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LaMelo Ball Named 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year over Anthony Edwards

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJune 16, 2021

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

For the first time since the 2004-05 season, a Charlotte Hornets player has been named NBA Rookie of the Year. 

NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT

Hornets teammate @MilesBridges surprised LaMelo with his #KiaROY award 👏 https://t.co/Nrq9IHGmph

LaMelo Ball beat out Tyrese Haliburton of the Sacramento Kings and Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves for the award.

NBA Communications @NBAPR

LaMelo Ball is the third player to be named Kia NBA Rookie of the Year with Charlotte, joining Larry Johnson (1991-92) and Emeka Okafor (2004-05). More ➡️ https://t.co/NsJmSFk25a Voting results ⬇️ https://t.co/fUYoVGGO3v

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the news.

Ball landed in Charlotte after being selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft. He was regarded by  many as the best player in last year's draft class, but concerns about his fit with teams picking in the top two spots and his shooting caused him to have a modest slide. 

Things couldn't have worked out better for the Hornets. The 19-year-old became a breakout star during the 2020-21 season, especially after head coach James Borrego moved him into the starting lineup. 

Even before becoming a full-time starter, Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. He dropped 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a 113-105 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 9. 

In his first 21 games as a starter, he averaged 19.5 points on 42.6 percent three-point shooting, 6.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds. He suffered a fractured right wrist on March 20 against the Los Angeles Clippers that required surgery and initially seemed like that was the end of his rookie season. 

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The Hornets announced on April 19 that Ball's wrist was healed and he could return to basketball activities. 

After returning to the lineup on May 1, he ended the regular season averaging 15.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game. 

Despite missing 21 games because of the injury, Ball's arrival elevated the Hornets to at least being respectable in the Eastern Conference. They had more wins through 47 games this season (24) than they did in 65 games in 2019-20 (23). 

Ball gave the Hornets (33-39) an identity and a legitimate star talent to build around after years of trying to chase the seventh or eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. He is the first player in franchise history to win this award since Emeka Okafor 16 years ago. 

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