The Only No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Picks Who Won The MVP Award: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Is First With 6, LeBron James Is Second On The List With 4

With the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic selected Duke University star Paolo Panchero. The Magic will be hoping that he can turn into a star like their former No. 1 picks in Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Both players were star centers in their generation and eventually won an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year respectively in their careers.

Getting the No. 1 pick brings the hope that the player can change the destination of the franchise. That includes being an MVP-like player. In 75 years of existence, 11 players have won MVP Awards after being selected with the No. 1 overall pick. However, it has been nine years since a No. 1 pick has won an MVP Award, while no player since the 2008 Draft has won the award outside of LeBron James.

Could Banchero be the player to end the drought? If he does, or any of the recent No. 1 picks, they will join these 11 No. 1 draft picks that have won the MVP Award.

Oscar Robertson - 1 MVP Award

MVP Season: 1963-64

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 1960 NBA Draft

Robertson was selected by the Cincinnati Royals as a territorial pick. He would have his best success in the league four years after being drafted by winning the MVP Award. He led the Royals to a 55-25 record, which had the team finish second in the Eastern Division. With new head coach Jack McMahon, Robertson flourished in the new style of play.

Robertson led the league in free throw percentage, averaging 31.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 11.0 assists. He became the only player other than Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain to win the MVP Award from 1960 to 1968. Crazy enough, Robertson did not win the MVP in 1962 despite averaging a triple-double of 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 6 MVP Awards

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MVP Seasons: 1970-71, 1971-72, 1973-74, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1979-80

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 1969 NBA Draft

It only took two years for Abdul-Jabbar to break out as one of the biggest stars in the league. Abdul-Jabbar led the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA championship after a regular season that saw him named the league MVP. That also included winning Finals MVP. He repeated as the MVP the following season. In both years, Abdul-Jabbar led the league in scoring. Abdul-Jabbar would win one more MVP with the Bucks in 1974.

When he joined the Lakers, he won the MVP three more times. That included leading the league in blocks in 1976 and 1980. He was an All-Defensive Second Team selection in 1976 and 1977, while he made the First Team in 1980. Abdul-Jabbar’s six MVPs are not just a record among No. 1 overall picks, but a record for one player in the NBA.

Bill Walton - 1 MVP Award

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MVP Season: 1977-78

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 1974 NBA Draft

With Walton leading the way, the Trail Blazers won 50 of their first 60 games. In 58 games, he averaged 18.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.5 blocks. His season was cut short due to a broken foot, which ended his regular season. Despite missing the rest of the season, he won the MVP Award and the Sporting News MVP as well.

It was Walton that ended a potential three-peat for Abdul-Jabbar. His foe of the Lakers had won two straight MVP Awards in 1976 and 1977. In 62 games, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 25.8 points, 12.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 3.0 blocks. The difference was that Portland finished the season with the best record in the conference, while the Lakers were the No. 5 seed.

Magic Johnson - 3 MVP Awards

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MVP Seasons: 1986-87, 1988-89, 1989-90

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 1979 NBA Draft

Johnson became the first rookie to win Finals MVP in 1980, but he was not the best overall player in the regular season. That would not come until seven years after he was drafted. Johnson won three MVP Awards with the Lakers. The first MVP saw him average 23.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 12.2 assists.

Johnson won back-to-back seasons in 1989 and 1990. In 1989, Johnson averaged 22.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 12.8 assists. The following year, he averaged 22.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 11.5 assists. Johnson did not lead the league in assists two of those three times. His play vaulted the Lakers to the NBA Finals for most of the 80s.

Hakeem Olajuwon - 1 MVP Award

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MVP Season: 1993-94

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 1984 NBA Draft

The 80s featured two No. 1 picks that would win the MVP Award. They both won their award while playing in the heart of Texas. The Houston Rockets saw Hakeem Olajuwon finally get national recognition in 1994. Olajuwon averaged 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 3.7 blocks during that year.

The Rockets had a successful run as a team too. Olajuwon led the Rockets to the 1994 championship, where he was named Finals MVP. It was a dream come true season for any player, but it certainly felt like the team cashed in on their No. 1 pick 10 years later. Olajuwon had already proved he was a great player, but then he reached new heights this season.

David Robinson - 1 MVP Award

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MVP Season: 1994-95

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 1987 NBA Draft

Three years after Olajuwon, Robinson was taken by the San Antonio Spurs. He must have felt like he needed to step up to the plate because he won an MVP Award right after Oljauwon in 1995. The Spurs saw Robinson averaged 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.7 steals, and 3.2 blocks per game.

Robinson would eventually become a champion with the Spurs in 1999 and 2003. From 1987 to 2003, he spent his entire career with the Spurs. Leading up to his MVP season, Robinson was already an All-Star caliber player. It was only a matter of time before he would win. He was so important two years later, when he was injured and out for the year, the Spurs landed the No. 1 overall pick without him playing. That would lead to another No. 1 overall pick that would win an MVP Award.

Shaquille O’Neal - 1 MVP Award

MVP Season: 1999-00

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 1992 NBA Draft

O’Neal is the only player on this list that won his MVP Award while not playing with the team that drafted him. O’Neal was the No. 1 pick by the Magic, but would later win the regular-season MVP Award while playing with the Lakers. O’Neal was a key factor in the Magic making the NBA Finals in 1995, but he was never considered the best player in the league during those years.

When he joined the Lakers, it took a few years for him to turn into the best player. O’Neal averaged 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks that season. Conveniently, the same year the three-peat began, it was the same season that he won the MVP. O’Neal would win three Finals MVP Awards from 2000 to 2002 during that span.

Allen Iverson - 1 MVP Award

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MVP Season: 2000-01

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 1996 NBA Draft

After Iverson was drafted, he quickly turned into one of the best scorers in the league. He would climb through the ranks and capture the league MVP award in his fifth season. That same year, the 76ers would make the NBA Finals. During the regular season, Iverson won the scoring title by averaging 31.1 points per game, shooting 42.0% from the field.

Iverson added 3.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 2.5 steals that season. Iverson would win four scoring titles with the 76ers and become a Hall of Famer. He is the shortest MVP in NBA history at 6-foot-0. He defied the odds most of his career, including being named the league’s best player.

Tim Duncan - 2 MVP Awards

MVP Seasons: 2001-02, 2002-03

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 1997 NBA Draft

Duncan was the last of the 90s draft picks to win an MVP. After winning Finals MVP in 1999, Duncan’s career took off. The Spurs began a long legacy of being yearly championship contenders, while Duncan grew to one of the best overall players in the league. That includes winning back-to-back MVPs in 2002 and 2003.

In 2002, Duncan averaged 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 2.5 blocks, while shooting 50.8% from the field. In 2003, Duncan averaged 23.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 2.9 blocks, while shooting 51.3% from the field. The same year the Spurs won the championship and he capped off the season with another Finals MVP.

LeBron James - 4 MVP Awards

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MVP Seasons: 2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 2003 NBA Draft

Only two players in the 2000s have won an MVP Award after being taken with the No. 1 pick. The player everyone knew would eventually snag a trophy was LeBron James. The No. 1 pick in 2003 has risen to stardom and could eventually become the all-time leading scorer in the NBA. All of his successes and failures have been well-documented as the four-time champion owns the second-most MVPs among No. 1 overall picks.

James won his first MVP in 2009 and then he repeated as the league’s best player in 2010. Both times he played for the Cavaliers. In 2008, James averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks. The following season, he averaged 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.0 blocks. These were his best statistical seasons when winning the MVP; however, he would not only win the MVP in 2012 and 2013 but help the Miami Heat win two championships, where he was named Finals MVP as well.

Derrick Rose - 1 MVP Award

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MVP Season: 2010-11

No. 1 Draft Pick In The 2008 NBA Draft

Rose became the hometown hero in 2011. Rose, who played high school basketball in Chicago, was the No. 1 pick by his Chicago Bulls. In his third season, he captivated the league by winning the MVP as the youngest player in NBA history. At age 22, he averaged 25.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. The Bulls defied the odds and owned the best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls would come up short against the Heat in the Conference Finals. The following year, Rose would suffer a devastating leg injury that would alter his career. Had he never gotten hurt in 2012, Rose might have won another, or maybe even won a Finals MVP. The hypotheticals are consistently played in the minds of Chicagoland fans.

Which Players In The 2010s Will Win An MVP First?

No player drafted at No. 1 overall has won the MVP in the 2010s decade. Let’s start with the 2010 No. 1 pick John Wall. At this point, Wall is likely a borderline starter in this league with his injury history. His prime years are behind him. The 2011 and 2012 pick Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis have more question marks than answers. Irving is an All-World talent but has missed more games than played in recent years, while there are questions about the longevity of Davis’ career given his health issues.

Andrew Wiggins, the 2014 pick, just won a championship but proved he is a second or third option on a winning team. Karl-Anthony Towns was supposed to build a championship culture with Wiggins after being taken in 2015, but he is the one that stayed, while Wiggins was traded. Towns were back to being an All-Star and could be a player that could make a run at MVP given the talent that he has.

Ben Simmons, 2016, and Markelle Fultz, 2017, have not played since a year ago. Simmons is an All-Defensive player but has limitations on offense. Fultz is trying to revive his career from being a bus. Meanwhile, the last four picks Deandre Ayton, Zion Williamson, Anthony Edwards, and Cade Cunningham are still trying to find their way into the league.

The player that could win an MVP if he stayed healthy was Williamson. When he was healthy one year ago, he played 61 games, averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and shot 61.1% from the field. The Pelicans made some moves this last year to surround Williamson with quality players. If the Pelicans made a run to the top of the Western Conference standings and Williamson averaged a line like this, the drought of a No. 1 pick winning the MVP could be broken. 


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