We have seen greatness on the basketball court for as long as we can remember. Every era has had some amazing players dominate the game, and this is even the case today. Individual accolades and team accolades often dictate a player’s success in the league and it gives the fans unlimited talking points when comparing careers.
But there are only a handful of players that have managed to capture the most amazing achievements. In fact, only 6 players in NBA history have managed to capture both the MVP and NBA Championship in the same season. Here are the top 6 greatest players in NBA history to have done it.
14. Bob Cousy – 1 Time
Championship and MVP (1957)
Bob Cousy was the first-ever player to accomplish this special accolade in the 1956-1957 season. Cousey managed to win the first of 9 NBA titles in 10 seasons for the Boston Celtics. Cousy is recognized as one of the best Celtics in history due to his scoring and playmaking ability, and his greatness was certainly captured in the 1957 Finals.
Cousy averaged 20.7 PPG and 9.1 APG to help the Boston Celtics outlast the Hawks in 7 games. Cousy was the regular-season MVP with 20.6 PPG and 7.5 APG stats guiding the Celtics as one of the best teams in the league.
13. Wilt Chamberlain – 1 Time
Championship and MVP (1967)
Wilt Chamberlain won the NBA title and season MVP in the 1967 season with the Philadelphia 76ers, defeating the San Francisco Warriors in the Finals. What is astonishing is that Wilt won the MVP 4 times in his career, yet only won 1 NBA title in that span. His ring with the Los Angeles Lakers came in the 1970s and he was not quite able to win the MVP that year ahead of Oscar Robertson.
Wilt The Stilt is one of the greatest centers ever and it is not surprising that the king of all record books is on this list of accolades. Wilt’s regular season was fantastic as he averaged 24.1 PPG and 24.2 RPG which was just ridiculous.
12. Willis Reed – 1 Time
Championship and MVP (1970)
New York’s legend Willis Reed is the best player to have delivered an NBA title for the Knicks. The man was not a stat sheet stuffer like other great players on this list, but his impact went beyond stats. Reed was an imposing paint presence who managed to win Game 7 for New York in the 1970 Finals.
Reed averaged 23.5 PPG and 10.5 RPG to lead the Knicks in the Finals. Willis Reed famously played Game 7 against the Lakers despite limping onto the court with a torn thigh. Reed’s presence willed New York to a 113-99 victory that will remain in Knicks fans’ hearts forever.
11. Moses Malone – 1 Time
Championship and MVP (1983)
Moses Malone needs to be more recognized as one of the best centers to have ever played. Moses captured his second MVP in a row in the 1982-1983 season with the Philadelphia 76ers and managed to win the NBA title in the same year alongside Julius Erving. Moses arriving to Philly immediately resulted in an NBA championship because his duo with Erving was too much to handle for the opposition.
Malone averaged 25.8 PPG and 18.0 RPG during the 1983 Finals and that certainly places himself among 14 players to have ever won both the MVP and NBA title in the same year.
10. Magic Johnson – 1 Time
Championship and MVP (1987)
Magic managed to capture the NBA title during his MVP season in 1986-1987, only once in his legendary career. Johnson was the best point guard in the NBA during the ’80s and it wasn’t even close. He has the leadership qualities and intangibles to be a franchise player and was the immediate leader for the Lakers as soon as he entered the league.
Magic’s 1987 was truly magical as he averaged 23.9 PPG and 12.2 APG, following that up with a Finals stat line of 26.2 PPG and 13.0 APG. Magic always seemed to have his best performances in the biggest games, and that was evident in the 1987 season.
9. Hakeem Olajuwon – 1 Time
Championship and MVP (1994)
The first of Hakeem’s first 2 championships, he also won the MVP Award in the 1994 season. Hakeem led Houston with a 27.3 PPG and 11.9 RPG average in the regular season, taking control of the NBA when Michael Jordan briefly retired. Hakeem was a force all season long with his scoring and defense, carrying the Rockets all year.
Hakeem’s Finals performance in 1994 was impressive as he put up 26.9 PPG and 9.1 RPG while earning Finals MVP honors as well. This great season was topped off with the fact that Hakeem is the only foreign-born NBA player outside of Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and Giannis Antetokounmpo to win the MVP.
8. Shaquille O’Neal – 1 Time
Championship and MVP (2000)
It is no surprise that Shaquille O’Neal’s one MVP winning season also resulted in an NBA title. A legend and global icon of the game, Shaq managed to dominate the entire 2000 season by being the most unstoppable big man in the modern era. There was no answer for Shaq, and alongside Kobe Bryant, the 2000 season involved the Lakers knocking off the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers before winning the NBA title.
Shaq should have more MVP Awards, but the fact that his only MVP came in an NBA title win (and NBA Finals MVP Award) says enough about Shaq’s greatness.
7. Tim Duncan – 1 Time
Championship and MVP (2003)
The San Antonio Spurs legend won two straight MVPs in 2002 and 2003, ultimately winning an NBA title in 2003. Duncan has been a force to be reckoned with since his rookie season, and no player in the league has Duncan’s fundamentals at that time. He was on another level at the power forward position, and 2003 was certainly his most productive year.
Duncan averaged 23.3 PPG and 12.9 RPG during the regular season to earn him the MVP Award, and he was the best player for the Spurs title-winning team that is remembered to this day.
6. Stephen Curry – 1 Time
Championship and MVP (2015)
Stephen Curry is the most recent member of this prestigious class, to have won both the MVP and NBA Championship in the same season. He did this in 2015, where the Golden State Warriors beat down the Cleveland Cavaliers in 6 games with Andre Iguodala winning the Finals MVP. Even with Iggy performing the best in the NBA Finals, the season was all about Steph Curry.
Curry averaged 23.8 PPG in an incredible year whereby many claimed him the best player in the league. Curry’s shooting and handles were on another level that year, and it was only fitting that he captured an NBA title in a historic season.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 2 Times
Championship and MVP (1971 and 1980)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seems to appear on every single accolade list because his career was too great to put into words. Kareem was consistently dominant and there is a reason why he is the leading scorer in NBA history in total points. Kareem played into his 40’s at an All-Star level, something we have never seen before. Perhaps only LeBron James can equal that feat, although he has a couple more years to go.
Kareem’s two MVP seasons resulted in 2 NBA titles in 1971 and 1980. His scoring (thanks to the sky-hook) and ability to protect the rim gave the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers a franchise player to behold. Kareem is also the only player in history to accomplish this feat with 2 different teams.
4. Larry Bird – 2 Times
Championship and MVP (1984 and 1986)
Larry Legend is a top-two small forward ever, and one of the few players to have won both the MVP and NBA title in the same season on two separate occasions. Bird won 3 straight MVP Awards in the 1980s, winning an NBA title in two of them. Bird was simply unstoppable and is easily one of the greatest Celtics to have ever lived.
Larry Bird really should have had a longer career because his name would be much higher on this list if he kept healthy. Still, 2 seasons with both an MVP and NBA title is phenomenal and Bird managed to deliver for Boston.
3. LeBron James – 2 Times
Championship and MVP (2012 and 2013)
LeBron James is known as the king of the regular season because no player can carry a team all season long as LeBron can. James is the most physically gifted athlete the game has ever seen, and he is a lock to win the MVP Award every single year. Much like Shaquille O’Neal or Michael Jordan were, LeBron is simply too dominant and should have more MVP Awards than he has. Still, he managed to win an NBA title in the 2 years he won MVP.
Alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, LeBron was far and away the best player in the NBA, and his two MVP seasons resulted in two NBA titles. LeBron is the latest player to accomplish this feat before Stephen Curry did it with the Warriors.
2. Bill Russell – 4 Times
Championship and MVP (1961, 1962, 1963, and 1965)
When people talk about players who were the best winners, Bill Russell was the living embodiment of that. Russell is only one of two players to have captured this accolade 4 times, whereby he won the league MVP and also the NBA title in the same years. Russell had a total of 11 rings, so it is not shocking that at least out of the 4 times he got an MVP Award!
Bill Russell won a total of 5 NBA MVPs although he did not win the NBA title for one of those seasons. Russel was a defensive beast and the leader of a Boston Celtics Dynasty that lasted over a decade, something we will never see again.
1. Michael Jordan – 4 Times
Championship and MVP (1991, 1992, 1996, and 1998)
The GOAT managed to do this feat on 4 occasions, yet another accolade that usurps every other player. Jordan was the undisputed best player in the game when he played for the Bulls, defeating any and all competition and making it clear that he was there to win every NBA title.
Jordan’s 4 MVP seasons that resulted in 4 championships is something extraordinary and joins only Bill Russell as the only players to have done it. It will be hard to find a player that is as gifted and talented as Michael to accomplish this feat at least 4 times, and as such, it is likely MJ will reign supreme as the best player of all time.