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How many number 1 draft picks have won NBA Finals MVP?

There have been over 70 NBA Drafts, each with a player chosen at number 1. Of those 77 NBA first overall picks only 8 have gone on to win NBA Finals MVP. They are; Bill Walton (1), Hakeem Olajuwon (2), James Worthy (1), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2), LeBron James (4), Magic Johnson (3), Shaquille O’Neal (3) & Tim Duncan (3). Since the NBA Finals MVP was introduced in 1969, 19 of the 53 awards have gone to players drafted first overall.

Most of these names will stand out to you as some of the all-time greats of the game. Rightly so as well, players who were tipped for greatness as early as high school and managed to maintain that through Hall of Fame careers that saw them stand on top of the Basketball world. Success is far from guaranteed for even the most hotly tipped prospects.

List of number 1 NBA Draft picks and years they won NBA Finals MVP

Since the introduction of the NBA Finals award in 1969 there have been 54 NBA Finals MVPs crowned with 33 players winning the award. Michael Jordan has won the most, with 6 NBA Finals MVPs to his name. Second is Lebron James with 4 and then we have Magic, Shaq and Duncan (each with 3) filling out the top 5. Jordan stands out as the only player in the top 5 that wasn’t an NBA Draft number 1 pick. Always exceptional.

The 19 times the NBA Finals MVP has been won by a former 1st overall draft pick are listed below.

PlayerDraft YearTeam Drafted byNBA Finals MVP YearNBA Finals MVP Team
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar1969Milwaukee Bucks1970-71Milwaukee Bucks
Bill Walton1974Portland Trail Blazers1976-77Portland Trail Blazers
Magic Johnson1979LA Lakers1979-80LA Lakers
Magic Johnson1979LA Lakers1981-82LA Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar1969Milwaukee Bucks1984-85LA Lakers
Magic Johnson1979LA Lakers1986-87LA Lakers
James Worthy1982LA Lakers1987-88LA Lakers
Hakeem Olajuwon1984Houston Rockets1993-94Houston Rockets
Hakeem Olajuwon1984Houston Rockets1994-95Houston Rockets
Tim Duncan1997San Antonio Spurs1998-99San Antonio Spurs
Shaquille O’Neal1992Orlando Magic1999-00LA Lakers
Shaquille O’Neal1992Orlando Magic2000-01LA Lakers
Shaquille O’Neal1992Orlando Magic2001-02LA Lakers
Tim Duncan1997San Antonio Spurs2002-03San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan1997San Antonio Spurs2004-05San Antonio Spurs
LeBron James2003Cleveland Cavaliers2011-12Miami Heat
LeBron James2003Cleveland Cavaliers2012-13Miami Heat
LeBron James2003Cleveland Cavaliers2015-16Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James2003Cleveland Cavaliers2019-20LA Lakers

Of the 77 number 1 draft picks in NBA History, only 8 have gone on to win Finals MVP. That’s just 10.5% of number 1 overall picks. Of these 8 players, 5 of them have won Finals MVP while playing for the LA Lakers. If Anthony Davis goes on to win Finals MVP in 2023, then he will be 6/9 number 1 picks to win Finals MVP to have done it with the LA Lakers. Incredibly they only drafted 2 of them. Magic and Worthy.

List of number 1 NBA Draft picks who have not won Finals MVP

The vast majority of players selected number 1 overall in the draft do not go on to lead their teams to glorious NBA Finals wins. This doesn’t mean they are total flops, just that many never become the number 1 player at the right time on a squad that has the depth to win it all with them as their leader.

NBA Draft FIrst Overall Picks who have not won NBA Finals MVP
NBA Number 1 PickDraft YearTeam Drafted byNationalityFormer Team
Clifton McNeely1947Pittsburgh IronmenUnited StatesTexas Wesleyan
Andy Tonkovich1948Providence SteamrollersUnited StatesMarshall
Howie Shannon1949Providence SteamrollersUnited StatesKansas State
Charlie Share1950Boston CelticsUnited StatesBowling Green
Gene Melchiorre1951Baltimore BulletsUnited StatesBradley
Mark Workman1952Milwaukee HawksUnited StatesWest Virginia
Ray Felix1953Baltimore BulletsUnited StatesManchester British-Americans (ABL)
Frank Selvy1954Baltimore BulletsUnited StatesFurman
Dick Ricketts1955Milwaukee HawksUnited StatesDuquesne
Sihugo Green1956Rochester RoyalsUnited StatesDuquesne
Rod Hundley1957Cincinnati RoyalsUnited StatesWest Virginia
Elgin Baylor1958Minneapolis LakersUnited StatesSeattle
Bob Boozer1959Cincinnati RoyalsUnited StatesKansas State
Oscar Robertson1960Cincinnati RoyalsUnited StatesCincinnati
Walt Bellamy1961Chicago PackersUnited StatesIndiana
Bill McGill1962Chicago ZephyrsUnited StatesUtah
Art Heyman1963New York KnicksUnited StatesDuke
Jim Barnes1964New York KnicksUnited StatesTexas Western
Fred Hetzel1965San Francisco WarriorsUnited StatesDavidson
Cazzie Russell1966New York KnicksUnited StatesMichigan
Jimmy Walker1967Detroit PistonsUnited StatesProvidence
Elvin Hayes1968San Diego RocketsUnited StatesHouston
Bob Lanier1970Detroit PistonsUnited StatesSt. Bonaventure
Austin Carr1971Cleveland CavaliersUnited StatesNotre Dame
LaRue Martin1972Portland Trail BlazersUnited StatesLoyola (Illinois)
Doug Collins1973Philadelphia 76ersUnited StatesIllinois State
Bill Walton1974Portland Trail BlazersUnited StatesUCLA
David Thompson1975Atlanta HawksUnited StatesNC State
John Lucas1976Houston RocketsUnited StatesMaryland
Kent Benson1977Milwaukee BucksUnited StatesIndiana
Mychal Thompson1978Portland Trail BlazersBahamasMinnesota
Joe Barry Carroll1980Golden State WarriorsUnited StatesPurdue
Mark Aguirre1981Dallas MavericksUnited StatesDePaul
Ralph Sampson1983Houston RocketsUnited StatesVirginia
Patrick Ewing1985New York KnicksUnited States[Georgetown
Brad Daugherty1986Cleveland CavaliersUnited StatesNorth Carolina
David Robinson1987San Antonio SpursUnited StatesNavy
Danny Manning1988Los Angeles ClippersUnited StatesKansas
Pervis Ellison1989Sacramento KingsUnited StatesLouisville
Derrick Coleman1990New Jersey NetsUnited StatesSyracuse
Larry Johnson1991Charlotte HornetsUnited StatesUNLV
Chris Webber1993Orlando MagicUnited StatesMichigan
Glenn Robinson1994Milwaukee BucksUnited StatesPurdue
Joe Smith1995Golden State WarriorsUnited StatesMaryland
Allen Iverson1996Philadelphia 76ersUnited StatesGeorgetown
Michael Olowokandi1998Los Angeles ClippersNigeriaPacific
Elton Brand1999Chicago BullsUnited StatesDuke
Kenyon Martin2000New Jersey NetsUnited StatesCincinnati
Kwame Brown2001Washington WizardsUnited StatesGlynn Academy HS (Brunswick, Georgia)
Yao Ming2002Houston RocketsChinaShanghai Sharks (China)
Dwight Howard2004Orlando MagicUnited StatesSACA (Atlanta)
Andrew Bogut2005Milwaukee BucksAustraliaUtah
Andrea Bargnani2006Toronto RaptorsItalyBenetton Treviso (Italy)
Greg Oden2007Portland Trail BlazersUnited StatesOhio State
Derrick Rose2008Chicago BullsUnited StatesMemphis
Blake Griffin2009Los Angeles ClippersUnited StatesOklahoma
John Wall2010Washington WizardsUnited StatesKentucky
Kyrie Irving2011Cleveland CavaliersUnited StatesDuke
Anthony Davis2012New Orleans HornetsUnited StatesKentucky
Anthony Bennett2013Cleveland CavaliersCanadaUNLV
Andrew Wiggins2014Cleveland CavaliersCanadaKansas
Karl-Anthony Towns2015Minnesota TimberwolvesDominican RepublicKentucky
Ben Simmons2016Philadelphia 76ersAustraliaLSU
Markelle Fultz2017Philadelphia 76ersUnited StatesWashington
Deandre Ayton2018Phoenix SunsBahamasArizona
Zion Williamson2019New Orleans PelicansUnited StatesDuke
Anthony Edwards2020Minnesota TimberwolvesUnited StatesGeorgia
Cade Cunningham2021Detroit PistonsUnited StatesOklahoma State
Paolo Banchero2022Orlando MagicUnited StatesDuke

Of course not all of these 69 number 1 first picks have had an equal chance to win Finals MVP. Some retired before the award was introduced and some have many quality years in the League ahead of them to try and reach the pinnacle of the basketball world.

From 1956 – 1969 when the award was introduced the NBA was dominated by Bill Russell who would probably have won the majority of the 13 Finals MVPs had they been available. Russell, despite winning 11 NBA Championships, was not in fact a number 1 pick. In 1956 the Rochester Royals needed a shooting guard, and so drafted Sihugo Green, with Russell going second to the Celtics. Bill Russell who played in, and won, the 1969 Finals that saw the NBA Finals MVP trophy introduced was not awarded Finals MVP. That award instead went to Jerry West of the Lakers, who were defeated by Russell’s Celtics. West himself was also not a number 1 overall draft pick, having been taken second, behind Oscar Robertson in 1960.

Dwight Howard came close to joining the list in 2009 when his Magic team lost 4-1 to Kobe’s Lakers with Kobe claiming Finals MVP. David Robinson (Spurs), Kyrie Irving (Cavs) and Andrew Wiggins ( Warriors) are all number 1 overall picks who have won the title as a significant contributor, having a decent case for Finals MVP, but losing out. Robinson to Duncan in 1999, Kyrie to Lebron in 2016 and Wiggins to Curry in 2022.

Kareem was the first number 1 overall pick to win Finals MVP

Kareem became the first number 1 overall pick to win Finals MVP when he won the title with the Bucks in 1972. Beating fellow number 1 overall pick Oscar Robertson to the honor. Kareem would go on to win it again for the Lakers in 1985 becoming the first number 1 overall pick to win Finals MVP for multiple teams.

Magic won Finals MVP in his rookie season

Maybe the most impressive feat in NBA Finals history was Magic Johnson in his 1980 rookie season. The controversial number 1 pick was seen as more flash than product coming out of college. He helped ignite a Lakers team that had looked sluggish and old the previous year. They tore their way to the finals where they faced Dr J and the 76ers. Lakers leading scorer and defensive rock Kareem went down hurt in game 5. The Lakers traveled to Philadelphia without him where Rookie Point Guard Magic Johnson moved to center for game 6 with the Lakers 3-2 up. Everyone expected defeat and the hope that Kareem would be fit for game 7 back in LA.

42 points, 7 assists and 15 rebounds later the Magic had won the game, the title and Finals MVP. Not bad for a rookie. The former number 1 overall pick would go on to win 2 more Finals MVPs in his career.

Lebron has won the most Finals MVPs as a number 1 pick

Lebron James was drafted 1st in 2003. He has won 4 Finals MVPs for 3 different teams. A master of evolution James has played a different style of basketball in each of his runs at the title. Young and athletic for his 2 with the Heat in 2012 and 2013. Powerful and precise with the Cavs in 2016 and able to defer to his dominant sidekick Anthony Davis when he won the Bubble title in 2020 with the Lakers.

What number 1 Draft picks might still win Finals MVP?

Of all number one NBA Draft picks, the following players are still active in the NBA and have not yet won Finals MVP.

  • Derrick Rose
  • Blake Griffin
  • John Wall
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Anthony Davis
  • Anthony Bennett
  • Andrew Wiggins
  • Karl-Anthony Towns
  • Ben Simmons
  • Markelle Fultz
  • Deandre Ayton
  • Zion Williamson
  • Anthony Edwards
  • Cade Cunningham
  • Victor Wembanyama

We’ve also included french sensation Victor Wembanyama who looks odds on to be drafted with the 2023 first overall pick to the San Antonio Spurs before the 2023-24 season begins.

From that list we can eliminate several players who are either too old or have failed to meet the required talent level in the NBA to be a serious threat to win Finals MVP.

  • Derrick Rose – age/injuries
  • Blake Griffin – age/injuries
  • John Wall – age
  • Anthony Bennett – talent
  • Markelle Fultz – talent
  • Deandre Ayton – skill set

This leaves us a tantalizing list of players that have a real chance of being the best player on a team that wins an NBA Championship.

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Anthony Davis
  • Andrew Wiggins
  • Karl-Anthony Towns
  • Ben Simmons
  • Zion Williamson
  • Anthony Edwards
  • Cade Cunningham
  • Victor Wembanyama

The top two, Davis and Kyrie are the vets, who have plenty of time left in their primes. Both have already won championships alongside Lebron James and had a decent claim to be Finals MVP in those series. Davis is currently (May 2023) tearing through the Playoffs as the standout player on a rejuvenated Lakers roster. AD looks most likely as Kyrie teamed up with Luka Doncic in Dallas and sparked a level of failure that saw them fall from chasing home court advantage to ending up in the lottery.

Andrew Wiggins is younger than AD and Kyrie and is also a Champion. He also staked a great claim for Finals MVP in 2022 when he helped the Warriors to their 4th title in the Steph Curry era. That Finals MVP trophy was always earmarked for Curry, though. If the Warriors make it back again, maybe Wiggins’ defense and shot making will be enough for him to gain the honors in the future.

Towns, SImmons and Zion sit in a little group of players who should be making a bigger impact than they currently are. Zion has always been dominant when he’s played. But less than 100 games in 4 years has held both him and his Pelicans team back. Should he stay fit for an entire season and playoff run, it would be easy to see him lifting the Bill Russell trophy for Finals MVP.

Towns has so far failed to spark into life in Minnesota. He has the talent and now the help from Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards (more on him in a moment). A poor showing this year as they failed to gel as a team set his reputation back. If the Tomberwolves can get it together, then there is no reason that Town’s talent couldn’t see him and Edwards duking it out for Finals MVP one day. Simmons has a long way back, but man, when he plays he’s so so good.

Finally we have the kids. Town’s running mate, Edwards is a beast of a guard who keeps adding to his game. Perfect for this modern NBA he could be unstoppable once he’s worked out all the kinks. Cade Cunningham showed excellent poise and playmaking skill in his first year with Detroit. Unfortunately and injury hit second season saw him sidelined as they “tanked for Wemby”. Alas that was not to be as Detroit finished with the 5th overall pick. Still, with a young talented roster around him, Cunningham could fulfill his potential and lead them to a title.

Finally we have Victor Wembanyama, the 7 foot 4 French basketball alien. Billed as a center, showcasing the skills of a guard. The ceiling for Wembanyama is limitless. If he takes the Spurs to a title in his rookie season no one would be truly surprised. However most likely he spends 5 years developing under Coach Pops before moving to LA and winning a title for the Lakers. It is NBA tradition after all.