It’s quite tough to win an NBA Championship, let alone being named Finals MVP. Most of the players that spend over a decade in the league never even make it to the Finals.
So, if winning one time is hard enough, imagine making it back to the Finals and winning again. I mean, regardless of how much talent you have on your team, odds are you’re going to fall short of the goal after winning the Championship the prior season.
Most of the time, those teams that make it to back-to-back Finals are stacked with talent, thus making it difficult for their stars to stand out from the rest of the pack and win the Finals MVP award in more than one opportunity. Today, we’re going to talk about the 6 players that were able to pull that off:
Michael Jordan (1991-93)
Michael Jordan struggled earlier on his career to find any kind of success in the playoffs. He had to go through Larry Bird and the Celtics and then through the ‘Bad Boys’ Detroit Pistons who ruled the NBA in the late 80s. That’s why the first ring meant so much to him.
And once Jordan took a taste of glory he made sure nobody else in the room had something to eat. He dominated basketball on ways we hadn’t seen in ages and won three straight NBA Championships with 3 Finals MVP.
Then, on arguably the most surprising note in NBA history, Jordan shockingly announced his retirement from the game following the passing of his father. He later pursued a short career in baseball before coming back to dominate again.
Hakeem Olajuwon (1994, 95)
If someone made the most of Jordan’s first retirement that was Hakeem Olajuwon. The Dream took Jordan’s reins in the league and led the Houston Rockets to back to back Championships. Even against all odds.
Hakeem first took down Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks in 1994 and then took a young Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic to school the year after.
Needless to say, he took home the Finals MVP award in both opportunities after outplaying two of the world’s greatest big men ever. He was so dominant that he won the MVP, Finals MVP, and DPOY all in the same season (1993-94).
Michael Jordan (1996-98)
Michael Jordan came back and picked up things right where he left them before retiring. The Chicago Bulls were once again the team to beat and even though everybody was waiting for Jordan’s prime to come to an end, he never fell off the cliff.
The Bulls won their second three-peat under Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan’s tutelage. They got through Gary Payton and the Seattle Supersonics and then beat Karl Malone, John Stockton, and the Utah Jazz in back-to-back Finals.
Obviously, it was His Airness the one who took most of the credit and three straight Finals MVP awards. He now has an NBA record 6 Finals MVP, with the closest players owning just 3.
Shaquille O’Neal (2000-02)
Shaquille O’Neal was heartbroken and angry when he lost the Finals to Hakeem. He joined the Lakers and once Phil Jackson came in town, he worked his magic the very same way he did it with the Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers were the most dominating team in the league in the early ’00s. They got past the overpowered Indiana Pacers in 2000, Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers in 2001, and finally Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets in 2002.
Thus, with the help of a young and rising Kobe Bryant, Shaq led the Lakers to a three-peat and won 3 straight Finals MVPs, tying Michael Jordan as the only player in NBA history to ever win the award in three straight seasons.
Kobe Bryant (2009, 10)
Kobe Bryant drew plenty of criticism earlier on his career for being a so-called selfish player. His haters claimed Shaq carried him to those three titles, pointing out that he hadn’t won a Finals MVP award.
So, the Black Mamba being as competitive as he was, he made sure to put an end to every single one of those critics by leading the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight trips to the Finals, winning the Championship in 2009 and 2010.
Kobe and the Lakers were just too much to handle for Dwight Howard and his Orlando Magic, and then Bryant got his vendetta vs. the Boston Celtics by beating them in 7 games.
LeBron James (2012, 13)
Like many more before him, LeBron James was facing a lot of heat for not being able to win an NBA Championship. That’s why he took his talents to South Beach to put together the Big 3 with Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh.
And despite all the talent that squad had, James always stood up from the rest as the leader on and off the court. And after a heartbreaking loss vs. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks, he won his first ring vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder and then got the best of the San Antonio Spurs the next year.
Most surprisingly, LeBron James led the Miami Heat to four straight NBA Finals, winning two of them. He then kept that streak alive by taking the Cavs to 4 Finals in a row, although he could only win one.
Kevin Durant (2017, 18)
And, as you may know by now, Kevin Durant is the last player in NBA history to ever win back-to-back Finals MVP after leading the Golden State Warriors in scoring in 2017 and 2018.
Durant became one of the league’s most-hated players because of his decision to bail on Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the 73-9 Warriors, claiming he was about to get a free ride to an NBA Championship.
Needless to say, Durant made sure to prove everybody wrong by actually leading the team and making them better. Now, only Kawhi Leonard has the chance to add his name to this list.