Special Report

Youngest Athletes to Dominate Their Sport

Source: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

6. Fernando Valenzuela
> Age: 20
> Season: 1981
> Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
> Achievement(s): Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, World Series

Few players have had the same star power as Fernando Valenzuela in 1981. Many Mexican-American fans were excited to finally see a Mexican player dominate in the big leagues. This led to an attendance bump and an air of excitement around the ballpark dubbed “Fernandomania.” Valenzuela threw an astonishing eight complete game shutouts his rookie year, along with an MLB-leading 180 strikeouts in the strike-shortened 1981 season. He posted a 2.48 ERA. Valenzuela was not only the Rookie of the Year, but also won the Cy Young award as the best pitcher in the NL. His dream season had a perfect ending, as Valenzuela’s Dodgers won the World Series

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

7. Fred Lynn
> Age: 23
> Season: 1975
> Team: Boston Red Sox
> Achievement(s): MVP, Rookie of the Year

In his 1975 rookie season, Boston’s Fred Lynn wasn’t just the best rookie, but the best player in the entire league. Lynn was locked in at the plate, batting .331 with an MLB-leading 47 doubles. He was also a terrific defender, winning a Gold Glove as the best defensive center fielder in the AL. The 23-year-old became the first rookie in MLB history to win MVP. The only other to do it since was Ichicro Suzuki, who had played professionally in Japan for years before his rookie season in the MLB.

Source: Malcolm W. Emmons / The Sporting News Archives / Wikimedia Commons

8. Jim Brown
> Age: 22
> Season: 1958
> Team: Cleveland Browns
> Achievement(s): MVP

The moment he entered the NFL, Jim Brown was head and shoulders the best player in the league. His rookie season of 1957, Brown won NFL MVP, leading the league in rushing yards and touchdowns — then he got better. At 22, Brown set an NFL rushing record in his second season, racking up 1,527 yards in just 12 games and winning his second straight MVP.

Source: Mike Powell / Getty Images

9. Lawrence Taylor
> Age: 22
> Season: 1981
> Team: New York Giants
> Achievement(s): Defensive Player of the Year

Lawrence Taylor had one of the most impressive debut seasons of any defensive football player. He started all 16 games, made the Pro Bowl, was named to the All-Pro team, won Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as the overall Defensive Player of the Year award. LT would go on to become arguably the greatest defensive player in NFL history, racking up 10 Pro Bowls, 8 All-Pro nods, three Defensive Player of the Year awards, an MVP, and two Super Bowls in his Hall of Fame career.

Source: keithallison / Flickr

10. LeBron James
> Age: 20
> Season: 2004-05
> Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
> Achievement(s): All-Star

There may be no player in NBA history who entered the league with as much hype as LeBron James. He was one of the most prolific rookies in NBA history, but it was in his second season that James demonstrated his full potential. In that 2004-2005 season, James upped his scoring by more than six points per game to more than 27 points, while averaging 7.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game, earning his first All-Star team selections of many.

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