Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball was named NBA Rookie of the Year on Wednesday night, becoming the third player in franchise history to capture the honour, joining Larry Johnson (1991-92) and Emeka Okafor (2004-05).
Ball, 19, received 84 first-place votes and earned 465 total points from a global panel of 99 sportswriters and broadcasters.
Ball was among a group of three finalists for the award, along with Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards.
Edwards received the other 15 first-place votes and finished second with 309 points. Haliburton finished third with 114 points.
While Ball said he expected to win the award, the honour “is probably something I’m never going to forget”. He added it further fuels his motivation to improve next season, according to the Myrtle Beach Sun News.
“Definitely next season I want to come in with this little boost and pretty much looking forward to next season now. That’s what we’re all working out for. That’s what we’re all here for. Pretty much just trying to get better every day,” he said. The team is in Charlotte for offseason workouts.
Ball, whose older brother Lonzo plays for the New Orleans Pelicans, took an unconventional route to the NBA, playing in Australia and Lithuania instead of U.S. colleges.
The third overall pick in last year’s draft by Charlotte, Ball filled up the scoresheet with 15.7 points per game, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals. A wrist injury limited him to only 51 games (31 starts).
Coming back from a fractured right wrist in late March that cost him 21 games gave him a boost, one that benefited the team as well, he said. He finished with 15.0 points, 6.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game over the Hornets’ final 11 games, as they finished 10th in the Eastern Conference and qualified for the play-in game.
“I felt like me coming back helped that much more. But I don’t like missing games and just want to help my team win,” he said.
Overall, Ball silenced critics who questioned his long-range ability, connecting on 35.2 percent of his 3-point attempts. Edwards, 19, who put up 14.9 points per game before the All-Star break, scored 23.8 points per game the rest of the way to finish at 19.3 in 72 games (55 starts). The No. 1 overall pick in 2020, he stepped it up in his final eight games, shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range and scoring 27 points per game.
Haliburton, 21, averaged 13 points and 5.3 assists and hit 40.9 percent on his 3-point tries in 58 games (20 starts).