Home / Comparison/Player Vs. Player / Top 5 Rookie Seasons of All-Time

There have been a lot of great freshman seasons in sports. Plenty of rookies have taken their collective sports by storm, posting unimaginable numbers while accomplishing the seemingly implausible. But which five rookie seasons, from any sport, are the best of all-time?

5. Eric Dickerson, Running Back, Los Angeles Rams (1983)

-Dickerson ran for a league-high 1,808 yards his first year in the league, an NFL rookie record. He also racked up 20 total touchdowns (18 rushing, two receiving). By season’s end, he had broken the Rams’ franchise marks for rushing yards, rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns and yards per game (113/game). He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and was named to the Pro Bowl.


4. Fernando Valenzuela, Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers (1981)

– This 20-year-old Mexican pitcher took Major League Baseball by storm, leading the National League in both strikeouts (180), shutouts (eight) and innings pitched (192.1) while reeling off eight straight victories to start his Major League career. He finished the year with a 13-7 record (1981 was a strike-shortened year, that’s why Valenzuela had only 20 starts) while leading the Dodgers to a World Series title. Valenzuela is still to this day the only rookie to ever win the Cy Young Award. He was also named to the All-Star Game, and was of course the 1981 Rookie of the Year.

3. Cam Newton, Quarterback, Carolina Panthers (2011)

– A self-proclaimed “icon and entertainer”, the #1 overall pick in the 2011 draft showed he was also one heck of a football player. Newton broke the rookie record for passing yards in a season by almost 300 yards, while becoming the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 4,000 yards in a season. Newton wasn’t done there; he also ended up setting the single-season NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 14. Newton was named to the Pro Bowl and was given NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

2. Wilt Chamberlain, Power Forward, Philadelphia Warriors (1959-60)

– Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain made sure the NBA know that he was more than just another tall forward. His rookie year, he set NBA records with 2,707 points scored and 1,941 rebounds (an incredible average of 37.6 points per game and 27 rebounds per game). He was named Rookie of the Year, a member of the All-NBA team, and was given MVP honors.


1. Teemu Selanne, Right Wing, Winnipeg Jets (1992-93)

-76 goals. 56 assists. 132 points. That was Teemu Selanne’s rookie year. His 76 goals have yet to be eclipsed by any first year player (not even Wayne Gretzky, the consensus best hockey player of all time, came close to Selanne’s 76 goal rookie year; The Great One had “only” 51 tallies in his inaugural NHL campaign). In fact, no NHL player, rookie or veteran, has come close to Selanne’s 76 goal campaign in the 19 years since he set that mark. Selanne won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie that year, was named to the NHL All-Star team, and truly set the gold standard for NHL rookies; a standard that may not be met for a very long time.


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