls franchise in 1984-85, injecting excitement and flare into an otherwise mediocre squad.
"His Airness" played in all 82 regular-season games as a rookie while producing a truly incredible stat line of 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks per contest. Jordan's impressive numbers made him one of the game's elite two-way players from the outset of his career.
He finished his rookie year ranked first the league in total points (2,313), fourth in steals (196), and second in player efficiency rating (25.8) behind only Larry Bird. After he rounded out his fantastic campaign with an All-NBA second-team selection and an All-Star nod, Jordan winning Rookie of the Year was an inevitability.
Following a 27-win season for the Bulls in 1983-84, Jordan helped Chicago improve its win total by 11 in his first pro campaign. The team barely made the playoffs thanks largely to the young phenom but were knocked out by the Milwaukee Bucks in four games.
Jordan was a rookie who put up strong statistics on an otherwise unremarkable squad. There's no denying the positive impact he had for the Bulls in all facets of the game from Day 1, especially in the win column.
Jordan's legacy is unrivaled. He became the face of the NBA and established himself as arguably the greatest basketball player of all time over the course of his 15-season career, winning six championships with the Bulls during a historic eight-year span.
The legend finished his time in Chicago with the most career points, free throws, assists, rebounds, and steals in franchise history - and those records all stand today. Jordan's career PER of 29.1 is the highest of any Bulls player, and he earned a remarkable 204.5 win shares over his 13-year run with the club.
MJ retired for a second time after winning his sixth championship in 1998, then returned to the NBA for a two-season stint with the Washington Wizards before calling it a career for good in 2003. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Come back on Thursday to see who came in at No. 9 in theScore's Top 25 Rookie Seasons series.