DAR Sports: 20 Of The Greatest NBA Individual Player Seasons

By @TrueGodImmortal 

In the NBA, as much as the game is a team sport, the individual players are out to earn their stars and lead their team to victory. In our history, we've seen some amazing individual seasons. Usually, when a player wins the MVP, we've witnessed a truly special season, and sometimes there are players who don't win MVP due to the criteria for it, but have had a season that truly blew everyone else out of the water. Seasons like that are sort of how Oscar Robertson and his 1961-1962 campaign went, while he was playing for the horrid Cincinnati team he was with at the time. There's also MVP seasons where the player wasn't AS efficient as he could have been, for example when Allen Iverson and his 2001 campaign to be the MVP proved that even if you shoot below 45% from the field, as long as you lead your team to victory, you can manage to win this award. Regardless, there have been so many amazing individual seasons, and we're witnessing yet another one currently as Russell Westbrook stakes his claim as one of the best players in the game while averaging a triple double. However, what about the seasons prior? Today, we look at the greatest individual seasons in NBA history, and much like other lists I'm sure, we have a criteria here at DAR. The criteria is simple: we can only pick one player for the particular season we choose (so if two players have a spectacular season the same year, we can only choose one), and they must have shot at least 45% from the field in order to secure a spot on the list. You can have a player listed multiple times, and you'll see a certain Chicago Bull on this list a few times. Some great seasons got left off the list unfortunately due to the criteria (Iverson in 2001, The Big O in 1962, etc). Now, with the criteria out the way and the explanation finished, let's get into it.

*Michael Jordan (1987-1988)
(35.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.2 SPG, 53.5% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, Defensive Player Of The Year, All Defensive First Team, All NBA First Team, NBA Scoring Champion)

-You want to talk about efficiency?? This is the best overall season in Jordan's career, as he was playing his best basketball this year and entering his prime. Jordan as an individual player was untouchable for MANY seasons, but during those years where he didn't have enough help to reach the Finals, he was at his absolute best. He was shooting well, scoring at will, winning the scoring title, the MVP, AND winning Defensive Player Of The Year, proving that he was the best player on both sides of the ball. This is probably his greatest overall season, but many would give it to his year before in 86-87, when he averaged 37.1 PPG, but that year doesn't compare to some of his overall best, because Jordan hadn't quite become the all around player he was this season. It was as if Jordan took his offensive prowess, and improved upon every element this season and became the most feared player in the game.

*Magic Johnson (1986-1987)
(23.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 12.2 APG, 52.2% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, NBA Title, All NBA First Team, Finals MVP, Assists Leader)

-What a year for Magic right? Out of all his great years, this might be my favorite. As his career was reaching that prime period, Magic was exceptional this season, and well deserving of his MVP award. Averaging 24 points a game, over 12 assists, 6 rebounds, as well as leading the Lakers to a 65-17 record and a NBA Championship. The way Magic played this season is severely underrated, and it might be a top 10 season of all time when considering everything that went on positively for Magic, including the postseason, where he shined immensely.

*Michael Jordan (1988-1989)
(32.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 8.0 APG, Scoring Champion, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team, All-Star, Career High Season Avg. In Assists and Rebounds)

-Jordan truly could have won about 7 or 8 MVP awards in his career and he should have. There are only a few years that he didn't win once he hit his prime, and this is one of those years that I felt he was robbed of the trophy. Sure, Magic Johnson also deserved the trophy as well, and with the Lakers having the best record in the West, I get why he won it, but no one had a better individual season than Jordan, and he led his team to a near 50 win season and managed to push them to the Conference Finals, defeating the third seeded Cavaliers (hitting the infamous "shot" we love and remember), also making slightly easy work of the second seeded Knicks. He was eventually stopped by the Pistons using the "Jordan Rule" in the Conference Finals, but make no mistake, Jordan terrorized just about every team he faced this season, and it's where he solidified himself completely as the best player in the game.

*LeBron James (2008-2009)
(28.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, 48.9% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team)

-This was the best season for LeBron with the Cavs overall. He had slowly worked his way into the conversation for Best Player with this year. There was a bit of a debate going on as LeBron had come on as the new blood, while we were still in the Kobe and Duncan era. Kobe was seen by many as the best player in the game, but this was the season that LeBron REALLY showcased his ability to lead during the regular season. Leading the Cavs to a 66-16 record, Bron seemed poised to arrive back in the NBA Finals for a dream match up of Lakers vs Cavaliers, LeBron vs Kobe. Kobe and the Lakers got there, but LeBron and the Cavs couldn't do it. Still, this takes nothing away from the overall individual success of LeBron. It was the beginning of the becoming of Bron.

*Michael Jordan (1990-1991)
(31.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.5 APG, 53.9% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team, NBA Title, Finals MVP, Scoring Champion)

-If you want to talk about prime Jordan, this is where you have to go. The first season that all his hard work really paid off and he earned the MVP award, as well as finally got rid of the Pistons demon that haunted him for a few seasons. Jordan would go on a frenzy, scoring at will, leading his team effectively and heading to the NBA Finals. No surprise, a dream match between the Bulls and the showtime Lakers saw Jordan in his most dominant performance thus far, winning his first NBA Title and Finals MVP. An amazing season all around.

*Kareem Abdul Jabbar (1970-1971)
(31.7 PPG, 16.0 RPG, 57.7% FG Shooting, NBA Title, MVP, Finals MVP, All-Star, All NBA First Team, NBA Scoring Champion)

-Kareem was truly one of the best Centers to ever play and though he has many great individual seasons, when I look at his history, this might be the most special one. In addition to shooting so well from the field, earning a regular season MVP, All Star appearance, All NBA First Team appearance, and a scoring title, Kareem also led his team to the NBA Finals and garnered a NBA Title and Finals MVP award. Probably the most important season in the long storied career of Kareem by far.

*Larry Bird (1985-1986)
(25.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 6.8 APG, 49.6% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, All NBA First Team, Finals MVP, NBA Title)

-This is my favorite Larry Bird season as I think Bird was just in an another zone overall. He helped the Celtics put up a great record, led them to the playoffs, the Finals, and of course to a NBA Title this year. He won the regular season MVP, and of course in the Finals, he pulled out what it took to gain the Finals MVP. Bird has some magnificent seasons in his career, but this is without a doubt his best.

*Michael Jordan (1992-1993)
(32.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.5 APG, 49.5% FG Shooting, All NBA First Team, NBA Title, Finals MVP, Scoring Title, Steals Leader)

-Jordan was robbed of this MVP and I have to say it. He was amazing this season, after winning two titles in a row. He would score at will, lead the Bulls back to the playoffs once again, and though I get why Charles Barkley won, if I had to make a choice, Jordan would edge him out in the voting. Jordan was magnificent on both ends of the ball, and truly put on an amazing season, earning another scoring title, before leading the Bulls to their third straight title and his third straight Finals MVP award.

*Wilt Chamberlain (1961-1962)
(50.4 PPG, 25.7 RPG, 50.6% FG Shooting, All-Star, All NBA First Team, Scoring Champion, Rebounds Leader)

-I fought with myself over this one. Oscar Robertson and his triple double average deserved to be on a list, but it still manages to pale in comparison to this, and the massive season that Wilt had. Wilt would score 100 points this season, average 50 points, 25 rebounds, and sure, the gripe with this is that the stats were a bit inflated, but in any era, doing something like THIS? As consistently as Will did it? And staying healthy? This is easily one of the best seasons ever, if not the best.

*LeBron James (2011-2012)
(27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 6.2 APG, 53% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team, NBA Title, Finals MVP)

-After a few disappointing seasons in Cleveland while being the best player in the league, LeBron ran away with the best player in the game title once he got to Miami. After a tough first year that saw him go back to the NBA Finals, only to lose, this shortened season saw LeBron at his best, earning the regular season MVP, an All-Star appearance, First Team appearances, and of course another trip to the NBA Finals, but this one resulted in a title and a Finals MVP. A masterful season for sure.

*Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-1994)
(27.3 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 52.8% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team, Defensive Player of The Year, NBA Title, Finals MVP)

-When I think of my favorite centers of all time, Hakeem is always high on the list and this season is really the reason why. Hakeem was just unstoppable, and in the first Post Jordan era season, he would excel at the highest level possible. Defensively and offensively, Hakeem was on another level, winning regular season MVP, Defensive Player Of The Year, and lead his team to the Finals. They had a tough hard fought 7 hame series with the Knicks, but managed to win the NBA Title and Hakeem of course pulled away with the Finals MVP award. Well deserved.

*Wilt Chamberlain (1966-1967)
(24.1 PPG, 24.2 RPG, 7.8 APG, 68.3% FG Shooting, All-Star, MVP, NBA Title, Rebounds Leader)

-This season is here because Wilt had helped and won this title without having to overwork himself like seasons prior. He managed to win MVP for his amazing numbers, and although his scoring went down from years prior, he had more dimension in his game, which is more than enough for a player like Wilt. Leading the league in rebounding, helping lead his team to a title, and leading the league easily in FG % all make this an all time great individual season.

*Shaquille O'Neal (1999-2000)
(29.7 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 57.4% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, Scoring Champion, NBA Title, Finals MVP, All NBA First Team)

-This is one of the most dominant seasons I've ever witnessed. Shaq has always been one of the most dominant players of all time, but nothing could quite compare to his first title season with the Lakers. Kobe wasn't quite as efficient or great as he became later, so it fell on Shaq to lead them most of the season and he did just that. Winning MVP, the scoring title, and of course leading the Lakers to a title and winning Finals MVP, Shaq definitely earned a spot on this list hands down.

*Michael Jordan (1995-1996)
(30.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 49.5% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, All NBA First Team, Led Them To 72-10 Record, NBA Title, Scoring Champion, Finals MVP)

-If there's one season that many turn to as the best for Jordan? It has to be this one. It's not his best individual season overall, but it is his most important in a way. After a 2 year retirement, Jordan came back and looked a bit off in the year prior that he played 17 games in the regular season. After a rare playoff loss to the Magic that short return year, Jordan came back and recaptured his throne so easily that this might be his most impressive season. He won the MVP, the scoring title, led his team to the best record ever at the time (72-10), as well as a Finals MVP and his 4th NBA Title in 6 seasons. This is the season that took the conversation from Jordan being the best player of the era to the best player of all time.

*Kevin Garnett (2003-2004)
(24.2 PPG, 13.9 RPG, 49.9% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team)

-When we look back at KG and his career, as an individual season, this is his greatest achievement easily. He led the Minnesota Timberwolves to the top spot in the West winning 58 games, earned the MVP title, and averaged a career high in rebounds. Unfortunately, he suffered a bit in the playoffs and fell short to the stacked Lakers team, but this season is still so great individually in retrospect.

*Tracy McGrady (2002-2003)
(32.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 45.7% FG Shooting, All NBA First Team, All-Star, Scoring Champion)

-Now, you'll probably ask why is McGrady here, but not the MVP, Tim Duncan, right? Well it's simple. In a world where the Magic actually had a good enough record, I think McGrady would have been the pick for MVP personally. He shot the best he had ever shot from the field, was able to lead the Magic to the playoffs, gained an All NBA First Team appearance, won a scoring title, and put up some of the best offensive seasons I've ever had the pleasure of watching. If only the team around T Mac was better, he might have been higher on this list as one of the top 10 seasons of all time, but if I had to rank him, he'd be around top 15-16.

*Kevin Durant (2013-2014)
(32.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 50.3% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, All NBA First Team, Scoring Champion)

-KD had a season that could have only been made better by winning a NBA Title, but don't sleep on what he accomplished this particular year. 50% shooting, Scoring title, the MVP award, All NBA First Team, and he seemed poised and ready to head back to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, that didn't go the way he would have liked, but regardless, KD was unstoppable this year and this is definitely one of the best individual seasons, one of which I had the pleasure of watching from start to finish.

*Tim Duncan (2001-2002)
(25.5 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 50.8% FG Shooting, MVP, All-Star, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team)

-Some might say that Duncan had a better MVP season the next year, but I disagree. I don't think that season is as good as this one, because this was the becoming of Duncan and as a scorer, he dominated more and played every single game of the 82 game season. Averaging a career high in points per game, and minutes per game, along with being close to his career high for rebounds per game, Duncan was a force and unstoppable. The only gripe with this season is that the Spurs didn't win a championship or even make it to the Finals. However, that doesn't take away from what was Duncan's best offensive season, in my opinion. It was still a great year and probably the best of his career.

*Kobe Bryant (2005-2006)
(35.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 45.0% FG Shooting, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team, All-Star, Scoring Champion)

-This was the year that Kobe was without a doubt affirming himself as the best player in the game. I compare it to the years Jordan didn't have the right team behind him, but still led the league in scoring and was pulling off amazing games, like back in 1986-87, or 1987-88. Kobe was leading the offense in LA and he had to, because he was the best player easily. He went ahead and carried the team on his back, with this being the year he scored the infamous 81 points, and put up 50 and 60 point games multiple times. This year is nothing short of amazing and if Kobe would have won in the playoffs, this could be a top 5 season of all time.

*Stephen Curry (2015-2016)
(30.1 PPG, MVP, All-Star, Scoring Champion, 50-40-90 Club, Only Unanimous MVP in NBA History, 402 three pointers, Steals Leader)

-In many ways, this might be the greatest NBA single season we've always witnessed. 3-1 lead blown jokes aside, Steph put on a season the likes of which we might never see again. Averaging 50% from the field, putting up 402 three pointers, leading his team to the greatest regular season record ever, winning a scoring title, back to back MVP, and leading his team to back to back Finals was something out of this world and it had us all believing for a while that Steph was the best player in the game today. While he's still one of the best players today, this season will be etched in history forever. It's probably a top 5 season that could have been top 3 overall had it ended with a back to back championship win.



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