9 Regular Season MVPs Who Didn’t Win Finals MVP


Here at NBALEAD, we have recently had a great debate on whether after winning the regular season MVP, should that player also win the Finals MVP and what it means if they don’t. In my opinion, I don’t believe winning the Finals MVP and regular season MVP is required to be remembered as an all time great player. In fact, in the 47 years that the Finals MVP has been given out, only 10 players who have won the regular season MVP, have also been awarded the Finals MVP. Those Players include Willis Reed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and LeBron James. In total, those 10 players have won 23 Finals MVPs, which leaves 24 players who won the MVP but not the Finals MVP trophy. These are 9 of the best players who never accomplished that feat.

9. Wes Unseld 1968-69

This NBA season was the first year the Finals MVP trophy was given out. It was also Unseld’s rookie season, a season where he would win the MVP and Rookie of the Year award. He became only the second rookie player to ever win the MVP, the other was Wilt Chamberlain in 1959. Unseld averaged 13.8 points, 18.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Unfortunately, Unseld’s efforts could not help his team the Baltimore Bullets, make the Finals that year. Jerry West, of the Los Angeles Lakers, won the Finals MVP award in a losing effort. The Lakers were up against their rivals the Boston Celtics and West had one of the greatest Finals and playoffs of all time. In the Finals, West averaged 37.9 points, 7.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds. He is still the only player too ever win the Finals MVP on a losing team.

8. Julius Erving 1980-81

Julius Erving aka Dr. J, is one of the most polarizing players the NBA has ever seen. Throughout his career, he went to the All Star game every season and won three championships, two in the ABA and one in the NBA. In the 1980-81 season, Erving averaged 24.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game. That year, the Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated in the Conference Finals by the Boston Celtics. Cedric Maxwell, of the Celtics, was named the Finals MVP. He averaged 16.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists against the Houston Rockets. He and Chauncey Billups, are the only two players in NBA history who have won the Finals MVP award and have not been inducted in the Hall of Fame, not including active players.

7. Charles Barkley 1992-93

Probably the most outspoken player on this list by far, Sir Charles Barkley was never afraid to speak his mind on any matter. Many of you will recall his famous Nike Commercial, where he proclaimed that he was “Not a Role Model” and encouraged parents to raise their children and not let NBA players do their job. The 1992-93 season was the first and last time Barkley would win the MVP award, but he made it one worth remembering. It was his first season as a member of the Phoenix Suns and he would lead them to regular season record of 62-20 and their second Finals appearance in franchise history. During the regular season, he averaged 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.6 steals. Michael Jordan would crush Barkley’s championship dream that year, but he would not just lay down and let the Bulls run away with it. He averaged 26.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.6 steals against the Bulls. Jordan would go on to win the Finals MVP in 6 games versus the Suns.

6. Allen Iverson 2000-01

The smallest MVP with the biggest heart, Iverson always had to work a bit harder than the rest of the players on this list. After being drafted four years earlier, Iverson turned the entire franchise around from one of the worst teams in the league to the Eastern Conference’s best in 2000. Carrying his team to a 56-26 record, Iverson averaged 31.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.5 steals per game, while also winning the scoring title as well. In the playoffs, Iverson continued his dominant play against all the teams that came against him. His last opponent that year would be the Los Angeles Lakers. In the Finals, Los Angeles would give up the teams only loss in the entire playoff run to the 76ers, after starting 11-0. During that series, Iverson averaged 35.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game, doing everything in his power to bring a championship back to Philadelphia. Shaquille O’Neal would win his second straight Finals MVP for the Lakers.

5. Dirk Nowitzki 2006-07

Without a doubt the greatest European born player to ever step foot on an NBA court, Dirk Nowitzki will be heading into the 19th year of his professional career come October. Nowitzki earned his only MVP award just one year after leading his Dallas Mavericks team to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. The 2006-07 season, Dirk averaged 24.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. That season, he became only the 5th person (there are now 7) to enter the elite 50-40-90 club, with members including Larry Bird who did it twice, Mark Price, Reggie Miller and his former teammate, Steve Nash. Dirk’s MVP kind of gets overlooked due to the fact that he managed to grab the number one seed that year, but was bounced out by the Golden State Warriors in the first round. It was the first time in a 7 game format that a 8th seed eliminated a 1st seed. After his early playoff exit, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs went on to become the Finals MVP that year, helping his franchise take home their fourth championship since 1999.

4. Kobe Bryant 2007-08

This season was the last in a twenty year career for Kobe Bryant, but none of us will ever forget the amazing things he did on court during those years. After having two unbelievable seasons from 2005-2006, averaging over 30+ points both years, many people believe Bryant was robbed of two consecutive MVP trophies. But in 2007, Bryant would finally win his first and last MVP trophy. On a team with not many options other than Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, Bryant was forced to shoulder the offensive load for the team. Averaging 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.8 steals, Kobe carried a mediocre roster to a  57-25 record and the 1st seed in the West. Reaching the Finals for the first time since 2004 and since Shaquille O’Neal’s departure. Bryant was on the hunt for his 4th NBA championship. Going against the franchise’s greatest nemesis the Boston Celtics, Bryant and the Lakers gave a valiant effort but in the end, lost in six games. Kobe would average 25.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.7 steals per game during this series. Paul Pierce of the Celtics was eventually named the NBA Finals MVP.

3. Derrick Rose 2010-11

Once thought to be the Bulls organizations next “Michael Jordan” caliber player, Rose was in the prime of his career in 2010. Though he doesn’t have the explosiveness he once did after multiple injuries, Rose will be remembered by true Chicago fans as the hometown kid who gave everything he had in his early years. Winning the Rookie of the Year Award two years earlier, Rose had his eyes set on the MVP trophy. Leading his team to the NBA’s top seed in the playoffs with a 62-20 record, the Bulls were again looking like the Bulls from the 90s. That season, Rose had his best stats of his career, averaging 25.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.0 steals per game. Rose and the Bulls would make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would meet the Miami Heat and LeBron James. Chicago would win Game 1, but Miami would rollover the Bulls in four straight games. The Finals MVP would be Dirk Nowitzki, as he and the Mavericks defeated the Heat in six games.

2. Kevin Durant 2013-14

The most memorable of all acceptance speeches came from the 2013-14 MVP Kevin Durant, whose famous “You the real MVP” line to his mother, has been memed countless times since. That year, Durant was on a mission to show everyone that he was not going to be stopped, after being eliminated from the playoffs in the Semi-finals by the Memphis Grizzlies one year before. He would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that year, averaging 32.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game, taking his team to a 59-23 record and the second seed in the playoffs. Oklahoma City would make it to the Conference Finals, but were beat out by the San Antonio Spurs in six games. The Spurs would go on to win the NBA Finals that year, dominating the Miami Heat in five games. Kawhi Leonard would win the Finals MVP trophy for San Antonio, bringing home the team’s fifth NBA championship.

  1. Stephen Curry 2014-15

One half of the NBA’s “Splash Brothers” duo would win his first of two MVPs that year, his play would show exactly why he deserved it as well. For the third consecutive season, Curry led the league in 3 point shots made, setting the all time record at 286. He averaged 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game, all while leading the Warriors to a league best 67-15 record. He also led the league in free throw percentage at 91.4% and showed just how valuable to the Warriors he was, as the team scored 920 more points than they allowed while Curry was on the court, giving him an 11.5 plus/minus, the highest in the league that year. After making it to the NBA Finals, the Warriors were matched up against the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. In the six games versus the Cavaliers, Curry averaged 26.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.8 steals. Even though his numbers were great and his team won the championship, the Finals MVP was awarded to his teammate, Andre Iguodala. Iguodala was given the Finals MVP trophy for his efforts in guarding LeBron James and his transition from the bench to a starting role in the Finals. He had 125-1 odds of taking home the Finals MVP trophy that year.


About Emanuel Godina

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