The NBA Finals is a time when the best players look to make their fame and their name as truly elite talents. Capturing the NBA championship in the NBA Finals has to be the brightest moment of any player’s career, especially if it comes with the individual accolade known as the Finals MVP award. Since 1969, when Jerry West won his first Finals MVP, we have crowned an individual for the Finals MVP award every year.
But which players managed to win the Finals MVP awards at very young ages? Thanks to the availability of data in the modern era, we have collected the youngest NBA players who ever won the Finals MVP award. It is not easy for a player without plenty of experience to manage to be the best player in a Finals series, which is why this list should be honored and respected. Without further ado, here is the list of the 10 youngest NBA players who manage to win the Finals MVP award. While there are some very big names, including All-Stars and Hall of Famers on this list, there are also some names that might appear further up the list than previously expected.
10. Cedric Maxwell - 25 Years, 174 Days
Finals MVP Stats: 17.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Cedric Maxwell’s Finals MVP award at the end of the 1981 season was one of the most unexpected endings to an exciting season. The Boston Celtics found themselves in a series against the Houston Rockets team led by Moses Malone at the end of the year, as Boston was led by Larry Bird and a host of other talented players, including Cedric Maxwell and Robert Parish.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, they did not have enough to counter what the stacked Celtics team was doing on the court. But in the end, it was up to Cedric Maxwell, the only player on his team to average at least 16 PPG, to overcome the Finals MVP odds and get the job done for his side. Of course, he would accomplish that with a terrific Finals performance that the player should be proud of to this very day.
Maxwell averaged 17.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 1.0 BPG on an incredible 56.8% field goal shooting. The forward even managed to outplay his star teammates, Larry Bird and Robert Parish. Thanks to “Cornbread’s” efficiency and leadership, the Celtics managed to overcome a rampant Moses Malone (22.3 PPG, 15.7 RPG) to win the title and the Finals MVP at only 25 years old.
9. Tony Parker - 25 Years, 28 Days
Finals MVP Stats: 24.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG
The Hall of Fame Spurs guard was at his best in the 2007 season, clearly getting to an elite level in terms of efficiency and numbers at the point guard position. Parker and the Spurs found themselves in the Finals in a matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team led by superstar LeBron James. Even when Parker had superstar teammates beside him, including Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, the point guard was the driving force in the Finals.
Parker led all scorers on his team by posting 24.5 PPG on 56.8% shooting from the field, exposing the Cavaliers for their inability to stop penetrating guards that bring speed and experience. Parker, at age 25, was at his peak on a physical level because he was incredibly fast and took advantage of Cleveland’s holes on defense.
The San Antonio Spurs managed to get the job done over a 4-game sweep, and Tony Parker was definitely the best player in the series. The Frenchman’s job was to attack the paint as much as possible to put pressure on Cleveland’s bigs and try to match or usurp LeBron James’ scoring (22.0 PPG). Obviously, that was done successfully as Parker finished as one of the youngest Finals MVP winners in NBA history.
8. Dennis Johnson - 24 Years, 256 Days
Finals MVP Stats: 22.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.8 SPG, 2.2 BPG
Dennis Johnson won Finals MVP in the 1979 NBA Finals, leading a talented Seattle SuperSonics team to a championship victory over 5 games. Johnson posted 22.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 6.0 APG, which overcame the core of the Washington Bullets. The shooting guard was the man over the 5 games and was the best player for a team that delivered the championship for the Seattle SuperSonics. He scored 113 total points in the series, capping it off with a 21-point display in the close-out Game 5.
Thanks to a balanced effort by the entire SuperSonics team, the championship was won thanks to a 97-93 victory. As the team’s leading playmaker, Johnson certainly had his impact felt and deserved the Finals MVP at only age 24. The shooting guard Johnson played the most minutes on the Celtics team, posting 44.8 MPG and nailing 45.9% from the field and 71.9% from the line.
It is also important to mention that Johnson is only one of six shooting guards to ever win the Finals MVP award, and he formed a very dynamic duo with talented guard Gus Williams who averaged 29.0 PPG and 3.6 APG. No question, the Bullets did not have enough to counter Seattle’s talented guards despite the presence of Bob Dandridge (21.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG) and Elvin Hayes (20.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG).
7. Bill Walton - 24 Years, 212 Days
Finals MVP Stats: 18.5 PPG, 19.0 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 3.7 BPG
Bill Walton, prior to injuries that took a ton away from him, including longevity, might have been on the Mt. Rushmore of big men thanks to his special skill, size, and leadership ability. Walton was a beast in the 1976-1977 season, averaging 18.6 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 3.2 BPG in the regular season for the Portland Trail Blazers. His rebounding and shot-blocking ranked 1st in the NBA as he made his first All-Star Team in his third season.
Clearly, a dominant big man who could do a ton of things on the floor at a superstar level, Bill Walton was almost unstoppable as he dominated the paint for the Trail Blazers. In the NBA Finals, he continued his dominance by posting 18.5 PPG, 19.0 RPG, and 3.7 BPG to handle the Philadelphia 76ers in 6 games. Earning his first Finals MVP award, Walton was certainly an impressive figure on the court.
The 6’11” big man ended up winning the Finals MVP award at only 24 years old, and he showed the ability to lead his team to victory despite being of a very young age. Bill Walton would not be able to stay healthy, unfortunately, because he only played at least 80 games one time when he was 33 years old. Walton has to be one of the biggest “what-if” stories in NBA history, considering how successful he was earlier on in his career.
6. Dwyane Wade - 24 Years, 154 Days
Finals MVP Stats: 34.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 2.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG
In one of the greatest Finals series in NBA history, Dwyane Wade averaged 34.7 PPG on 46.8% shooting from the field in the year, which placed the shooting guard on the all-time greatness map. Wade completely took over the Finals, as he was simply unstoppable with the ball in his hands, and his ability to draw fouls was the story of the Finals. The Dallas Mavericks took a convincing 2-0 series lead, but Wade would go off over the next 4 games by finishing as the leading scorer each time.
The Miami Heat superstar was unstoppable slicing to the rim, and there was no stopping him unless he was fouled. Unfortunately for the Dallas Mavericks, Wade shot 77.3% from the line after making an impressive 75 out of 97 shots over the 6 games. With a monster in Shaquille O’Neal in the paint and some veterans, including Gary Payton and Antoine Walker, Wade was able to express himself freely and destroyed Dallas almost by himself.
No doubt about it, Dwyane Wade had one of the most outstanding Finals performances in NBA history, and that was definitely needed because the Mavericks were a great team all year long, led by superstar Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk averaged 22.8 PPG and 10.8 RPG in the Finals, but Wade simply outplayed him on the court and shocked the world with a spectacularly dominant performance.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 24 Years, 14 Days
Finals MVP Stats: 27.0 PPG, 18.5 RPG, 2.8 APG
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seems to appear on every single all-time great 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. But the big man was also an accomplished winner as soon as he stepped foot on an NBA court.
Kareem’s scoring (thanks to the sky-hook) and ability to protect the rim gave the Milwaukee Bucks a franchise player to behold during the 1971 season. Kareem averaged 27.0 PPG and 18.5 RPG to dismantle the Washington Bullets over a 4-game sweep. The big man was near perfection on both ends of the floor as the Bucks blew out the Bullets over 3 games due to victories coming in double-digits.
The superstar center also became the 5th youngest player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP award. Kareem was only in his second NBA season but proved he was the most talented and dominant star in the league. Clearly, we might never see another big man as dominant so quickly as Kareem was, and he has to be honored for his spectacular achievements in such a short amount of time.
4. Tim Duncan - 23 Years, 61 Days
Finals MVP Stats: 27.4 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.2 BPG
With Michael Jordan retired for his second stint, it was superstar big man, Tim Duncan’s time to impose his talent and dominance in the league. The Big Fundamental managed to usurp the great David Robinson as the best player on the Spurs, and he was given the keys to dominating in the playoffs. Obviously, he exceeded expectations by posting 27.4 PPG and 14.0 RPG to win the Finals for the Spurs.
There is no question that Duncan dominated the Finals, posting a ridiculous double-double and being the most impactful defensive enforcer on the court as well. The Spurs finished the New York Knicks in 5 games, with Duncan finishing as the leading scorer twice during the series and the leading rebounder 3 times. With his first NBA title in his grasp, NBA fans and media members knew we saw the beginning of greatness.
The Big Fundamental was only 23 years old when he won his first championship and Finals MVP, which is amazing considering the fact that the big man usurped another superstar in David Robinson, on his own team. Tim Duncan would win 5 NBA championships and 3 Finals MVPs in his career, but the first one would come in the 1999 NBA Finals.
3. Kawhi Leonard - 22 Years, 351 Days
Finals MVP Stats: 17.8 PPG, 6.4 PRG, 2.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.2 BPG
The San Antonio Spurs found themselves in a hotly contested rematch against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, and it came in the 2014 season. The Spurs were not considered the favorites over a superteam Heat squad led by 2-time Finals MVP LeBron James, 3-time champion Dwyane Wade, and All-Star Chris Bosh. But somehow, even though LeBron James averaged 28.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 4.0 APG, he could not usurp San Antonio’s elite team play.
Kawhi Leonard, at only age 22, captured his first Finals MVP award because he played some of the best defense in Finals history on LeBron while also chipping in 17.8 PP and 6.4 RPG. The young forward began showing signs of elite wing play, and superstardom would be on the horizon, as we would come to know. Leonard certainly benefitted from the brilliance of Duncan, Parker, and Manu Ginobili while also taking advantage of the confidence of Gregg Popovich.
But in terms of impact, there is no doubt that Kawhi had the biggest impact on the Spurs team that destroyed Miami in 5 games. The forward picked his spots tremendously well, shooting 61.2% from the field, 57.9% from three, and 78.3% from the stripe. Thanks to his defense and efficiency, Kawhi ran away with Finals MVP honors along with his first NBA title. He would soon build on that season, as he would become an NBA champion again just five years later.
2. Magic Johnson - 22 Years, 298 Days
Finals MVP Stats: 16.2 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 8.0 APG, 2.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG
For the second time in his career, Magic Johnson won the Finals MVP award with the Los Angeles Lakers after guiding his side past the Philadelphia 76ers in a 6-game series in the 1982 NBA Finals. The superstar point guard averaged 16.2 PPG and 10.8 RPG in the series, once again taking over a Finals series by being the best playmaker and floor general on the court. No doubt about it, Johnson was the driving force behind the Lakers' success in the Finals.
Shooting 53.3% from the field and 84.6% from the foul line while also chipping in 8.0 APG, no player was as dominant as the legendary point guard. All eyes and all the pressure were on the superstar point guard to make the difference in the Finals because the 76ers were stacked with talent in the form of “Dr. J” Julius Erving, who was one of the best players in the world at the time. But Johnson knew his side was the favorite, considering they finished 1st in the Western Conference during the regular season.
Amazingly, the series was closer than pundits thought it would be because Magic’s triple-double in Game 6 (13 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists) proved to be the difference. Obviously, we were witnessing some of the best play ever from a point guard after he even managed to win his first Finals MVP award at only 20 years old. Certainly, Magic was a one-of-a-kind point guard and leader for the Los Angeles Lakers.
1. Magic Johnson - 20 Years, 276 Days
Finals MVP Stats: 21.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 8.7 APG, 2.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Magic Johnson, unquestionably the best point guard in NBA history, was the best player on the Lakers en route to three MVP awards and three Finals MVP awards in his career. The iconic Lakers guard controlled the court with floor leadership and offensive brilliance due to his exceptional size at his position and excellent all-around game. Magic's exploits are genuinely exceptional, and we have yet to witness a point guard manage the tempo of a game better. The one that jumps out the most would be his rookie year when Magic won the NBA championship and Finals MVP. In six games, the Lakers overcame the Philadelphia 76ers during the legendary 1979–80 season.
Magic won his first Finals MVP in 1980, averaging 21.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, and 8.7 APG. Magic and the Lakers completed a sensational 6-game victory after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would miss Game 6 despite putting up 33.4 PPG, 13.6 RPG, and 4.6 BPG. With Kareem out, Magic started at center as a rookie and won the series, which earned him Finals MVP. That was truly an iconic performance because stepping in for arguably the greatest center of all time in a rookie season is something that should never happen. But Magic was skilled and tough enough to do it and do it effectively.
At only age 20, Magic played much older than his years and had the makings of a natural leader and winner. We might never see another rookie be forced to play completely out of position and still lead a team to championship victory while eventually winning the Finals MVP award. That is why Johnson is simply a special point guard and has to be placed on a field on his own when it comes to being a floor general. As things stand, Magic is the youngest player to ever win the Finals MVP award.