Simple question. What are the ten best individual season in the history of the game. I leave how you quantify "best individual season" up to you (perhaps you will go on strctly stats, perhaps you will take into consideration awards and post-season success). But the only rule I will give is that you can only use one season from each player, meaning no single player can appear twice in your list.
Here' my list, feel free to tear it apart. I do leave out some great performances, but of course, when you only get to include ten seasons, you are bound to leave somebody out. Perhaps I should have included LBJ in the list.
1. Wilt Chamberlain 61/62
While the Big O was setting records of his own, Wilt Chamberlain was hard at work raising the bar himself. He posted a record high 50.4 points a game (untouched since), including a 100 point performance. He also pulled down 25.7 rebounds a game, a number that no man, save Wilt himself, has ever eclipsed. Wilt though fell short that season and lost to the Boston Celtics in 7 games.
2. Oscar Robertson 61/62
The Big O’s triple-double season. Has anybody ever averages over 30 points a game while also leading the league in assists with 11.4 a game? Throw in 12.5 rebounds (in a league dominated by the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell) and it seems like no man standing only 6’5 could ever hope to repeat such a performance. Like Jordan in 88/89 though, The Big O lost to the Pistons in the post season, in his case a meagre first-round elimination.
3. Magic Johnson: 81/82
Much has been made of the Big O’s triple-double season, and many suggest is may never happen again that a player could average a triple-double, but in 81/82 Magic Johnson almost did just that. Though his scoring average was not as impressive as The Big O’s, he did post an impressive 18.6 while also grabbing 9.6 rebounds a game and handing out 9.5 assists. He also lead the league in steals (2.7 per game) and shot .537 from the floor. What’s more is he added another ring to his resume that season, and though Moses came away with the regular season MVP, Magic came away with the Finals MVP.
4. Jordan: 88/89
32.5 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 2.9 steals, and almost a block a game while shooting .538 from the floor. The year before, some might say, was better. Jordan won the DPOY and the MVP. He posted higher scoring averages, but never would he post higher assist and rebounding averages. Doug Collins got the most out of Jordan, and for a long stretch of games Jordan was actually averaging a triple-double. No hardware or any sort to speak of, and little playoff success, but an amazing all-around season that has been unequalled since.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 70/71
It’s hard to pick Kareem’s best season, because he had so many, but I will go with the year he brought the Bucks their only title and won his first MVP award. In only his second season in the league, Kareem lead the league in scoring, was second in FG%, and finished in the top five in rebounds (which was impressive considering who the guys ahead of him were). He posted higher scoring averages, and high FG%s and higher rebounding averages, but never in the same season. Besides, it was one of only two times that Kareem won the regular season MVP and the championship in the same season, and the other season wasn’t nearly as impressive as this one. And hey, he also helped win the Bucks their only NBA championship
6. John Stockton 89/90
The 89/90 season was likely disappointing for Stockton personally, as he and the Jazz were ultimately knocks out in the first round. But that season he did something no other PG had ever done before, and has yet to do since (and likely may never do). He averaged 14.5 assists per game. He also threw in 17.2 points while shooting .514 from the floor, .416 from the arc and .819 from the charity stripe. And he even chipped in 2.7 steals a game (not as impressive as his league leading 3.2 steals per game the season before, but enough to place him second in the league, behind Michael Jordan who lead the league with 2.8 steals per game. Stockton also posted a meagre 3.5 assists a game, almost reaching a 5-1 assist-to-turnover ration. Stockton, in fact, didn’t even rank in the top five for turnovers that season, almost unheard of for a PG who lead the league in assists (Isiah Thomas was the league leader, suggest the Olympic committee was well within reason to choose Stockton over Thomas for the Dream Team). Stockton’s offensive output that season (in you credit him with two points for each assist) was equal to Jordan’s (both contributed 46.2 point per game when assists and points at totalled).
7. Larry Bird 86/87
The Celtics had just won what would be their last NBA in the Bird-era, and tragedy struck the organization with the passing of Len Bias. Bias was expected to be the next big thing and take some of the burden off of Bird’s shoulders. Bird responded though posting 28.1 points per game, 9.2 rebounds and 7.6 assist (a personal best) all while shooting .525 from the field, .400 from the arc and .910 from the free throw line. I know Calderon has done it, but few besides Bird managed to pull averages at or above .500 .400 and .900. He also threw in close to 2 steals per game and close to a block per game as well. Though his long-time rival manages to come away with the NBA MVP and beat Bird in the finals, it was perhaps the best individual performance of his career.7. Not as close to a triple double as Magic was in 81/82, but Bird came closer to what the Big O did than most.
8. Bill Russell 61/62
The 61/62 season saw great feats by the Big O and Wilt, so Russell’s numbers (18.9 points and 23.6 rebounds to go with 4.5 assists), seem meek. But he scoring average was a personal best, and though his assist average was not a career high, it almost doubled Wilt’s output that season. And he came away with two things neither Wilt or Oscar managed to come away with that season: The MVP award, and an NBA championship.
9. Moses Malone: 82/83
Fresh off an MVP performance, it seemed like Moses could hope to top his production from the pervious season, and nobody had ever won back-to-back MVP awards on different teams, but hey, there is a first time for everything. Moses won the regular season MVP, but did one better in winning the finals MVP as well en route to his first (and only) NBA championship. Not very impressive assist numbers, and his turnovers were woeful, but he lead the league in rebounds (15.3) and posted 24.5 points per game, not a personal best, but still quite amazing. He also got over a steal a game and 2 blocks per game and was named to the All-NBA first team and All-Defensive first team. Perhaps his last season in Houston was more impressive since he had a much higher scoring averages, but 82/83 could have seen Moses score just as much, he just didn’t have to.
10. Dennis Roman 91/92
The Pistons were two years removed from the NBA championship, and Thomas was not aging well, nor were the Pistons getting much better, but there was a bright spot for the team that was putting off rebuilding: Dennis Rodman post the highest rebounding average in the post-Chamberlain era. 18.7 rebounds a game! His offensive output was meagre (9.8 points per game), but he shot .539 from the field and put forth an amazing defensive effort (though he was not rewarded with a third DPOY award that season). He posted his second best TRB% that year with 26.2% which was short of his 94/95 effort, but his averages were just so impressive that season. That said, I wouldn’t argue with anybody who put his 94/95 season ahead of his 91/92 season, but 91/92 was his break out season. Ultimately, both seasons resulted in playoff failures. The Knicks knocked off the Pistons in the first round, and were knocked out by the Rockets.