4. Lawrence Taylor
> League: NFL
> Rookie season: 1981
> Team: New York Giants
> Statistics: 9.5 sacks, All-Pro, Defensive Player of the Year
In 1981, Lawrence Taylor became the only player in NFL history to win Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year. LT was immediately a dominant pass rusher and was named first team All-Pro — a rarity for a rookie. Taylor wasn’t just a game changer but a franchise changer, too. The New York Giants had missed the playoffs 17 straight seasons until Taylor helped get them into the postseason his first year.
3. Wayne Gretzky
> League: NHL
> Rookie season: 1979-1980
> Team: Edmonton Oilers
> Statistics: 51 goals, 86 assists, Hart Trophy
“The Great One” was great from day one. In his first NHL season with the Edmonton Oilers, Wayne Gretzky obliterated the rookie scoring record, with 137 points. Before then, no rookie had ever reached more than 100. Gretzky played pro hockey in the World Hockey Association for a season before his team joined the NHL, so he was not eligible for the Calder Trophy for top rookie. However, he did win the Hart Trophy for the most valuable player — his first of nine.
2. Ichiro Suzuki
> League: MLB
> Rookie season: 2001
> Team: Seattle Mariners
> Statistics: .350 average, Gold Glove, AL MVP
Ichiro Suzuki was already a star baseball player in Japan when, at age 27, he came to America in 2001 to play in the big leagues. Suzuki was an immediate sensation in Seattle. In his rookie season, he led the MLB in stolen bases and hits, won a Gold Glove, and batted .350, earning Rookie of the Year and MVP honors. Suzuki made the All-Star Game and won a Gold Glove each of the first 10 seasons of his surefire Hall of Fame career.
1. Wilt Chamberlain
> League: NBA
> Rookie season: 1959-60
> Team: Philadelphia Warriors
> Statistics: 37.6 points per game, 27 rebounds per game
No player has ever had a rookie season as great as Wilt Chamberlain. In the 1959-1960 NBA season, he tallied 37.6 points and 27 rebounds per game for the Philadelphia Warriors, shattering previous records for both. The only player who surpassed those scoring and rebounding records was Chamberlain himself. Wilt the Stilt was the clear choice for Rookie of the Year, and he continued his dominance throughout his career. A 13-time All-Star, Chamberlain led the NBA in scoring seven times, rebounds 11 times, and shooting percentage nine times.