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1990 NBA Award Winners: Magic Johnson Won His Last MVP Award, David Robinson Was Rookie Of The Year

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1990 NBA Award Winners: Magic Johnson Won His Last MVP Award, David Robinson Was Rookie Of The Year

The 1989-90 season was seen as a time of change to the landscape of the NBA. The league welcomed two new teams into its ranks, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Orlando Magic. The league also introduced new rules, borrowed from FIBA, to register tenths of a second on the clock in the final minute of a quarter. Not only was the shape of the league changing, but its faces were too.

For the first time since 1968-69, a season was played without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That didn’t stop Magic Johnson and the Lakers from finishing with the best record in the league though. The Portland Trail Blazers made their way back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1977 behind a monster season from Clyde Drexler. David Robinson made his debut for the San Antonio Spurs and completely turned their franchise around. John Stockton broke the single-season record for APG with 14.5. That is all before we get to the Detroit Pistons winning back-to-back championships after going through Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The competition in 1989-90 was fierce and the level of play was elite. Above all else stood the award recipients for that season. Here they are:

Most Valuable Player - Magic Johnson

2nd Place: Charles Barkley, 3rd Place: Michael Jordan

The race for the 1989-90 MVP was a tight contest between Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley. Magic ended up slightly edging out Barkley, 636 points to 614. Magic averaged 22.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 11.5 APG in his first season without Kareem while leading the Lakers to the best record in the league. Barkley averaged 25.2 PPG and 11.5 RPG while leading Philadelphia to 53 wins and 2nd in the Eastern Conference. Michael Jordan received only 564 MVP points despite averaging 33.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 6.6 APG.

This was Magic’s second straight MVP award win and 3rd overall. It would also be the final one of his career. Despite losing Kareem, Johnson was still able to lead the Lakers to the postseason with Mychal Thompson and a rookie Vlade Divac in his place. He finished second in the league in APG and 18th in scoring on the season. Magic elevated his game from the regular season to the playoffs averaging 25.2 PPG and 12.8 APG in 9 postseason contests. It would not be enough as the Lakers were stunningly upset in the second round when they lost in 5 games to the Phoenix Suns led by Kevin Johnson and Tom Chambers.

Defensive Player Of The Year - Dennis Rodman

2nd Place: Hakeem Olajuwon, 3rd Place: Joe Dumars, Derek Harper

Dennis Rodman took home his first of two back-to-back Defensive Player Of The Year awards for the 1989-90 season. The race was a tight one between Rodman and Hakeem Olajuwon as Rodman received 49 voting points to Hakeem’s 35. Olajuwon had the defensive numbers to justify winning the award. He averaged 2.1 SPG and an insane 4.6 BPG on the year while Rodman averaged 0.6 SPG and 0.7 BPG. The numbers were not the deciding factor.

Rodman took pride in his defensive abilities, often referring to defense as more exciting than scoring in his opinion. It showed. He began the 1989-90 season on the bench but ended up being named a starter for the Pistons’ last 42 games. He would lead the Pistons in rebounding with 9.7 RPG but more apparent were his lockdown defensive abilities. Rodman was constantly taking on the challenge of guarding the opponent’s best scorer and as a result, the Pistons allowed the fewest PPG as a team with 98.3 PPG. With his impact undeniable, Rodman earned himself the Defensive Player Of The Year Award.

Rookie Of The Year - David Robinson

2nd Place: None, 3rd Place: None

Speaking of impact, no one made a bigger one for their franchise than David Robinson in the 1989-90 season. His season was so dominant that not a single other rookie earned one vote for the Rookie of the Year award. Individually, Robinson had one of the best rookie seasons in history after serving two years in the Navy prior. He averaged 24.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, and 3.9 BPG on the year. He finished 10th in scoring, 2nd in rebounds, and 3rd in blocks in the entire NBA.

His numbers were outstanding but the impact he made on his team was greater. The Spurs went from a 21-61 record in the 1988-89 season to a 56-26 record in 1989-90 with a division title. Behind Robinson, the Spurs defense gave up just 102.8 PPG and finished 1 game shy of reaching the Western Conference Finals. For the playoffs, Robinson averaged 24.3 PPG,12.0 RPG, and 4.0 BPG in 10 games, nearly mirroring his incredible rookie campaign.

Sixth Man Of The Year - Ricky Pierce

Ricky Pierce

2nd Place Detlef Schrempf, 3rd Place: Eddie Johnson, John Williams, Orlando Woolridge

The 1989-90 Sixth Man Of The Year award was an absolute runaway win for Milwaukee’s Ricky Pierce. Pierce appeared in 59 games for the Bucks and averaged 23.0 PPG off the bench, far more than any other candidate scored. He shot 51.0% from the field and 34.6% from beyond the arc on the season as well. This was Pierce’s second Sixth Man Of The Year award in 4 years as he claimed his first in 1987.

Pierce was a burst of instant offense off the bench for Milwaukee who seemed to feed off of his energy whenever he’d check in. Pierce’s bread and butter was his soft touch and knack for knocking down mid-range jumpers. He would make opponents pay by forcing his way to the foul line where he shot 83.9% on 6.2 attempts per game, the 2nd most attempts per game of his career. Surprisingly enough, Pierce was not named an All-Star until the following season when his numbers dipped slightly. Milwaukee traded Pierce to Seattle during the 1990-91 season for Dale Ellis.

Most Improved Player - Rony Seikaly

Rony Seikaly

2nd Place: Reggie Miller, 3rd Place: Tony Campbell

The race for the 1989-90 Most Improved Player was yet another close contest between Miami’s Rony Seikaly and Indiana’s Reggie Miller. Miller finished just seven points behind Seikaly in the voting and had the better offensive season. Miller went from 16.0 PPG in 1988-89 to 24.6 PPG and his 1st All-Star selection in 1989-90. While Miller improved offensively, Seikaly improved in every sense on the floor.

Seikaly’s win in 1990 is rare due to the fact the 2nd-year players rarely take home the award. In his rookie season, Seikaly averaged 10.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 1.2 BPG. In the 1989-90 season, he averaged 16.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 1.7 BPG. Miller had a reason to gripe with the selection of Seikaly though. Miller’s Pacers finished 42-40 with a berth in the postseason while the Heat finished 18-64 with a shot at the first pick. Seikaly’s improvement was more well-rounded than Miller’s scoring improvement, so his selection is not too controversial.

Coach Of The Year - Pat Riley

Pat Riley

Pat Riley took home his first of 3 career Coach Of The Year Awards in 1989-1990. He would win one in New York with the Knicks in 1993 and 1 with the Heat in 1997. His selection in 1990 was the right choice simply because of his ability to adapt to change. Riley’s Lakers had just lost one of its stars in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and were scrambling to replace him while still winning. Riley found a way. With a platoon of Mychal Thompson and rookie Vlade Divac, the Lakers were still able to finish with a 63-19 record, the best in the NBA.

The Lakers finished with the 10th best Defensive Rating and best Offensive Rating despite losing one of their best two-way players in Kareem. This also netted the best Net Rating in the entire NBA as a team. Riley’s coaching style was tough and gritty which is why it came as no surprise that the Lakers didn’t miss a beat in the 1989-90 season. Despite the disappointing loss in the 2nd round of the playoffs to the Suns, Riley had the Lakers right back in the NBA Finals in 1991 against the Bulls.

NBA Champions - Detroit Pistons

Runner-Up: Portland Trail Blazers

The “Bad Boy” Pistons of 1989-90 went on to win their second straight NBA title. With the addition of Mark Aguirre and the emergence of James Edwards, the Pistons were able to easily replace Rick Mahorn and finish with a 59-23 record, the best in the Eastern Conference. Led by the backcourt of Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas and Defensive Player Of The Year Dennis Rodman, the Pistons were destined to take home another championship. Their path would not be easy.

They made easy work of the Indiana Pacers in the 1st round of the playoffs, sweeping them in 3 games behind 6 Detroit players finishing with double-digit PPG. They would meet the New York Knicks in the second round, taking care of them in 5 games behind 19.4 PPG from James Edwards and 18.4 PPG and 8.4 APG from Thomas. Their test stood in the Conference Finals where they would meet Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls gave Detroit all they could handle but the Pistons took the series in 7 games behind Dumars and Thomas leading the charge.

The Pistons would meet Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Finals. The Pistons would make easy work of Portland and capture their 2nd championship in 5 games. Isaiah Thomas was incredible averaging 27.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 7.0 APG in the series. Joe Dumars was spectacular as well averaging 20.6 PPG and 5.6 APG. Thomas would run away with the Finals MVP award.

Finals MVP - Isaiah Thomas

After missing out in the 1989 Finals, Isaiah Thomas finally took home an NBA Finals MVP in 1990. Thomas made sure there was no doubt who the voters should choose. In Game 1, Thomas led the way for Detroit with 33 points which led to a 105-99 victory and a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 went to the Blazers in a narrow 106-105 win with 23 points and 11 assists from Thomas. In Game 3, Thomas went for 21 points and 8 assists as the Pistons blew out Portland 121-105.

Games 4 and 5 are where Thomas ran away with the award. In Game 5, Thomas exploded for 32 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists as Detroit escaped with a 112-109 victory and a 3 games to 1 series lead. Game 6 was all Thomas again for the Pistons as he put down 29 points and 5 assists in a 92-90 title-clinching win. The Pistons’ success was built around contributions from the entirety of their team but in the 1990 Finals, Isaiah Thomas stood above the rest.

1989-90 Season - All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA Teams, All-Rookie Teams, All-Defensive Teams

All-Star Game MVP - Magic Johnson

All-NBA First Team: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing

All-NBA Second Team: John Stockton, Kevin Johnson, Tom Chambers, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon

All-NBA Third Team: Joe Dumars, Clyde Drexler, James Worthy, Chris Mullin, David Robinson

All-Rookie First Team: Tim Hardaway, Sherman Douglas, Pooh Richardson, Vlade Divac, David Robinson

All-Rookie Second Team: Blue Edwards, Sean Elliott, Stacey King, J.r. Reid, Glen Rice

All-Defensive First Team: Joe Dumars, Michael Jordan, Buck Williams, Dennis Rodman, Hakeem Olajuwon

All-Defensive Second Team: Derek Harper, Alvin Robertson, Rick Mahorn, Kevin McHale, David Robinson


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