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Kawhi Leonard Was The Last Finals MVP To Receive A Trophy From Bill Russell

Kawhi Leonard Was The Last Finals MVP To Receive A Trophy From Bill Russell

The NBA's Finals MVP trophy is named after Bill Russell for his incredible championship achievements as an NBA player and coach. Russell won 11 championships in 13 years (2 as player-coach) and has set a benchmark in championship wins that no player might be able to match. Russell was confident enough of that to tell Michael Jordan that his Chicago Bulls would never get close to Russell's achievements.

Most NBA fans know that Russell was a regular during the NBA Finals because he'd be the one handing out the Finals MVP trophy to the best player from the Finals. With his tragic passing, we will never see the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy handed out by Russell again.

In the last few seasons, Russell stayed away from the NBA Finals due to COVID concerns. As a result, the last Finals MVP to be handed a trophy by Russell was Kawhi Leonard in 2019 for the Toronto Raptors. 

Russell was scheduled to give out the 2020 NBA Finals MVP award as well, but the COVID pandemic threw a wrench into those plans. He couldn't make it to the Orlando bubble due to health concerns with his age, and LeBron James became the first Finals MVP in a long time to not receive the award from Russell.

2021 and 2022 Finals MVPs in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry were not felicitated by Russell for similar health concerns, even though the Finals haven't been played in a bubble since.

The NBA knows that not having Russell around to give out the trophy is something that the fans will miss, but there isn't anything else that can be done. Russell couldn't have taken the risks in the past 3 seasons to endanger his health to give out the trophy. With his tragic passing, Leonard will go down in history as the final man to receive the Finals MVP trophy from Russell himself. 

Considering Kawhi is a defensive standout like Russell was, it is quite poetic that he is the last man to be awarded in person by Russell.