Hornets’ LaMelo Ball joins select company in franchise and NBA history

By Richard Walker

Charlotte Hornets rookie guard LaMelo Ball joined select company on Wednesday night – both in team franchise history and NBA history.

LaMelo Ball poses with the 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year trophy on Wednesday at the Charlotte Hornets’ team store.

The NBA announced that Ball was the runaway in media voting for the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy as the 2020-21 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year.

Ball received 84 of of 99 first-place votes despite suffering a broken bone in his right wrist cost him 21 games late in the season. Ball averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 51 games (31 starts) this season for Charlotte. He led all 2020-21 rookies in assists and steals and finished second in scoring and rebounding.

He became the seventh rookie to average 15.0 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in a season since steals became an officiel statistic in the 1973-74 season, joining Magic Johnson (1979-80), Penny Hardaway (1993-94), Steve Francis (1999-00), Chris Paul (2005-06), Michael Carter-Williams (2013-14) and Ben Simmons (2017-18).

Ball also was one of two NBA players to reach all four of those averages this season; The other was Miami forward Jimmy Butler.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards received the other 15 first-place votes and finished in second place in the voting. Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton finished in third place.

A 6-foot-6, 180-pound guard, Ball was the No. 3 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft by the Hornets and his presence gave the team a spark as soon as he hit the training camp floor in December.

Despite a late-season slump caused by multiple injuries, Charlotte finished 33-39 overall and lost in the Eastern Conference play-in round of the NBA postseason.

When officially announced, Ball will become the third Hornets player in franchise history to be named NBA Rookie of the Year; Larry Johnson in 1992 and Emeka Okafor in 2005 were the others.

Ball also joins a select group of players who have won the award that began in 1953, among them 30 Naismith Basketball Hall of Famers and several soon-to-be Hall of Famers.

That group includes all-time greats like Elgin Baylor (1959), Wilt Chamberlain (1960), Oscar Robertson (1961, Earl Monroe (1968), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970), Larry Bird (1980), Michael Jordan (1985), Patrick Ewing (1986), David Robinson (1990), Shaquille O’Neal (1993), Allen Iverson (1997) and Tim Duncan (1998).

Jordan is now the owner of Ball’s franchise.

Soon-to-be Hall of Famers that were once NBA Rookie of the Year include Vince Carter (1999), LeBron James (2004), Chris Paul (2006) and Kevin Durant (2008).