In only his second season, Pettit, 23, led the league in scoring (25.7) and rebounding (16.2) on his way to claiming the league's inaugural MVP award. He would go on to capture the award again after the 1958-59 season.
2 of 12
Bill Russell (24)
In his first full NBA season, Russell, 24, led the NBA in rebounding (22.7), including one contest in which he grabbed 49 boards. That wasn't enough for a championship, however, as Boston was upset by St. Louis in the Finals. Russell would go on to win four more MVP trophies.
3 of 12
Wilt Chamberlain (23)
At 23, Chamberlain took the league by storm, winning Rookie of the Year, All-Star Game MVP and league MVP. Incredibly, he averaged 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds in leading the Sixers to the Eastern Division finals, before falling to Bill Russell and the Celtics. Wilt would go on to win three more MVP awards before retiring in 1973.
4 of 12
Oscar Robertson (25)
The Big O claimed his only MVP award at 25, leading his Cincinnati Royals to a 55-25 record, good enough for second place in the East. He led the league in assists (11.0) and free throw percentage (85.3) and ranked second in scoring (31.4).
5 of 12
Wes Unseld (23)
As a rookie in 1969, Unseld earned both Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, averaging 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds while leading the Bullets to a division title.
6 of 12
Lew Alcindor (23)
Alcindor (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) led the '70-71 Bucks to the championship in only his second season. He won his first scoring title (31.7) and finished fourth in rebounding (16.0) on his way to the first of a record six MVP awards.
7 of 12
Dave Cowens (24)
Two years after he won Rookie of the Year as the fourth overall pick out of Florida State, Cowens averaged 20.5 points and 16.2 rebounds while helping the Celtics to an NBA-best 68-14 record. His league MVP and All-Star Game MVP honors that season were the only time he won the awards.
8 of 12
Bob McAdoo (23)
McAdoo enjoyed the finest season of his career as a 23-year-old star with the Buffalo Braves, leading the league in scoring (34.5) and total rebounds (1,155). He'd later achieve his other dream, winning not one but two championships, both while with the "Showtime" Lakers squads of the 1980s.
9 of 12
Bill Walton (25)
Even with a broken foot forcing him to miss 24 games, the 25-year-old Walton still earned MVP honors. He averaged 18.9 points and 13.2 rebounds for the Blazers.
10 of 12
Moses Malone (23)
It took until 1981 for Malone to lead his Rockets to the NBA Finals, but he was recognized as the league's top player two years earlier. The former ABA standout averaged 25.8 points and a league-leading 17.6 rebounds in the first of his three MVP seasons.
11 of 12
Michael Jordan (25)
After being denied the 1986-87 MVP despite averaging 37.1 points, Jordan won both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year the following season. His Airness averaged 35.0 points (on 53.5 percent shooting) and 3.2 steals for the Bulls, who had their first 50-win seasons since 1973-74.
12 of 12
LeBron James (25)
This season was a milestone in an already illustrious career for LeBron. The Cavs' superstar garnered his first MVP trophy as he led his team in all five major categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks), becoming only the fourth player in NBA history to accomplish the feat.
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