Winning an NBA Championship is possibly the greatest achievement in the world for an NBA player. After all, it is the eternal goal of every athlete who comes into the league wanting to make a name for themselves and also the most difficult task to accomplish because the path to the title is a long and exhausting one. It takes something special to be a champion, and only one team out of thirty gets to experience this every single year. What is equally as impressive, on an individual level, is the stand-out player during a Finals series where a Finals MVP is crowned. Since the 1969 Finals, we have seen a Finals MVP every year.
Very few players have managed to achieve this incredible feat, because only one player per year can succeed with the individual trophy. We have collected all the Finals MVP award winners from 2001 to 2010, and it is very interesting to notice that one player stands out from the rest in terms of individual dominance on the court. It is also interesting to note that there have been multiple Finals MVPs over that entire decade, and without further ado, here are the NBA Finals MVP winners from the 2001 season until the 2010 season.
2000-01 Finals MVP Award Winner - Shaquille O’Neal
Stats: 33.0 PPG, 15.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, 0.4 SPG, 3.4 BPG
Shaquille O’Neal’s season in 2001 is one of the most dominant in NBA history because the big man simply destroyed Dikembe Mutombo, a multiple-time Defensive Player of the Year, in the post. The legendary Lakers center accomplished everything in the NBA season, from capturing his second-straight NBA title to wiping the floor with the Philadelphia 76ers to win his second-straight Finals MVP.
Shaq dropped 33.0 PPG in the Finals series against the 76ers and decided to impose his will after Allen Iverson somehow stole Game 1 in the series. While Kobe Bryant was fantastic during the series (24.6 PPG), this was Shaq’s time to block the lane and control both ends of the floor at the rim. His Finals numbers were just ridiculous in 2001, as he completely outmatched 34-year-old Dikembe Mutombo (16.8 PPG, 12.2 RPG) on the court.
The dominance that the Lakers showed in the playoffs in the early 2000s was certainly incredible to witness, and O’Neal was at the core of it because there was no answer for him on the floor. The Diesel is one of the greatest players in Finals history, and his 2001 season was just a continuation of his best years in the league. Of course, in the following year, Shaq would dominate another Finals series again.
2001-02 Finals MVP Award Winner - Shaquille O’Neal
Stats: 36.3 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 3.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 2.8 BPG
For the third-straight year, Shaquille O’Neal won the Finals MVP award with the Los Angeles Lakers and once again put up ridiculous numbers across the board. The superstar center averaged 36.3 PPG in the series, once again taking over the series by outscoring the likes of Jason Kidd (20.8 PPG) and Kenyon Martin (22.0 PPG) with the New Jersey Nets. New Jersey was a strong team on both ends of the floor, but there was still no answer for Shaq in the post.
Averaging 36.3 PPG on 59.5% shooting and chipping in 12.3 RPG, no player was as dominant as the legendary Lakers center during the early 2000s. For years, O’Neal was the nightmare in the West because teams could not stop him from averaging at least 30 PPG in the Finals and he was also a force in blocking shots.
With his third straight Finals MVP in his hands, Shaq was already considered one of the most dominant stars ever by drawing comparisons to the great Wilt Chamberlain. O’Neal is one of a kind, but it would soon be Kobe Bryant’s turn to take over the Lakers with O’Neal leaving for greener pastures three years later.
2002-03 Finals MVP Award Winner - Tim Duncan
Stats: 24.2 PPG, 17.0 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 5.3 BPG
Tim Duncan seemed to be getting better each season because the wins would keep piling up as the Spurs big man continued his elite two-way play. A few years after winning his first Finals MVP in 1999, the superstar dropped 24.2 PPG and 17.0 RPG on 49.5% shooting, sublime numbers for a power forward that also has a massive defensive responsibility.
Against a talented New Jersey Nets squad in the Finals, Duncan had every answer that the opposition threw at him. The big man led all players in the series in total points, total rebounds, total blocks, and total win shares. In a nutshell, The Big Fundamental took over the Finals series.
Winning his second championship and Finals MVP, Duncan began staking his claim as one of the best power forwards of all time. Obviously, he would eventually get there with 3 more championships on the way, but it was amazing to see the comparisons between him and Karl Malone start as early as the 2003 season because Timmy was simply spectacular.
2003-04 Finals MVP Award Winner - Chauncey Billups
Stats: 21.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.0 BPG
The 2004 season was the year of the Detroit Pistons, a team that was not supposed to have a shot against the dominant Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant Lakers. Even if Detroit had 5 excellent starters in Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace. These were excellent two-way players that played hard and put the pressure on the Lakers by forcing them into poor possessions.
Thanks to his on-court leadership and outside shooting, it was Chauncey Billups who would win Finals MVP after the Pistons somehow dealt with the Lakers in 5 games. Chauncey was exceptional on defense and led the Pistons in 3-point percentage and APG. He was also 2nd on the team behind Richard Hamilton (21.4 PPG) in scoring.
Shaq’s numbers were incredible at 26.6 PPG and 10.8 RPG, but the chemistry with Kobe Bryant was not there on the court. The superstar shooting guard had a poor series by his standards (22.6 PPG on 38.1% FG, 3.6 TOV) and that was mainly due to Detroit’s exceptional defense. Billups was the leader of the team and earned Finals MVP honors.
2004-05 Finals MVP Award Winner - Tim Duncan
Stats: 20.6 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.4 SPG, 2.1 BPG
The legendary San Antonio Spurs legend captured the Finals MVP award in 2005 again, posting monster two-way statistics while leading his team to a thrilling victory in a 7-game series against the Detroit Pistons. In fact, it was Tim Duncan who would be the cornerstone for yet another championship victory for the Spurs.
Duncan’s numbers were not as great as his previous Finals series’, but he was still a force on the court against a Pistons team that were keen on swarming the Spurs’ stars and not giving up easy shots on the court. The Big Fundamental led his team in points, rebounds, and blocks, and outplayed the likes of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton on the other end.
Duncan was the biggest story of the series because seeing Duncan handle the likes of Rasheed and Ben Wallace in head-to-head matchups was extremely exciting. In a thrilling Game 7, the Spurs handled the Pistons in an 81-74 game in which Duncan led the team in points with 25 in the closeout fashion.
2005-06 Finals MVP Award Winner - Dwyane Wade
Stats: 34.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 2.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG
In the 2006 Finals series, Dwyane Wade averaged 34.7 PPG on 46.8% shooting from the field in the greatest season of his career. 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. Dwyane 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.
Wade had some help with Shaquille O’Neal (13.7 RPG, 10.2 RPG) and Antoine Walker (13.8 PPG), but the series was all about him. Dwyane had one of the greatest 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 Michael Jordan-esque performance.
2006-07 Finals MVP Award Winner - Tony Parker
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 2007, 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.
Parker led all scorers on his team by posting 24.5 PPG on 56.8% shooting from the field, once again proving there was no answer for him when he was at his best slicing to the rim with elite speed. Parker, at age 24, was at his peak on a physical level because he was incredibly fast and took advantage of Cleveland’s holes on defense.
Dealing with a young LeBron James was not supposed to be easy, but San Antonio managed to get the job done over 4 games and Tony Parker was definitely the best player in the series. The Frenchman’s job was to penetrate Cleveland’s defense and be more of a scorer than a playmaker, a role he played tremendously well.
2007-08 Finals MVP Award Winner - Paul Pierce
Stats: 21.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG
In a typical Finals matchup that has been consistent throughout NBA lore, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers met in the Finals again. The Lakers accomplished one of the greatest deals in NBA history when they acquired Pau Gasol for a package of expendable parts. With Gasol joining Kobe Bryant, the Western Conference favorites were set.
But Boston also made major moves, bringing in superstar Kevin Garnett and All-Star shooting guard Ray Allen to join their own All-Star in Paul Pierce. That trio was definitely dominant on the court, and it was already a foregone conclusion that Boston would meet Los Angeles in the Finals. It happened, but Boston made quick work of the Lakers.
Pierce won Finals MVP, coming through for the Celtics in multiple clutch moments and leading his team in scoring against the Lakers. Pierce averaged 21.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 6.3 APG while shooting 43.2% FG, 39.2% 3-PT FG, and 83.0% from the free-throw line. We also got to witness the infamous “wheelchair incident”, whereby Pierce changed the series by pausing a Los Angeles Lakers run in Game 1.
2008-09 Finals MVP Award Winner - Kobe Bryant
Stats: 32.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.4 BPG
After the 2008 Finals loss, Kobe Bryant spent the offseason continuing to work on his game and returned with a vengeance during the season. NBA fans were expecting a Kobe Bryant and LeBron James Finals showdown for the ages, but it never quite happened since superstar center Dwight Howard led the Orlando Magic to the Finals at the expense of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Finals matchup between the Lakers and Magic was an interesting one because Dwight was the most impactful big man in the league and he had 4 elite shooters around him at all times. But Kobe Bryant would not accept another Finals defeat and was willing to leave it all on the floor to win his first championship without Shaquille O’Neal by his side. The shooting guard averaged an impressive 32.4 PPG, leading all scorers ahead of second-place Pau Gasol (18.6 PPG) and Hedo Turkoglu (18.0 PPG).
Kobe was simply unstoppable, taking over the series on both ends of the floor and proving once and for all he did not need Shaq to win a championship. All he needed was some help in another All-Star in Pau Gasol because Kobe would do the rest. With Bryant winning his fourth championship and first Finals MVP, the goal for the shooting guard was simple: win a fifth title to pass Shaquille O’Neal and get closer to Michael Jordan’s total of 6 rings.
2009-10 Finals MVP Award Winner - Kobe Bryant
Stats: 28.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Revenge is sweet, and that is even more true in the NBA. After the Lakers were embarrassed in a Game 6 blowout (131-92) in 2008, Kobe Bryant and company returned to the Finals against their nemesis, the Boston Celtics. This was a hard-fought series, with both teams coming up in big moments through their superstar players. But without a doubt, Game 7 was the biggest game of the series.
Game 7 was simply an ugly game to watch. The defense was tight, players were tired, and shots were not falling. But the Lakers did just enough to get the job done, thanks to Kobe Bryant’s free-throw shooting, Pau Gasol's inside presence, and a clutch 3-pointer by Ron Artest. Bryant, despite shooting 6-24 in Game 7, was the undisputed Finals MVP by averaging 28.6 PPG and 8.0 RPG through the seven games.
Critics might want to hold Bryant’s 6-24 shooting performance against him in Game 7, but he still led all scorers in 6 out of the 7 games of the series and also chipped in 15 rebounds in Game 7 which was the second-highest behind Pau Gasol. With five championships and a second Finals MVP secured, Kobe Bryant’s legacy would be solidified as a top-10 player ever.