Although the NBA Finals itself is usually reason enough to get excited, for all the hardcore fans of the game out there, there is arguably a bigger prize at stake: the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.
For those searching out the best NBA odds, in particular, this award holds a particularly special place. Given that wagers placed on who will win this award often have decent odds attached to them, we can understand why some NBA fans pay such close attention!
Also known as the ‘Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award’, the NBA Finals MVP award is an annual award that has been given out since the 1969 NBA Finals. The decision regarding who to award it to is made by a panel of 11 media members who will cast their vote at the end of the NBA Finals. Since it was created, the NBA Finals MVP award has been issued a total of 53 times to 31 different players. While only a handful of players have won it a number of times, those being honored with the award tend to be future ‘Hall of Fame’ contenders.
Interest in the NBA Finals MVP award is intensifying once again as the 2022 NBA season draws to a close in the coming weeks, with keen-eyed bettors already eyeing up Stephen Curry to take the prize at the conclusion of the final game.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the all-time great players who have been bestowed the prestigious NBA Finals MVP award over the years!
As the first-ever awardee of the NBA Finals MVP Award, it would be negligent not to include Jerry West on this list. However, this is not without merit as Jerry West truly was one of the all-time greats. This accolade was particularly well-earned during the 1969 NBA Finals series where West averaged 38 points per game, including a 53-point performance in Game 1 and a 40-point performance in Game 7. In fact, West’s performance was so crucial to the Lakers in this series that Bill Russell famously commented that even though the LA Lakers had not won the Championship, Jerry West was the Champion. For this performance, West is the only player to have received an MVP award despite being on the losing team.
As one of the greatest players to ever don the LA Lakers jersey, Magic Johnson also has the unique honor of being one of the youngest players ever to be awarded an NBA Finals MVP Award. This happened in 1980 when, aged just 20 years old, Johnson helped the Lakers to secure an epic victory. Perhaps most notably in this series, Johnson managed to rotate through all five possible positions. In doing so, Johnson earned 42 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists in the final title-winning game.
As the consensus GOAT player, it comes an as little surprise that Michael Jordan has racked up the most NBA Finals MVP trophies. In total, Jordan was awarded the trophy six times. The first three of these were awarded consecutively between 1991 and 1993, with the second three also awarded consecutively between 1996 and 1998.
Of these, many argue that Jordan’s greatest overall performance came in 1993 when the Chicago Bulls won their third championship in a row — a feat that had not been achieved since the Celtics decades earlier. This was also the series when Jordan averaged 41 points per game, which still stands as the most points per game in a Finals series!
In addition to Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal is the only other player to have won the NBA Finals MVP Award three times consecutively. For O’Neal, this occurred in 2001, 2002, and 2003, which he won while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. As one of the greatest center players of all time, it is perhaps little surprise that O’Neal was in the running for these awards. However, what is often forgotten is the adversity that O’Neal had to face in all three seasons.
In fact, between 2001-2003, O’Neal was suffering from a toe injury, which at various points seemed like it could end his career. This led to him undergoing extensive treatment throughout the period, including several surgeries. Despite this, O’Neal persisted with trademark aggression and tenacity. O’Neal was awarded the MVP Award all three times and banked the highest scoring average for a center in NBA Finals history — which is an incredibly impressive player stat!