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Did Jerry West ever win MVP?

Jerry West never managed to win a regular season NBA MVP award. The career Lakers Point Guard played 14 years in the NBA and won an NBA title and numerous individual accolades, including Finals MVP. The following season, 1969-70 was perhaps the closest he came, finishing second in voting to Willis Reed having put up 31.2 points, 7.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds on his way to claiming the NBA’s scoring title.

Jerry West wasn’t just a player who was quite good and was unlucky not to win the MVP award. Jerry West was constantly in the MVP discussion, always one of the top performers in the league. In a similar way, to his Lakers team coming up second to Bill Russell‘s Celtics in the Finals so many times, West was more than an also ran. We take a look at just how close Jerry West came to winning NBA MVP below.

Jerry West MVP; season by season

We have pulled all of the MVP voting stats for Jerry West’s career from Basketball Reference. Although the data isn’t complete, they paint a picture of just how good West was, for his entire career.

Jerry West NBA MVP Award Votes
SeasonRank1st Place VotesVoting Pts WonShare of Vote PtsMVP Winner
1960-6112151.3%Bill Russell
1961-62566014.1%Bill Russell
1962-6352193.8%Bill Russell
1963-6452398.1%Oscar Robertson
1964-653202020.2%Bill Russell
1965-6621610122.7%Wilt Chamberlain
1966-67NANANANAWilt Chamberlain
1967-68NANANANAWilt Chamberlain
1968-69NANANANAWes Unseld
1969-7025145759.0%Willis Reed
1970-712416621.3%Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1971-7224439343.7%Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1972-7351708.0%Dave Cowens
1973-74NANANANAKareem Abdul-Jabbar

It is important to note some small issues with the data. Voting tallies for seasons 1965-66, 1966-67, 1967-68, 1968-69 and 1970-71 are incomplete. While the winner is accurate as we know who was crowned as MVP each season, the voting breakdown data is incomplete. One of the main reasons for this is that between the 1955-56 and 1979-1980 seasons voting was done by players before switching to the current media voting for the 1980-81 season. Rules prohibited a player from voting for himself or any teammate. However not all votes were preserved properly and so the record is incomplete.

West was drafted in 1960. His Rookie season in 1960-61 saw him get his first MVP votes. Gaining 1 1st place vote and finishing 12th overall. We believe that West would have received MVP votes every year of his career except 1973-74 when he played just 31 games and retired. There are 3 seasons where he isn’t listed as receiving a vote, however these years all fall into the incomplete data category (1967, 1968 and 1969). Seeing as how he finished second in voting the year before this gap and the year after, it is unlikely that he didn’t receive any votes. Especially as his stats didn’t particularly drop off and his Lakers team were as successful as ever.

West finished 2nd place in voting at least 4 times. Losing to Wilt Chamberlain in 1965-66, Willis Reed in 1969-70 and Kareem in both 1970-71 and 1971-72.

What awards did Jerry West win?

Jerry West was a very accomplished basketball player and despite the fact he never managed to win the NBA’s regular season MVP award. He did win many accolades during his NBA career.

After being drafted 2nd overall (maybe a sign of things to come for West) in 1960, behind Oscar Robertson, Jerry West went on to have a distinguished 14 season career that saw him inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980.

By far the crowning moment of his career was winning the 1972 NBA Championship with the LA Lakers. In total West would reach the NBA Finals 9 times. Losing to the Celtics the first 6 times (1962, ‘63, ‘65, ‘66, ‘68 and ‘69), the New York Knicks in 1970 and again in 1973. West would Finally get a title in 1972 when the Lakers beat the Knicks 4-1, West had a marvelous Finals however lost out in the race for Finals MVP to Lakers Centre Wilt Chamberlain.

West’s big Finals MVP moment had actually come 3 years before that when in the 1969 NBA Finals Wests Lakers would lose for the 6th and Final time to the Boston Celtics. This was also the first season in which the Finals MVP was awarded. Despite West playing on the losing side, he was named 1969 Finals MVP. Something that has never happened since, with the winner of the Finals MVP award always being from the team that claims the title.

In addition to his NBA title and Finals MVP, Jerry West was named to 14 out of 14 All-Star teams during his career. Claiming NBA All-star MVP in 1972.

West was named to 12 All NBA Teams, 5 All defensive teams, he won the Assist title in 1972 and the NBA’s scoring title in 1970.

Jerry West was by some distance the most accomplished player to never win the NBA MVP award.

What other NBA greats haven’t won the NBA MVP?

There are several all-time greats that sit alongside Jerry West as players of exceptional talent and the resume of an MVP, but no MVP award to go with it.

Some obvious ones are John Stockton who is the NBA’s all-time leader in both assists and steals and only doesn’t have a title because Michael Jordan twice defeated his Utah team in the NBA Finals.

Knicks legend Patrick Ewing was an 11-time All-Star, Dwyane Wade was a 13-time All-Star, three-time champion and won Finals MVP in just his 3rd season in the league, while SHAQ was on his team.

Then there is Scottie Pippen. Mostly known for being Jordan’s running mate, but his personal resume of 8 All-Defensive First Team selections, 7 All-Star games and 6 rings indicate in a different life he may have had what it takes to claim an NBA MVP title.

We have the man I believe to be the greatest traditional point guard of all-time. Detroit’s Isiah Thomas, back-to-back titles and oh so close to that 3-peat. His underrated Pistons team was always a threat to win more during the height of the Magic-Bird-Jordan dominance. Thomas scored 25 points in a single quarter of an NBA Finals game…with a sprained ankle. One of the only men who went toe to toe with Jordan and won.

Elgin Baylor made the All-NBA First Team ten times and 11 All-Star teams. Averaging a career 27 points per game in both the regular season and the playoffs, played in eight NBA Finals, and still holds the Finals record for most points in a game with 61.

If you pull up a list of all the NBA MVPs, there are plenty of names on the list who are less worthy than the 7 players we’ve discussed above, not to mention Jerry West. However winning the NBA MVP isn’t just about ability, or even the consistent application of that ability. Winning NBA MVP comes down to timing, you have to have the best story at the right time and the stats to back it up.