It’s not common to see a great scorer who also happens to be a great defender. More often than not, top-tier defenders are solely focused on getting a stop and are limited scorers at best. However, we’ve seen some two-way players dominate the league from start to finish.
Throughout the course of history, a handful of players has been as impactful in the offensive end of the floor as they have been on defense. That’s why they’ve been near the top of both the Defensive Player of the Year and the Most Valuable Player awards voting.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is currently leading the race to take both awards home this season. But, which players have been in the top 5 in MVP and DPOY voting the most times in NBA history? We’ll break it down for you in the following lines:
5. Kevin Garnett – 3
2000-01, 2002-03, 2007-08
Kevin Garnett was always a synonym to intensity. The guy never took his feet off the gas, his desire and passion to win was contagious and his offensive expertise was only topped by his defensive impact. He was an outspoken leader that wasn’t going to tolerate less than 150% effort.
Garnett was a top-5 player in both MVP and DPOY voting three times throughout his career. He eventually won the MVP in 2004 and the DPOY in 2008 and will go down as one of the most dominant and fearless two-way players in the history of the game.
4. LeBron James – 5
2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2016-17
His haters claim LeBron James doesn’t play any defense, or at least that he doesn’t do it anymore. Well, while he’s not the same defender he once was, the truth is that the King was an outstanding stopper and rim protector for over a decade.
There’s little we can say about his well-documented MVP seasons. He’s had 4 thus far but he could have won the award at least 6 times already. As for the DPOY, he was never able to top other players for the award, but that ‘LeBron is a bad defender’ narrative shouldn’t even exist.
3. Hakeem Olajuwon – 5
1988-89, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96
Hakeem Olajuwon is arguably the most talented big man in the history of the game. If not, he’s at least the most impactful two-way center we’ve ever seen. We don’t praise him as often as we should considering his remarkable resume and all he did during his time in the league.
The Dream was a perennial MVP and DPOY candidate. He ended up winning the DPOY twice as well as making it to 9 All-Defensive teams and leading the league in blocks 3 times. He also won the MVP in 1994, to go along with a couple of rings and Finals MVPs.
2. Tim Duncan – 6
1998-99, 1999-00, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2004-05, 2006-07
I just don’t get how Tim Duncan often flies under the radar when discussing the greatest players of all time. We’re talking about a 5-time NBA Champion, 3-times Finals MVP, 15-time All-Star, 2-time MVP with 15 All-Defensive team selections.
I mean, no disrespect to Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, or other players often mentioned in the GOAT conversation but Duncan’s resume is even more impressive. Shockingly, he never won the DPOY award despite constantly being one of the players with more votes in that regard. He did win a couple of MVPs, though.
1. Michael Jordan – 7
1987-88, 1988-89, 1989-90, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1996-97, 1997-98
A list of the best players ever with Michael Jordan at the top? What’s new? The greatest player of all time is a synonym to excellence so it’s not unusual to see him lead the race once again. What’s impressive is the fact that, of all players mentioned, he’s the only guard.
Jordan won 5 MVP awards but, truth to be told, he should have won at least 8. Moreover, he won the Defensive Player of the Year award on the very same year he won a Scoring title. He’s one of just five guards to ever win the award, next to Gary Payton, Michael Cooper, Alvin Robertson, and Sidney Moncrief.