Is there really any debate as to who is going to win the NBA MVP award this season? No, seriously, is there someone besides Russell Westbrook that deserves it more? Who else in the NBA has done more for their franchise alone than with multiple other superstars? Who else is averaging a triple-double in points, rebounds, and assists? If you want to argue about James Harden, then you should take a look at the whole picture.
What defines a Most Valuable Player in the NBA?
There is no exact set of rules for choosing the league's most valuable player. When voters are making their choices, it is based on personal preference more than anything else. Still, things like team record, postseason performance, and statistical rankings against the other players in the NBA are some of the things the voters look at when voting. But at the end of the day, they still wind up making their own choice.
Before we begin, we should mention that we are including the ABA MVP's too. They played almost as many games and against very similar competition, as evident by Julius Erving's dominance which he carried over from the ABA to the NBA.
In honor of the Most Valuable Players from the history of the NBA, let's take a look at all of the multiple award winners.
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15 Mel Daniels, C, Two-Time MVP
The ABA gets a bad reputation because it was not as mainstream as the NBA. Fans were also misled into believing the talent in the ABA was nothing compared to the NBA so accomplishments in the ABA have been criticized harshly over the years. That could not be further from the truth. The ABA was the launching pad for several future Hall of Famers including Rick Barry, Julius Erving, George Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Connie Hawkins, Spencer Haywood, Dan Issel, David Thompson, Caldwell Jones, and Moses Malone. The ABA was much thicker with talent than you would have originally thought.
So when Mel Daniels won the ABA Most Valuable Player award, twice, it deserves to be on this list. He was a special player that averaged 22.4 points and 17.3 rebounds per game during the two years he won the award, on average. He even beat out some of the names above that you never even realized were once in the ABA.
14 Steve Nash, PG, Two-Time MVP
When it comes to Point Guards, Steve Nash is about as good as they come, ever. He was a true floor general who lead the Phoenix Suns for several years but came up just short of winning a NBA Title. He was always an amazing asset to his team but without the proper players around him, he would end up being nothing more than just a future Hall of Famer without a title to his name.
In the two seasons he won the MVP, which just so happened to be the first two years he played in Phoenix, he averaged 17.2 points, 11 assists, and 3.8 rebounds. He lead them to consecutive trips to the Western Conference Finals before dropping them to the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks. He then eventually returned to Dallas where he played a few seasons before retiring with the Lakers.
13 Karl Malone, PF, Two-Time MVP
If there was a list of NBA players that have never won a NBA championship that truly deserved one before they retired, there is no way the list does not include Karl Malone right at the top. He is one of the greatest Power Forward's to ever play the game and yet, somehow, he was struck with the bad luck bug throughout his entire career. Oh, and also, Michael Jordan. MJ stopped the Jazz from claiming any title throughout the 90's by dominating them each and every time he played them. (Except, of course, for that one time MJ pushed Byron Russell out of the way to make that iconic NBA Finals shot to win the game.)
Karl Malone was built like a brick wall and was as dependable as taxes, missing only 10 out of a possible 1,435 games with the Utah Jazz, over 18 seasons. It is one of those incredible statistics that goes unnoticed but deserves to be mentioned because he put up the same numbers in each of those 1,434 games, averaging 25.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He won the MVP award in 1997 and 1999.
12 Tim Duncan, PF, Two-Time MVP
If you were a fan of Karl Malone's ability to own the basic fundamentals of the game, then Tim Duncan must be right up your alley. He is without a doubt, one of the most fundamentally sound forwards in NBA history. He knew how to box out, set a screen, use the glass to make a shot, and shoot free throws. He was a great defender and an even better low post threat during his peak years in the league.
From 2001 until 2003, there was not another player in the NBA that was more valuable to his team than Tim Duncan was to the San Antonio Spurs. His consistency and defense led to an eventual NBA title in the 2002-03 season. During his two back-to-back MVP seasons, Tim averaged 24.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.7 blocks.
11 Bob Pettit, PF, Two-Time MVP
After he destroyed college basketball as a star for the LSU Tigers, Bob Pettit was taken 2nd overall in the 1954 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Hawks. A year later, the Hawks moved from Milwaukee to St.Louis where he would spend the next ten seasons as a superstar forward, with a couple of seasons as the team's only Center. Throughout his years, he was known as one of the deadliest scorers, averaging 26.4 points per game, without a three point line. He was a low post, mid-range nightmare that balanced his scoring with 16.2 rebounds per game as well.
The two seasons he won the league's Most Valuable Player award, were the 1955-56 and 1958-59 seasons. Both years, he averaged 27.5 points with 16.3 rebounds. Compared to a lot of the players today, those numbers are tough to beat. Even if you looked at the best rebounders in the league today, you would have to go back to the 1991-92 season when Dennis Rodman averaged 18.7 boards per game. Other than that, no one has come close to the 16 that Bob Pettit did.
10 Moses Malone, C, Three-Time MVP
As far as underrated goes, there just might not be a bigger name than Moses Malone. He spent the majority of his career playing Center for whichever team needed him the most, playing for a grand total of nine teams between the NBA and ABA. One of the biggest superstars qualities that Moses Malone possessed was the ability to fit in with any team, immediatelty becoming a MVP, something that is not very easy to do. When a player joins a new team, it takes time to develop a relationship with the other players and learn the playbook too. But Moses Malone spent exactly two seasons in a row winning the MVP, one with the Houston Rockets and the other with the Philadelphia 76ers.
His first Most Valuable Player award was given to him during the 1978-79 season when he led the Houston Rockets with 24.8 points, 17.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. He was joined by Calvin Murphy and Rick Barry on a team that had plenty of names you might recognize today on the coaching side of the ball.
9 Stephen Curry, PG, Two-Time MVP
How good of a shooter is Stephen Curry, the NBA's reigning two-time MVP?
We have all read the stories about how much work Stephen Curry puts into the game and as ridiculous as it is, is ability to score is something natural, something you cannot teach, something he was born with. He has made it better with practice but let's face reality for a second, he was born to be a shooter and he has become the league's best. The difference between him and all of the other great shooters in the NBA is that he has perfected each and every little nuance of his shot, constantly improving on it. People seem to forget about his elite ball-handling ability, which is key to becoming such a great shooter in this league.
His insane work ethic has turned his shot into a thing of science. He owns the NBA record from scoring per game average increase between MVP seasons. In other words, he won his first MVP award averaging 23.8 points per game and then followed it up the next season with a 30.1 average per game, a 6.3 point increase, most ever.
8 Julius Erving, SF, Four-Time MVP
We mentioned Mel Daniels accomplishments from his domination in the ABA earlier. Well, we have one more name to add to the list that was a ABA MVP too. Julius Erving won three consecutive ABA MVP awards between 1974 and 1976 which lead to his signing with the Philadelphia 76ers, where his legend was born. His 27.3 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.9 blocks, and 2.3 steals per game was why he earned himself a trio of ABA Most Valuable Player trophies.
Once he got to the NBA, his reputation preceded him and he helped turn the 76ers organization around, winning a MVP award in 1981 followed by a NBA Title in 1983. His career NBA averages were astounding with 22 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game. He was scary on both sides of the ball and was much more athletic than most of the other pure athletes in the league at the time.
7 Larry Bird, SF, Three-Time MVP
Since the 1980s, the Boston Celtics have not been able to maintain the same level of success they had and have struggled over the past few seasons. But back when they were tearing up the league, one of their main superstars was Larry Bird, a tall skinny white boy from the Mid-West that could shoot with deadly accuracy.
For 13 seasons, Larry Bird was incredible. He averaged 19 or more points per game each season, finishing with a 24.3 point per game scoring average throughout his career. He added the ability to pass the ball and rebound too, making him one of those rare big guys that could play like a guard. He was named league MVP in three consecutive seasons, from 1983 to 1986, tying an NBA record for most consecutive MVP awards. For those three years, he averaged 26.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. He also managed to lead the Boston Celtics to three straight NBA Title games, winning two of them.
6 LeBron James, SF, Four-Time MVP
As of today, LeBron James is in 6th position, but that can change once he wins another MVP award, or maybe even more. He is only 32 years old and has a ton of years left in him, if he so chooses. He has surpassed all expectations of what he was hyped up to be and is the only player in NBA history to average 27.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game, for his career. No one in NBA history has been more efficient in those four categories, for a career.
So it comes as no surprise that when you look at his MVP seasons that he would average some incredible numbers like 28.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Those four seasons also include two NBA titles out of his three career championships. Even with the haters out there, LeBron James continues to put up numbers that no one else has been able to match.
5 Bill Russell, C, Five-Time MVP
The magic number for Bill Russell was 13. He played exactly 13 seasons in the NBA, and with the Boston Celtics, before retiring at the age of 34. During those 13 seasons, he landed, not one or two, but five league Most Valuable Player awards. But that might not even be the most impressive part about his game. Sure, he was a dominate big man that could rebound and score better than most of the other players in the league, but he was, more importantly, a winner. He just knew how to win.
From 1956 until 1969, the Boston Celtics played in 12 NBA Finals, winning 11 of them. Bill Russell was there for each and every one of them, including the final three of his career, in which he was also the head coach. He was a player/coach, something that is unheard in today's NBA. The NBA is never going to see dominance like that again and Bill was lucky enough to be a main contributor on the team.
4 Magic Johnson, PG, Three-Time MVP
Just because a player has four or five MVP awards does not guarantee a high ranking on our list. Magic Johnson has just three Most Valuable Player awards yet has climbed into the fourth slot on our list, mainly because of his value to his team. Not only did he put up some great numbers, he the Los Angeles Lakers floor general, averaging 22.9 points, 12.2 assists, and 6.9 rebounds per game. His 12.2 assists per game is a fine example of the type of player he was in LA. He loved to dish the ball and for his entire career, that is exactly what he did.
There is one player that always comes to mind when talking about Magic Johnson, and that is Jamaal Wilkes. He averaged 16.5 points before he teamed up with Magic. From the 1979-80 season, when Magic was a rookie, until the 1984-85 season, Jamaal improved to 19 points, including his four highest scoring seasons of his career. He eventually got the Hall of Fame nod and it makes you wonder, if Magic was not around, would he ever have turned into the star he became?
3 Wilt Chamberlain, C, Four-Time MVP
From 1965 to 1968, in the history of professional basketball, no one has come close to what Wilt Chamberlain did throughout those three seasons. For three years, he not only won three consecutive MVP awards, he also averaged 27.3 points, 24.2 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game, over the three years. That is just plain insane. He was with the Philadelphia 76ers at the time and they won the 1967 NBA Finals, his first NBA title.
He was a freak of an athlete on the court that was playing way before his time. He was built more like Shaquille O'Neal but in a time in the NBA where the majority of the players were short and skinny. He was unstoppable in the paint and on the defensive boards to the point it was like he was playing with a bunch of children out on the court. It was almost too easy at times and his MVP trophy case grew to four total before it was all said and done.
2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, C, Six-Time MVP
With six Most Valuable Player awards, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar remains atop the NBA's leaderboard for most MVP trophies. He became a superstar back in college, at UCLA, where he completely dominated the NCAA for three seasons averaging 26.4 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. He was a multiple AP Player of the Year winner, among many other trophies. That domination led to his name being called first overall during the 1969 NBA draft. He became an instant impact player and won three NBA MVP awards in his first five seasons in the league, something that has never been done before, or since.
It also only took him two seasons to bring the Milwaukee Bucks their one and only NBA Finals win. They would get back to the Finals in 1974 before losing. After six seasons, three MVP's, 342 wins, and one title, he moved on to LA where he would be a major part of the Lakers dominance throughout the 1980s. In his 20 seasons, he missed the playoffs only twice and reached the Finals 10 times, winning six of them. He had a couple of future superstars in LA with him, which is why he did not make the top spot on our list.
1 Michael Jordan, SG, Five-Time MVP
Although Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won one more than Michael Jordan, the one big difference between the two players is the number of times their leadership led to a NBA Title. MJ won the Most Valuable Player award and a NBA Title four times in the same season. Michael Jordan is also the leader, among players with multiple MVP awards, in points, 31.1, and steals, 2.4, per game. But it is more than just the pretty statistics that made MJ such a great player, and MVP. He was everything to the Bulls organization and, with the help of Scottie Pippen, he brought the city of Chicago six NBA Titles.
He was competitive, tough, mean, and angry. But he was still the most adored and admired player in the history of the sport because he was a winner. He wanted to win and pushed not only himself but all of his teammates to be better, to play better, to try harder than ever before. He carried a team for over a decade and it was something many of us grew up watching.
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