Taking a closer look at some of the biggest fluke seasons in NBA history.
The other day I was glancing through a list of players who have won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award and it struck me that many of the winners were not able to sustain their success after their award-winning season.
In other words, these were just cases of players having fluke seasons, statistical anomalies in otherwise ordinary careers. That led me to the question that motivated today’s post: What were the biggest fluke seasons in NBA history?
I used a couple of formulas to help me along the way, but in the end this was much more art than science. When making the selections, I eliminated cases where an established star was having his peak season. For example, Tracy McGrady’s 2002-03 season stands out in his career line, but it’s hard to call it a fluke given that McGrady was a seven-time All-NBA selection.
Here are my choices for the seven biggest fluke seasons in NBA history, presented in chronological order. Please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments, and let me know if you feel I’ve missed someone.
Don May, 1970-71
In all of the profiles that follow, three figures will be presented for each statistic:
Average or total for all seasons before the given season.
Average or total for the given season.
Average or total for all seasons after that given season.
GP — 85 / 76 / 218
MPG — 9.4 / 35.1 / 14.5
PPG — 3.5 / 20.2 / 6.9
RPG — 2.0 / 7.5 / 2.6
APG — 0.6 / 2.0 / 0.9
FG% — 37.0 / 47.1 / 45.6
May, an All-America forward out of Dayton, had two nondescript seasons with the New York Knicks before he was selected in the NBA expansion draft by the Buffalo Braves in 1970.
May had a breakout season with the Braves, averaging 20.2 PPG, shooting 47.1% from the floor and 79.1% from the free throw line. All three of those figures placed him in the top 25 in the NBA that season.
Following the 1970-71 season, May was traded by the Braves to the Atlanta Hawks. May never came close to duplicating his 1970-71 campaign, and after just four more seasons he was out of the NBA.
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