There have been many great NBA players who have won an NBA title during their careers. Unfortunately, there have been many great players who won championships but weren't named MVP of the NBA Finals.
The NBA Finals Award didn't exist until the 1969 NBA Finals. That means some of the great players before that time were not eligible to win the award. Let's break down the 10 best players who haven't ever won a Finals MVP.
10. David Robinson - 1999 NBA Finals
David Robinson: 16.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 3.0 BPG
Tim Duncan (MVP): 27.4 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.2 BPG
San Antonio Spurs vs. New York Knicks 4-1
Let's be real. Robinson does not care about not winning an NBA Finals MVP in 1999, nor 2003. He is just glad to have rings. Clearly, these series belong to Tim Duncan, who bested Robinson by nearly 10 points in scoring and three rebounds.
This is how good the Spurs were though. In a season that followed the "last dance" with Michael Jordan's Bulls, the Spurs had a legitimate chance. In five games, the team dusted Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston. Robinson is a Hall of Famer and person, so we fell for the guy that lost out on two Finals MVP awards to Mr. Fundamental.
9. Julius Erving - 1983 NBA Finals
Julius Erving: 19.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.8 BPG
Moses Malone (MVP): 25.8 PPG, 18.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.5 BPG
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers 4-0
The Philadelphia 76ers were too much for the Los Angeles Lakers, which is why the team swept Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and L.A. in four games. Moses Malone led all scorers in three of the four games and led the rebounding in all four matchups. Take a look at this game totals, which included 27 points and 18 rebounds in Game 1, 24 points and 12 rebounds in Game 2, 28 points and 19 rebounds in Game 3, and 24 points and 23 rebounds in Game 4.
In today's era, recording 20-20 double-doubles is an unknown entity. Malone deserved MVP, but it doesn't discredit how unfortunate is that Erving was unable to win a Finals MVP. Erving was a three-time ABA MVP and one-time NBA MVP, as well as a two-time ABA champion where he won the MVP award. Erving was outplayed by Malone but earlier in his career, he primetime.
8. Oscar Robertson - 1971 NBA Finals
Oscar Robertson: 23.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 9.5 APG
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (MVP): 27.0 PPG, 18.5 RPG, 2.8 APG
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Washington Bullets 4-0
The Milwaukee Bucks steamrolled the Baltimore Bullets thanks to an incredible series from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. There was no question that he should have won MVP based on the numbers that he gave. That included a Game 1 performance of 31 points and 17 rebounds, followed by a Game 2 performance of 27 points and 24 rebounds.
Robertson just got lost in the crossfire because of how well Abdul-Jabbar played. Robertson's numbers are equally impressive. Not to mention, he led all scorers with 30 points in the Game 4 finisher. It's not Robertson's fault that he was just one of two really good players on a team.
7. Dave Cowens - 1974 NBA Finals
Dave Cowens: 22.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG
John Havlicek (MVP): 26.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks 4-3
This was one of those times that the MVP could have gone to either both players or the decision was made with a coin flip. While Havlicek led the Celtics in scoring and steals, Cowens led in rebounding and was right up there in assists. When it came down to it, Cowens was among the leaders in the box scores daily in comparison to Havlicek. In Boston's 98-83 win over Milwaukee in Game 1, Cowens led all players with 17 rebounds. He then produced 30 points to lead Boston to a 95-83 victory in Game 3.
With the series tied 2-2, both players scored 28 points to lead Boston to a 96-87 win in Game 5. Despite losing 102-101 in Game 6, Havlicek scored 36 points, which was the most by a Celtics player in the series. With that said, it was Cowens that scored 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the decisive Game 7. If both players were down to a coin flip, you would think that it would go to the better performance in Game 7. Either way, both players had a great series.
6. Kevin Garnett - 2008 NBA Finals
Kevin Garnett: 18.2 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Paul Pierce (MVP): 21.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers 4-2
This is one of the most confusing MVP awards in recent memory. In Game 1, Pierce was injured in the third quarter and carried off the court in serious pain. He came back and scored 15 points in the third quarter to led the team to a win. If this showing of will didn't happen, would he still have won? Pierce also scored 38 points in Game 5, but the Celtics lost that game.
Garnett should have been the MVP of this series. He scored the second-most points, led all rebounders in all six games, and had to battle Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in their primes. Pierce might have led the Celtics in scoring, but it was Garnett and Ray Allen who tied for the scoring title in Game 6 with 26 points, which was the decisive series-clinching win. Garnett did everything in this series and was somehow second best.
5. Kevin McHale - 1986 NBA Finals
Kevin McHale: 25.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.5 BPG
Larry Bird (MVP): 24.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 9.5 APG, 2.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Boston Celtics vs. Houston Rockets 4-2
Larry Bird wasn't losing this award. He nearly averaged a triple-double in the NBA Finals and this was coming off a year where he secured his third and final MVP award. Larry Legend was miraculous and remains as one of the greatest players of all time.
McHale was a Hall of Famer player with Finals stats that would win the MVP in any other given year. McHale losing out on Finals MVP had nothing to do with his basketball skills or contributions to the Celtics championship. The problem was that his teammate was Larry Bird.
4. Walt Frazier - 1973 NBA Finals
Walt Frazier: 16.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.2 APG
Willis Reed (MVP): 16.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.6 APG
New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Lakers 4-1
When the Knicks made a run of making the NBA Finals in three of four seasons during the early 70s, Reed made major contributions. After winning their first championship, Reed battled knee injuries that slowed the team's chances of winning their second in 1972. In the following year, Reed won MVP with impressive numbers, but there's a clear case that Reed should not have won his second MVP this Finals.
Frazier is mainly on this list due to his legacy in New York. Frazier was a seven-time All-Defensive selection, six-time All-NBA selection, and seven-time All-Star. However, we should point out that the legendary Jerry West only averaged 21.4 points per game in the five-game series. No disrespect to Reed, who nearly averaged a double-double this series, that should have been taken under consideration.
3. Elvin Hayes - 1978 NBA Finals
Elvin Hayes: 20.7 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 2.0 BPG
Wes Unseld (MVP): 9.0 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Washington Bullets vs. Seattle SuperSonics 4-3
Let's put this into perspective. Hayes led the team in scoring, rebounding, steals, and blocks. Hayes scored 29 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in Game 3 He added 21 points and 15 rebounds in Game 6. He clearly from a stats perspective deserved this award.
Unseld led all rebounders just two of the seven games against the SuperSonics. He didn't even average a double-double this series. The only reasonable explanation was that this was a cumulative award for Unseld's contributions as a Washington Bullet, while Hayes was the new guy. This is all speculation, but it's the only thing that makes sense.
2. Steph Curry - 2015 NBA Finals
Steph Curry: 26.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Andre Iguodala (MVP): 16.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2
LeBron James played out of his mind in this series, leading all scorers in five of the six games this series. That included a 44 point game in Game 1 and two other 44 point games. Even so, Iguodala won Finals MVP for playing defense on LeBron. Compared to the 2014 Finals where LeBron shot 58% from the field, Iguodala held LeBron to a 33% shooting percentage. It's impossible to wear LeBron down, especially during his prime seasons, but Iguodala proved his worth during this series.
When Iguodala was on the bench, the Warriors had an 88.6 defensive rating, but when he was on the court, the Warriors owned a 109.7 defensive rating. While Curry's stats should win an MVP in any other season, Iguodala did just enough on the offensive side to put him over the hump. His 16.3 points per game were also second-most for the Warriors offensively.
1. Bill Russell - 1969 NBA Finals
Bill Russell: 9.1 PPG, 21.1 RPG, 5.1 APG
Jerry West (MVP): 37.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 7.4 APG
Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers 4-3
The 11-time NBA champion was only eligible to win the award once in his illustrious career. In his final season, the Boston Celtics fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. The battle between Russell and Jerry West is an epic one for sure. West scored 53 points in Game 1, while Russell grabbed 27 rebounds, beating out another legend in Wilt Chamberlain. West dropped a 40-point game in Game 4, as well as 39 points in Game 5 and 42 points in the deciding Game 7.
West was deserving of the award, especially since his Finals points-per-game is the fifth-most ever. However, this is more of an apology to Russell, who never will get to say he was a Finals MVP. Then again, he probably enjoys having 11 rings more anyways.