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Only NBA Players Who Won The MVP Award And The Championship In The Same Year: Michael Jordan Did It Four Times, LeBron James Accomplished It Twice

Only NBA Players Who Won The MVP Award And The Championship In The Same Year: Michael Jordan Did It 4 Times, LeBron James Accomplished It Twice

We have seen greatness on the basketball court for as long as we can remember from some of the greatest players of all time. Every era has created some amazing players that dominate the game, and this is even the case today. Individual accolades and team accolades often dictate a player's success in the league and it gives the fans and media members unlimited talking points when comparing careers.

Winning the MVP award is the single most important regular-season accolade for an individual player, although it pales in comparison to winning a championship at the end of the year. While winning a title has to be the most important thing in a player’s season, capturing a championship is arguably a harder achievement. But can a player accomplish both in the same season?

It has only been down a few times, as there are only a handful of players that have managed to capture both accolades throughout NBA history. In fact, only 14 players in NBA history have managed to capture both the MVP and NBA Championship in the same season, an unbelievable fact considering there are over 350 players in the league per season on average. Without further ado, here are the only players in NBA history that captured both the MVP and NBA title in the same season.

14. Bob Cousy - 1 Time

Season: 1956-57

Bob Cousy

Bob Cousy was the first-ever player to accomplish this special accolade in the 1956-57 season. Cousy managed to win the first of nine NBA titles in 10 seasons for the Boston Celtics and has some of the greatest resumes in NBA history when looking at team success. Cousy is recognized as one of the best Celtics in history due to his scoring and playmaking ability, and his greatness was certainly captured in the 1957 Finals.

Cousy averaged 20.7 PPG and 9.1 APG to help the Boston Celtics outlast the Hawks in seven games. Cousy was the regular-season MVP with 20.6 PPG and 7.5 APG numbers while guiding the Celtics to the number one seed as one of the best teams in the league. Even if Cousy played in an era where only eight teams were in the league, he is responsible for kickstarting the next generations of point guards.

13. Wilt Chamberlain - 1 Time

Season: 1966-67

Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain won the NBA title and season MVP in the 1967 season with the Philadelphia 76ers, defeating the San Francisco Warriors in the Finals and completely dominating the court during his 81 appearances during the regular season. What is particularly astonishing is that Wilt won the MVP four times in his career, yet only won one NBA title in that span, despite his undeniable greatness as a physical specimen and stat-sheet stuffer.

His ring with the Los Angeles Lakers came in the 1970s and he was not quite able to win the MVP that year ahead of Oscar Robertson. But in the 1967 season, Chamberlain managed to accomplish both the MVP and championship trophy in the same year by posting 24.1 PPG and a league-leading 24.2 RPG in the regular season and later averaging 17.7 PPG and 28.5 RPG in the Finals.

12. Willis Reed - 1 Time

Season: 1969-70

The Game Where Willis Reed Became A Legend: Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals

New York's legend, Willis Reed, is the best player to have delivered multiple NBA titles for the Knicks. The man was not a stat sheet stuffer like other great players on this list, but his impact went beyond stats. Despite being taken in the second round of the draft, Willis Reed accomplished a ton on a basketball court as a 6’9” big man that stays in the paint. During the 1970 season, a 27-year-old Reed put up 21.7 PPG and 13.9 RPG in 81 games for the Knicks.

Most importantly, Willis Reed was an imposing paint presence who managed to win Game 7 for New York in the 1970 Finals. Reed averaged 23.0 PPG and 10.5 RPG to lead the Knicks in the Finals in a seven game slugfest against the Los Angeles Lakers led by Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. Willis Reed famously played Game 7 against the Lakers despite limping onto the court with a torn thigh, but his superstar MVP presence willed New York to a 113-99 victory that will remain in Knicks fans' hearts forever.

11. Moses Malone - 1 Time

Season: 1982-83

Moses Malone

Moses Malone is easily recognized as one of the best centers to have ever played professional basketball. In the 1982-83 season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Moses captured his second MVP in a row and managed to win the NBA title in the same year alongside Julius Erving. Moses' arrival in Philly immediately resulted in an NBA championship because his duo with Erving was too much to handle for the opposition.

Malone averaged 25.8 PPG and 18.0 RPG during the 1983 Finals and that certainly places him among the only players to have ever won both the MVP and NBA title in the same year. In a four-game sweep of the Magic Johnson-led Lakers, Moses and the 76ers took care of business. In the regular season, Moses also averaged 24.5 PPG and a league-leading 15.3 RPG.

10. Magic Johnson - 1 Time

Season: 1986-87

Magic Johnson

Magic managed to capture the NBA title during his MVP season in 1986-1987, which was the only time in his legendary career that he accomplished both. Johnson was the best point guard in the NBA during the '80s and it wasn't even close. He has the leadership qualities and intangibles to be a franchise player and was the immediate leader for the Lakers as soon as he entered the league.

Magic's 1987 season was truly magical, as he averaged 23.9 PPG and 12.2 APG in the regular season, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 65-17 record. Johnson followed up his excellent regular season by putting up a Finals stat line of 26.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 13.0 APG. Magic always seemed to have his best performances in the biggest games, and that was evident in the 1987 season as he captured his fourth championship.

9. Hakeem Olajuwon - 1 Time

Season: 1993-94

Hakeem Olajuwon

The first of Hakeem's first two championships, the 1994 season, the dominant big man capture the MVP Award to pair with the elusive title. Hakeem led Houston with a 27.3 PPG and 11.9 RPG average in the regular season, taking control of the NBA when Michael Jordan briefly retired. Hakeem was a force all season long with his scoring and defense, carrying the Rockets to a very solid 58-24 record, which was good for second in the West.

Hakeem's Finals performance in 1994 was arguably even more impressive than his regular-season production as he put up 26.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 3.6 APG while earning Finals MVP honors as well. This great season was topped off with the fact that Hakeem is the only foreign-born NBA player outside of Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Nikola Jokic to win the MVP award. With Michael Jordan out of the league, there was no denying Hakeem was the face of the NBA.

8. Shaquille O’Neal - 1 Time

Season: 1999-00

Shaquille O’Neal

It is no surprise that Shaquille O'Neal's one MVP-winning season also resulted in an NBA title. A legend and arguably the most dominant physical specimen of all time alongside Wilt Chamberlain. Shaq managed to dominate the entire 2000 season by being the most unstoppable big man in the modern era. There was no answer for Shaq, and alongside Kobe Bryant, the 2000 season was arguably the best in Diesel's career.

The superstar center averaged a league-leading 29.7 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 3.0 BPG for the Lakers as the team finished with a 67-15 record. Shaq’s postseason was even more impressive as it involved the Lakers knocking off the Portland Trail Blazers in the Conference Finals before winning the NBA title in a Finals showdown against the Indiana Pacers in six games. Shaq should have more MVP Awards, but the fact that his only MVP came in an NBA title win (and NBA Finals MVP Award) says enough about Shaq's greatness.

7. Tim Duncan - 1 Time

Season: 2002-03

Tim Duncan

The San Antonio Spurs legend won two straight MVPs in 2002 and 2003, ultimately winning an NBA title in 2003. Duncan has been a force to be reckoned with since his rookie season, and no player in the league had Duncan's fundamentals at that time. He was on another level at the power forward position, and 2003 was certainly his most productive year, considering the quality of his numbers and achievements.

Tim Duncan averaged 23.3 PPG, 12.9 RPG, and 2.9 BPG during the regular season to earn him the MVP Award, and he was the best player for the Spurs title-winning team that is remembered to this day. In the Finals, the Big Fundamental put up strong numbers at 24.2 PPG, 17.0 RPG, and 5.3 APG in dominating fashion.

6. Stephen Curry - 1 Time

Season: 2014-15

Stephen Curry Says He Never Wants To Come Off The Bench Again: “That Was A Good Run. At Least I Got That On The Resume. But Hopefully, Never Again."

Stephen Curry is the most recent member of this prestigious class, to have won both the MVP and NBA Championship in the same season. He did this in 2015 when the Golden State Warriors beat down the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games with Andre Iguodala winning the Finals MVP. Even with swingman Andre Iguodala performing the best in the NBA Finals by not allowing LeBron James to win the series on his own, the season as a whole was all about Steph Curry.

Curry averaged 23.8 PPG on 44.8% shooting from three in an incredible year, whereby many claimed him the best player in the league. Considering Curry's shooting and handles were on another level that year for the 67-15 Warriors, it was only fitting that he captured an NBA title at the end of the year. In the Finals, Curry averaged 26.0 PPG on 38.5% shooting from three.

5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 2 Times

Seasons: 1970-71, 1979-80

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seems to appear whenever rare accolades are mentioned because his career is truly the stuff of legends. He was consistently dominant when he occupied the center position in the league and there is a reason why he is the leading scorer in NBA history in total points. Kareem played into his 40s at an All-Star level, something we have never seen before, with only LeBron James being the threat to that fact.

Kareem's two MVP seasons resulted in two NBA titles in 1971 and 1980. His scoring (thanks to the sky-hook) and ability to protect the rim gave the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers a franchise player to guide them. Abdul-Jabbar is also the only player in history to accomplish this feat with two different teams and ranks third all-time (tied) with the most MVP and championship seasons. It is also amazing how Abdul-Jabbar managed to accomplish this feat in seasons that were nine years apart.

4. Larry Bird - 2 Times

Seasons: 1983-84, 1985-86

Larry Bird

Larry Bird is a top-two small forward ever, and one of the five players to have won both the MVP and NBA title in the same season on at least two separate occasions. Bird won three straight MVP Awards in the 1980s, winning an NBA title in two of them. Bird was simply unstoppable and is easily one of the greatest Celtics to have ever lived. Even though Bird shared the 80s decade with Magic Johnson, he was easily the face of the league between 1984-1986.

Bird’s 1984 season was exceptional as he put up 24.2 PPG and 10.1 RPG, eventually winning Finals MVP by posting 27.4 PPG and 14.0 RPG in a seven game victory over Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers. Even though Bird lost in the Finals to the Lakers in 1985, he averaged 24.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG, and 9.5 APG to win his second Finals MVP in 1986.

3. LeBron James - 2 Times

Seasons: 2011-12, 2012-13

LeBron James

LeBron James might be the King of the regular season (no pun intended) because no player can carry a team all season long as LeBron can. James is the most physically gifted athlete the game has ever seen, and he is a lock to win the MVP award every single year. Much like Shaquille O’Neal or Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron’s physical dominance took away from his MVP consideration in some seasons. Still, he managed to win an NBA title in the two years he won MVP.

Alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, LeBron was the best player in the NBA and his two MVP seasons resulted in two NBA titles. James posted monster stats in 2012, averaging 27.1 PPG and 7.9 RPG before taking his numbers to 28.6 PPG and 10.2 RPG in the Finals. The following year, James won his fourth MVP award by posting 26.8 PPG and 8.0 RPG, taking his numbers to 25.3 PPG and 10.9 RPG in the Finals.

2. Bill Russell - 4 Times

Seasons: 1960-61, 1961-62, 1962-63, 1964-65

Bill Russell

Whenever the greatest winners in basketball history are brought up, Bill Russell is the name that has to be mentioned. Russell is only one of two players to have captured the MVP and championship at least four times and is also the player with the most number of championships as an individual player. Russell had a total of 11 rings, so it is not shocking that some of those seasons came with an MVP award attached.

Bill Russell won a total of five NBA MVPs, although he did not win the NBA title for one of those seasons. Russel was the undisputed leader and defensive cog of a Boston Celtics Dynasty that lasted over a decade, something we will never see again. The only time Bill Russell’s MVP season did not result in a championship came in 1958 when he had 16.6 PPG and 22.7 RPG, although the Celtics lost in the Finals to the St. Louis Hawks.

1. Michael Jordan - 4 Times

Seasons: 1990-91, 1991-92, 1995-96, 1997-98

Michael Jordan 1998

The GOAT managed to win the MVP and NBA championship on four occasions, yet another accolade that usurps every other player except Bill Russell. Jordan was the undisputed best player in the game when he played for the Chicago Bulls, defeating any and all competition and making it clear that he was there to win every time he stepped on the court. That is why so many elite stars such as Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, and Reggie Miller never earned the success they truly deserved in the 90s.

Jordan's four MVP seasons that resulted in four championships were truly extraordinary considering the numbers and impact he had. It will be hard to find a player that is as gifted and talented as Michael to accomplish this feat at least four times, and as such, it is likely MJ will reign supreme as the best player of all time. The only time MJ did not win the MVP in a championship season came in 1988 when he won both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year but lost in the second round to the “Bad Boy” Pistons. 


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