Ranking the 20 greatest rookie seasons in NBA history

Jul 7, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Victor Wembanyama (1) shoots the ball against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 7, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Victor Wembanyama (1) shoots the ball against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports /
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Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal (R) is fouled by Orlando Magic center Don Reid (L) during the second period at the TD Waterhouse Centre 30 January 2002 in Orlando, FL. AFP PHOTO/Tony RANZE (Photo by TONY RANZE / AFP) (Photo by TONY RANZE/AFP via Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal (R) is fouled by Orlando Magic center Don Reid (L) during the second period at the TD Waterhouse Centre 30 January 2002 in Orlando, FL. AFP PHOTO/Tony RANZE (Photo by TONY RANZE / AFP) (Photo by TONY RANZE/AFP via Getty Images) /

8. Shaquille O’Neal

A four-time champion, three-time Finals MVP, the 2000 league MVP, a fifteen-time All-Star, and two-time scoring champion, Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most dominant and skilled players to ever step onto a basketball court.

He established himself as such right from the get-on. Averaging 23.4 points on 56.2 percent shooting on field goals, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks, O’Neal quickly told everyone in and around the league that he would become one of the best centers of all time.

In his very first week as a pro, O’Neal was named Player of the Week, becoming the first player ever to win that honor at the very beginning of his career. The number one pick also helped the Orlando Magic win 20 more games in the 1992-93 season than they did in the previous year, won the Rookie of the Year award, and was the first rookie since Michael Jordan in the 1984-85 season to start in an All-Star game.