Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal are regarded as two of the greatest players to have ever lived and occupied the top-10 all-time list for the majority of fans and pundits. While each player had different playing styles, they were dominant in their respective eras and hold an achievement that isn’t shared with any other player besides them. Jordan and O’Neal are the only two players in NBA history with 3 championships and 3 straight Finals MVPs to their resumes.
They are the only two players with this achievement because no player was as dominant as them in their era. While Jordan did it with style and grace, O’Neal achieved this through pure force and aggression. Looking back at history and what is to come, this achievement will likely never be claimed again.
Michael Jordan Became The GOAT With Two 3-Peats
It is very difficult to argue against Michael Jordan as the greatest player who ever lived. He won 3 straight Finals MVPs between 1991-1993 and did it again between 1996-1998. In fact, he is the only player in NBA history with 2 3-Peats and 6 Finals MVPs as well. That achievement alone should be enough to place Jordan on top of Mt. Rushmore, but in case you are not convinced, here is how he accomplished this feat.
Jordan’s first 3-peat might be the best one of his career. His playoff performances in his first 3-peat were iconic and included battles with the Mark Price Cavaliers, Patrick Ewing Knicks, and the Bad Boy Pistons. Jordan’s first Finals matchup came against Magic Johnson and the Lakers where he averaged 31 PPG and 11 APG in the series. His next Finals appearance came against the Portland Trail Blazers, where he dominated the Clyde Drexler matchup. Finally, he overcame the loaded Phoenix Suns led by an MVP in Charles Barkley.
His second 3-peat came against the Seattle SuperSonics and Utah Jazz on two occasions. Thanks to Jordan, Hall of Famers such as Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Karl Malone never had a chance at winning an NBA championship. Jordan was always the most standout performer in every Finals appearance and solidified himself as the GOAT once he captured his 6th ring and 6th Finals MVP in 1998.
Shaquille O'Neal Completed The Most Dominant Run In Modern History
Just like Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal won 3 straight championships and 3 Finals MVPs as the best player in the league. Between 2000-2002, O’Neal was the most dominant physical force since a prime Wilt Chamberlain. Shaq was so dominant, that in 15 Finals appearances during his 3-peat, he scored under 30 points only once. Against the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and New Jersey Nets; O’Neal put up videogame numbers.
His first Finals performance against the Pacers included a 43-point and 19-rebound performance, and he followed that up with 40 points and 24 rebounds. His best all-around game might have come in Game 2 against the Sixers the following year, where he put up 28 points, 20 rebounds, 9 assists, and 8 blocks. In those 15 games, O’Neal also led the Lakers to an incredible 12-3 record. In terms of pure dominance, there will never be another Shaquille O’Neal.
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, And Kevin Durant Were Close
While Jordan and O’Neal stand alone by being the only players with a 3-peat and 3 Finals MVPs each, a few players came close. Kobe Bryant played alongside Shaq during the Lakers 3-peat between 2000-2002, but he could not usurp the stat sheet dominance that O’Neal showcased. But Bryant came close in the seasons 2008-2010. Bryant and the Lakers made the Finals for 3 straight years, falling short in the first year and winning the next 2. That first year came against a loaded Boston Celtics team, leaving Bryant with 2 Finals MVPs without a chance to join Jordan and Shaq.
LeBron James also came close, as the best player during the 2010s. He formed the most talented superteam in NBA history (until the Golden State Warriors) with the Miami Heat, and made the NBA Finals 4 straight times between 2011-2014. James blew a chance for him to join Jordan and Shaq as a player with a 3-peat and 3 Finals MVPs in a row, but he lost against the Mavericks in 2011 and the Spurs in 2014. James now has 4 Finals MVPs, but never led his team to a 3-peat.
Lastly, Kevin Durant perhaps came closest but injury cut it short. Durant made the Warriors unstoppable when he joined the team in free agency, and they were more talented than anyone else. That is why they made 3 straight Finals between 2017-2019, with Durant capturing Finals MVP during the first 2 years. Durant could have won his 3rd in 2019, but he tore his Achilles tendon and the Warriors faltered to the Toronto Raptors in stunning fashion. Bryant, James, and Durant all came close but there will never be players who dominated the game like Jordan and O’Neal did during their 3-peats.