Since Jerry West won the first ever NBA Finals MVP award in 1969, when he lost valiantly in the Finals to the Bill Russell’s Celtics, no player from the losing team has ever received the trophy again. Many sports purists will say this is absolutely right and just, winning is winning. Of all the NBA Superstars to claim the most prized of individual NBA awards, who has won it the most?
Who has the most NBA Finals MVPs? Michael Jordan has won the most NBA Finals MVPs. Jordan won 6 championships and 6 Finals MVPs in 6 trips to the NBA Finals with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. Lebron James is second, winning 4 Finals MVPs and 4 titles in 10 trips to the NBA Finals with 3 different franchises.
If Jordan being number one on a list of successful Basketball players wasn’t a surprise to you, then you’re not alone. His dominance is undeniable, but will he ever be challenged for his perch as the ultimate Finals MVP?
List of players with multiple NBA Finals MVPs
|Player||NBA Franchise||NBA Finals MVPs||Years Won|
|Michael Jordan||Chicago Bulls||6||1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998|
|LeBron James||Miami Heat (2), Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers||4||2012, 2013, 2016, 2020 (Still Active)|
|Magic Johnson||Los Angeles Lakers||3||1980, 1982, 1987|
|Shaquille O’Neal||Los Angeles Lakers||3||2000, 2001, 2002|
|Tim Duncan||San Antonio Spurs||3||1999, 2003, 2005|
|Willis Reed||New York Knicks||2||1970, 1973|
|Kareem Abdul-Jabbar||Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers||2||1971, 1985|
|Larry Bird||Boston Celtics||2||1984, 1986|
|Hakeem Olajuwon||Houston Rockets||2||1994, 1995|
|Kobe Bryant||Los Angeles Lakers||2||2009, 2010|
|Kevin Durant||Golden State Warriors||2||2017, 2018 (Still Active)|
|Kawhi Leonard||San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors||2||2014, 2019 (Still Active)|
|21 Players||There are 21 players who have won Finals MVP once||1||–|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks||1||2021 (Still Active)|
|Steph Curry||Golden State Warriors||1||2022 (Still Active)|
As of 2022. Active players highlighted. Giannis and Steph Curry included due to the likelihood they add to their total.
The above list makes it clear that since 1969 when the NBA Finals MVP award was introduced, Jordan has been the most dominant. The league however started 20 years earlier. The man who actually led his team to victory in the 1969 NBA Finals, as both coach and player made his mark before the Finals MVP was created. Bill Russell won 10 NBA titles before his final victory in 1969. It is safe to say that he would probably have been voted as MVP in at least 6 of them. The ultimate team player, similar to Tim Duncan in outlook, was the most dominant force in Basketball up until his retirement as a champion in 1969. Duncan won 5 titles and claimed MVP in 3 of them. As a blueprint this would put Russell at least equal to Jordan. Let’s face it, in 2009 the NBA named the Trophy after him.
NBA Finals MVP, Jordan, Lebron and the GOAT debate
Don’t worry we are not going to open the full GOAT debate here. Lebron’s second place on the NBA Finals win’s list behind only Michael Jordan is significant. Has made it to 10 more Finals than Jordan, losing 6, where Jordan never lost.
Interestingly though in losing Lebron almost achieved something magnificent. He created a narrative whereby he could have won 1 if not two Finals MVPs while playing on the losing side.
In 2015 Lebron’s Cavaliers faced an upstart Golden State Warriors team in the NBA Finals. Starting the Playoffs as heavy favorites they lost All-Star Kevin Love to a dislocated shoulder against the Celtics and then Kyrie Irving to injury during game 1 of the Finals. While Lebron couldn’t carry the remaining Cavaliers to victory, going down 4-2, his performance was at such a high level that the Finals MVP award went to Andre Iguodala for his defensive work against him. If Lebron was handed the trophy as a member of the losing team in 2015, it will never happen again.
Can Lebron equal Jordan by grabbing 2 more Finals MVPs? As Lebron plays his 20th NBA season he is still considered one of the best players in the league. While it is possible that his Laker teammate Davis does provide a potential way for Lebron to win 2 more titles, in doing so it is likely that Davis would have to be the dominant force and would deny Lebron the Finals MVP. So we’re saying no, there is… well. Let’s say Zero+Lebron James % chance that he can win another Finals MVP.
Kawhi, Durrant and the Finals MVP
The two active players behind Lebron for most Finals MVPs are Clippers star Kawhi Leonard and Nets scoring machine Kevin Durant. Currently in their age 31 and 34 seasons they have both seen more basketball than they have left to play. Kawhi has long struggled with injury, but has proven that whenever he is fit for the Playoffs he can be the best player in any series.
Durant has a game that should age like the finest of fine wines. The effortless scoring stroke and ability to playmake means he could play 3 or 4 more seasons at an exceptionally high level. Should his teammates help him get to the Finals he’d almost certainly have a great shot at winning more Finals MVPs.
Kawhi and Durant are probably both too long in the tooth to challenge Jordan, but there’s always a possibility they could catch Lebron’s current total of 4.
NBA Finals MVP, who’s got next?
You’ll have noticed that we tacked 2 names onto our list of Multiple NBA Finals MVP winners above. Steph Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo. They have both won 1 Finals MVP. Curry, who has 4 NBA titles and only just won his first one in 2022, could already have 4 Finals MVPs. 2015 going to Igoudala was more about Lebron’s epic performance than it was that Curry was clearly the best player on the winning team. His other 2 titles he won alongside Kevin Durant, although Durant was a deserving winner, no one would have begrudged Curry being awarded either of those trophies.
Giannis is a monster. An absolute wrecking ball who missed out on a chance to repeat trip to the Finals in 2022 after his running buddy Khris Middleton went down injured. That said Giannis still almost had enough to overwhelm a very good Celtics side, falling just short in the second round. At just 28 and looking better than ever, Giannis is a strong tip to reach and surpass even Jordan on most Finals MVPs won.
There are a host of young stars looking to get in on the action. 23 year old Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks is a hot tip, if only Dallas can build a Finals worthy squad around him. Jason Tatum had his first taste of the Finals with the Celtics last year, losing to the Warriors and has come back stronger for it. Aged just 24 any true fan of NBA Basketball must be salivating at the prospect of him facing off vs Luka in NBA Finals for years to come.
And we haven’t even mentioned Devon Booker, Joel Embiid or back to back MVP Nicola Jokic yet,
The Bill Russell Trophy has got to be considered one of the greatest individual awards in team sports. Ask any Regular season MVP winner if they would trade it for Finals MVP that same year. Unless they have both, of course they would. Let’s face it, to receive the Bill Russell trophy means you were the most valuable player on the team that won the NBA Finals. What could possibly be sweeter than that.