The 10 Youngest NBA MVP Winners

Last updated on May 8th, 2022 at 11:37 am

Ever since its inception back in the 1950s, the NBA MVP award remains to be one of the most coveted individual awards in the world of sports. For a player to be labeled as the best in any season, he has to excel in almost all aspects of the game.

It’s important to note that the MVP award is not all about scoring. The award also considers various aspects, such as team leadership and moments of brilliance throughout the season.

While team standings do matter from time to time, there are those players who still scooped the award although their teams performed averagely.

Many recipients of the award ended up becoming some of the greatest NBA players of all time. It is a no-brainer that for a player to be even considered for this award has to be exceptional throughout the season.

While many NBA players take time to adapt, mature and improve their game, there are those players who settled in quite easily.

Many of these players came straight from high-school into the NBA. On the other hand, there are those players who joined college but failed to complete their studies instead, opting for the NBA draft.

That said, let us look at the 10 youngest NBA MVP winners.

10. LeBron James-24 years

Arguably one of the greatest NBA players of all time, LeBron James has always been a physical specimen ever since his high school years. Lebron’s explosiveness, in-game IQ, and athleticism have seen him transcend into one of the most decorated athletes.

Unlike most NBA players, LeBron James joined the NBA straight from high school. During the 2003 NBA draft, LeBron James signed with his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the number one draft pick. In his first season in the NBA, LeBron James averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game.

During the 2008-2009 season, LeBron James averaged 28 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game. This stats were more than enough to earn him his first league MVP. By winning the MVP award, LeBron James became the first-ever Cleveland Cavaliers to do so. 

9. Giannis Antetokounmpo-24 years

Antetokounmpo’s speed, nationality, and size saw him earn the name Greek Freak. In 2013, the Greek Freak made his debut for the Milwaukee Bucks at 18 years, becoming the youngest player to ever play in the NBA. In his rookie season, Antetokounmpo performed dismally averaging 6.8ppg, 4.4 RPG, and 1.9 APG. 

While his performance was slightly above average, Giannis was named into the All-Rookie second team. In his second season, Giannis Antetokounmpo improved his game and was now averaging 12.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG.

As the years went by, Giannis continued to improve his numbers. During the 2018-2019 season, Giannis would have his most impressive seasons in the NBA. Giannis would guide his team to an impressive 60-20 season while averaging 29.5 PPG, 5.6 APG and 13.6 RPG.

After an impressive season, Giannis Antetokounmpo won the 2018-2019 NBA MVP Award, becoming one of the youngest NBA MVP award winners

8. Bob Pettit-23 years

Arguably the greatest forward of his era, Bob Pettit was a scoring and rebounding prowess. While he was highly talented back in college, Petit was forced to adjust from the center position to a poor forward in the NBA. This was mainly because the coach felt that Pettit’s ball-handling was not only awkward. The coach also felt that Petit lacked the mass to battle it out with some of the big men in the game.

While many people doubted whether Pettit was going to adapt to the NBA, Pettit ended up winning the Rookie of the Year in his debut season after he averaged 20.1PPG and 13.8 RPG. In his second season with the Hawks, Pettit adjusted his game such that he could go to the free-throw line more easily. 

During this season, Pettit won his first-ever scoring title after averaging 25.7 points per game. On top of that, he was also named the MVP of the All-Star games. Towards the end of the season, he was named the league MVP.

By winning the NBA MVP award, Pettit became one of the youngest NBA MVP winners.

Pettit would win his second MVP title in 1959.

7. Bill Russell-23 years

Undeniably the most decorated professional athlete of all time, Bill Russell is currently with NHLs Henri Richard for the most Championships. In his illustrious 13 year NBA career, Bill Russell was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won 11 NBA titles.

Unlike many all-time greats, Bill Russell was not a scoring machine per se, as he never averaged over 19 points per game in his entire NBA career. While he could not rack up the points, Russell was instead a defensive juggernaut. His shot-blocking and man-to-man defense skills was second to none.

Moreover, Bill Russell’s rebounding ability was also second to none. After an impressive college career, the Boston Celtics, who were mostly after his rebounding and defensive skills, ultimately drafted Bill Russell. With Russell’s defensive prowess, the Boston Celtics dynasty was now complete.

Although Bill Russell had a breakout season, he ended up losing the Rookie of the Year award to his longtime rival, Tom Hanson.

While the Celtics earned a trip to the final, they ended up losing game 7 to the Atlanta Hawks. In the season that followed, the Celtics had improved their game and began the season by winning 14 straight games.

Bill Russell was now averaging 16.6 PPG and 22.7 RPG. After a rather impressive season, Bill Russell was named the year’s most valuable player at 23 years of age. 

6. Wilt Chamberlain-23 years

While he left college in 1958, Wilt Chamberlain had to wait for one year before he became eligible to join the NBA. During this period, Chamberlain would briefly feature for the Harlem Globetrotters. In 1958, Chamberlain signed with the Philadelphia Warriors.

Chamberlain’s first-ever NBA game was against the New York Knicks. In this game, Chamberlain ended up dropping an impressive 43 points. 

During his rookie season, Wilt Chamberlain began his long rivalry with Bill Russell. While these two players were the biggest competitors on the basketball court, they ended up developing a friendship that would last for decades. 

After a rather impressive debut season, Chamberlain won the Rookie of the Year award. He was also named the year’s league MVP. 

While Chamberlain’s debut season was historic, it’s the 1962 season that would ultimately cement his legacy as one of the greatest NBA players of all time. In March 1962, Chamberlain dropped 100 points in a single game. In the process, he was able to set a record for the highest points ever scored in a single game.

5. Kareem Abdul Jabbar-23 years

One of the most decorated NBA players of all time, Kareem Abdul Jabbar is not only an iconic figure but one of the key players who helped shape up the NBA into what it is today. In his illustrious NBA career, Kareem Abdul Jabbar ended up winning 6 NBA MVP awards and 15 All-NBA team honors.

He also won an impressive 6 NBA Championships.

After a rather impressive college career, the Milwaukee Bucks drafted Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the first overall pick. In his first season with the Milwaukee Bucks, Kareem Abdul Jabbar was quite impressive on the basketball court.

His outstanding performance saw the Milwaukee Bucks finish an impressive second in the Eastern Division. 

While he had a breakout performance, Jabbar ended up winning only one award, the NBA Rookie of the Year. However, in his second season with the Bucks, Jabbar would yet again pick up things from where he had left off from.

With the addition of Oscar Robinson, things were now looking all bright for the Bucks.

During that season, the Bucks could set up that season’s record for most wins at 66, including 20 straight wins.  Because of Jabbar’s enormous role, he was named the year’s league MVP.

Jabbar would go ahead and win five more before ultimately hanging the boots.

4. Bob McAdoo-23 years

One of the most popular players during the showtime Era, Bob McAdoo is not only a 5 time NBA All-star but also a two-time NBA champion. Although he played for various teams in the NBA, many NBA fans will remember him for his impressive run with the Los Angeles Lakers.

After a rather impressive college career, Bob McAdoo drew interest from various NBA teams. After a rather lengthy discussion, McAdoo ultimately signed with the Buffalo Braves as the number 2nd overall draft pick.

In his first season, McAdoo was quite impressive, such that he was named the Rookie of the Year. 

McAdoo picked things up from where he had left off in the following season, scooping his first-ever scoring title. In the 1974-1975 season, McAdoo was named the league’s MVP, becoming one of the youngest MVP winners.

During his MVP winning season, McAdoo averaged an impressive 34.5 PPG, 14.1 RPG, and 2 BPG.

3. Moses Malone-23 years

The Chairman of the Board was not your typical center all thanks to his physicality, aggressiveness, and timelessness on the court. Malone’s rebounding prowess were second to none. As a result, he led both the ABA and NBA league in rebounding on 9 separate occasions.

While he kept switching teams earlier in his career, Malone still kept on adapting to all of his new teams. As a result, he ended up becoming the leader of any team that snatched him up. In his first full season in the NBA with the Houston Rockets, Malone led the league in offensive rebounds.

Malone ended up collecting 437 offensive boards, a record that he later broke two years later.

During the 1978-1979 season, Malone had a breakout performance that saw him average an impressive 24.8 points per game and 17.6 rebounds per game. It’s this breakout performance that saw him land his first-ever NBA league MVP award. 

2. Wes Unseld-22 years 

One of the best defensive players that the NBA has ever seen, Wes Unseld was a force to reckon with during his years in the NBA. In his freshman year in college, Wes Unseld averaged 35 points 23.6 rebounds per game.

For three consecutive years, Unseld led the Missouri Valley conference in rebounds. 

It’s Wes Unseld’s impressive college career that saw him attract some of the biggest teams in the ABA and the more successful NBA. Unseld would ultimately turn down the Kentucky Colonels instead of settling for the Baltimore Bullets. 

In the NBA, Unseld picked things from where he had left off, leading the Bullets to its first conference win, after finishing last the previous season. By the end of the season, Unseld finished with 18.2 boards, which saw him named the Rookie of the Year.

He also made history by winning that year’s league MVP.

By winning these two awards in the same year, Unseld joined Wilt Chamberlain as the first two players to win both the rookie and MVP awards.

1. Derrick Rose-22 years

By winning the NBA MVP award at 22 years, Derrick Rose made history by becoming the youngest NBA MVP winner. Unlike most players in the NBA, Derrick Rose did not finish his college career, as the Chicago Bulls drafted him after his freshman year.

During his freshman year, Rose led the Tigers to an impressive 38-2 record. This record was more than enough for an NCAA championship appearance. 

Even though his rookie season was marred by a severe case of tendinitis, Rose still overcame the issue. Ultimately, Rose returned to form in March the following year, winning yet another rookie of the month award.

By the end of his first season in the NBA, Derrick Rose averaged an impressive 16.8 points per game. These impressive stars were more than enough to earn him the Rookie of the Year award.

In his second season, Derrick Rose yet again began his season with an ankle injury. Rose would ultimately return to full health, earning all-star honors. This meant that Rose was now the second player after Michael Jordan in 1998 to earn a selection.

During the 2010-2011 history, Derrick Rose made history by becoming the second player to score 2000+ points and 600 assists in a single campaign. After this impressive campaign, Derrick Rose was named the season’s league MVP.