Winning the MVP award is one of the greatest achievements that any player could ever achieve. It's the ultimate recognition of a full year of hard work to lift their respective teams to greatness. Even though there are no clear criteria on how the award should be awarded, there's usually a general feeling of who the best player in the league is.
For those who earn the award, there is an even more impressive feeling for players who are younger or older. For younger players, to see a player in their lower 20s win is impressive because they may only have a handful of years in the league. For older players, the grind of 10-15 years in the league takes its toll, so playing at a high level after all that wear and tear is incredible.
Let's take a look at the best of both worlds: The youngest and oldest MVP winners in NBA history.
Top 10 Youngest MVPs In NBA History
10. LeBron James (24) - 2008-2009
28.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.1 BPG
The season was special for LeBron as he earned his first MVP of his young career. The Cavaliers qualified for the Eastern Conference Finals that season before being eliminated by the Orlando Magic 4-2.
In the regular season, James was one of the best offensive players in the league. On February 4, 2009, James recorded a near 52-point, triple-double; however, one rebound was subtracted from his total. He would have been the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 to record a 50-point triple-double.
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo (24) - 2018-2019
27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.5 BPG
Antetokounmpo led the league in efficiency per game with a mark of 30.9. With a new coach, Mike Budenholzer, Antekounmpo led Milwaukee to seven consecutive victories and led the team to a 25-10 start before the New Year.
On March 17, Antetokounmpo scored 52 points to go with 16 rebounds in a loss to the 76ers. He then avenged that loss one month later with 45 points and 13 rebounds. He joined Abdul-Jabbar as the second Bucks player to ever win MVP.
8. Bob Pettit (23) - 1955-1956
25.7 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 2.6 APG
Pettit won the award as a member of the St. Louis Hawks, now based in Atlanta. This was the first-ever MVP given out, the same year that All-NBA teams stopped giving out positionless awards, meaning that the team would feature two guards, two forwards, and a center.
Pettit won the 1956 NBA All-Star Game and led the league in total points scored with 1,849. Petit adjusted his game to score easy points at the free-throw line. He once told basketball historian Terry Pluto that "offensive rebounds were worth eight to 12 points a night."
7. Bill Russell (23) - 1957-1958
16.6 PPG, 22.7 RPG, 2.9 APG
Russell led the league with 1,564 total rebounds. The Celtics won 14 straight games to open the season and continued to succeed. Russell won the MVP award, but only received All-NBA Second Team honors, something that was a common theme throughout his career.
The NBA's reason was that other centers were all-around better players, but nobody was more important to their team than Russell. The Celtics won 49 games that season but fell to the Hawks in the NBA Finals.
6. Wilt Chamberlain (23) - 1959-1960
37.6 PPG, 27.0 RPG, 2.3 APG
This was the first time the MVP led the league in total points (2,707) and rebounds (1,941). It also was the first time in a season where Russell and Chamberlain played a game against each other in their 10-year professional rivalry.
After that season, his legacy and legend in the league really started. The NBA icon showed all his quality from a very young age and he kept showing that for the rest of his career, becoming one of the most dominant players of all time.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (23) - 1970-1971
31.7 PPG, 16.0 RPG, 3.3 APG
Abdul-Jabbar's presence helped Milwaukee claim second place in the East (56-26), which was a major improvement from their 27-55 season the year before. On February 21, Abdul-Jabbar scored 51 points in a win over the SuperSonics.
He was an instant star during his rookie season, winning Rookie of the Year as well. His season success spilled into the playoffs, where he recorded 46 points and 25 rebounds in a series-clinching game against the 76ers. Until Jayson Tatum in 2018, Abdul-Jabbar was the only rookie to record 10 or more games of 20+ points scored in the playoffs.
4. Bob McAdoo (23) - 1974-1975
34.5 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 2.1 BPG
The Buffalo Braves, now known as the Los Angeles Clippers, recorded 49 wins to best the likes of New York and Boston. McAdoo led the league in scoring, field goals, minutes played, and ranked near the top in rebounds and blocked shots.
The 6-foot-10, 220-pounder took nearly 800 free throws in the season and converted 81% of them. The Braves lost too many role players to make a run in the playoffs. The 1974-1975 season was their franchise climax before the team bolted for San Diego.
3. Moses Malone (23) - 1978-1979
24.8 PPG, 17.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.5 BPG
During this season, Malone emerged as the top center in the league after gaining 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason. He shot 54% from the field and established a league-leading mark for rebounds. That also included leading the league in offensive rebounds, setting a record with 587 offensive boards.
On February 9, he grabbed a career-high 37 rebounds against the New Orleans Jazz. The Rockets qualified for the playoffs but were eliminated by the Hawks in the first round.
2. Wes Unseld (22) - 1968-1969
13.8 PPG, 18.2 RPG, 2.6 APG
Unseld, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound rookie, led the Baltimore Bullets to a league-high 57 wins. The 57 wins were a huge turnaround for a team that finished 36-46 the previous season. Unseld was fifth in the league in rebounds but was also one of the best rim protectors in the league despite the league not tallying blocks.
Unseld finished with eight points and 22 rebounds in his first game. He then recorded his first double-double a month later. On November 22, 1968, Unseld recorded 20 points and 29 rebounds.
1. Derrick Rose (22) - 2010-2011
25.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 7.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Rose was a hero on all fronts. He was the youngest MVP in basketball history but also received the award with his hometown Chicago Bulls, leading the team to a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
On October 30, 2010, Rose scored 39 points in the team's second game of the season. Then, two days later he recorded 13 assists in what was Luol Deng's career scoring night of 40 points against the Trail Blazers. On December 10, Rose scored 29 points to lead the Bulls past the Lakers for the first time since 2006.
As the New Year passed, Rose recorded his first career triple-double of 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists in a win over the Grizzlies. After the All-Star break, Rose recorded a career-high in points (42) against the Spurs. He also recorded a career-high 17 assists against the Bucks on March 26, 2011. The 62 wins led the league and were the team's most since the 1997-1998 season. Rose became the player ever to record 2,000 points and 600 assists in a single season, joining Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Top 10 Oldest MVPs In NBA History
10. Magic Johnson (30) - 1989-1990
22.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 11.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Playing without Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson won his third MVP of his career and just cracked the top-1o for the oldest MVPs ever.
Johnson recorded a strong campaign statistically, but the team was later defeated by the Suns in the second round of the playoffs. Johnson also won the MVP award without leading a single statistical category.
9. Steve Nash (30) - 2004-2005
15.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 11.5 APG, 10 SPG, 0.1 BPG
In his first season back with the Suns, Nash led the league in assists per game and was the lynchpin that held the high-powered Suns offense together. Nash won the Skills Challenge during All-Star weekend as well.
With Nash in the fold, the Suns won 33 more games than the previous season and owned the best overall record in the NBA. His points per game are one of the lowest average totals for an MVP in history.
8. Wilt Chamberlain (31) - 1967-1968
24.3 PPG, 23.8 RPG, 8.6 APG
Chamberlain led the league in total rebounds, assists, and had the best field-goal percentage, nearly shooting 60% from the field. Chamberlain led a strong Philadelphia 76ers offense that featured six scorers averaging double-digits. Philadelphia led the league in total scoring at 133.6 points per game and posted a league-leading 62 wins.
Chamberlain cut back his scoring, but his 59.5% field goal percentage shined. He took 932 free throw attempts, another NBA leader, and dished out 702 assists. Passing was a rare commodity with Chamberlain, known for his high scoring, but on February 2, 1968, Chamberlain recorded a
triple-20 of 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 20 assists, an event that historians also believed featured 12 blocks despite it never being taken as an official statistic.
7. Hakeem Olajuwon (31) - 1993-1994
27.3 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.7 BPG
One of the most clutch performers of all time, he showed that he was not just a dominant center, but also a dominant player. He outplayed a generation of top centers, including Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Shaq, and Dikembe Mutombo. His double-double was even more impressive when you think about having the likes of Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone guarding him.
Olajuwon led the Rockets to an NBA championship, indulging a 25-point, 10 rebound performance in Game 7 against the New York Knicks.
6. Steve Nash (31) - 2005-2006
18.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 10.5 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Nash remained in the top-1o for the oldest MVPs after securing his second straight award. Nash led the league in assists for the second straight season, but also led the league in free-throw percentage by shooting 92.1% from the line.
What made this season special was that nobody expected the Suns to compete. Amar'e Stoudemire suffered a serious knee injury, while Quentin Richardson was traded away. Instead, the high-tempo offense was locked in and the Suns won the division title. Nash's best game came on January 2, 2006, where he recorded 28 points, five rebounds, and 22 assists in a 140-133 triple-overtime loss to the Knicks. Thanks to Nash, the Suns led the league in scoring, while seven players averaged double-digit scoring numbers.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (32) - 1979-1980
24.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 3.4 BPG
It was Abdul-Jabbar's first season with the great Magic Johnson. The Lakers used the No. 1 overall pick to form a dynamic duo between the two Hall of Fame players, while Abdul-Jabbar transformed into a defensive monster.
While his offensive numbers were spectacular, Abdul-Jabbar led the league in blocks. The Lakers won the NBA championship this season, while his teammate won NBA Finals MVP as a rookie.
4. Michael Jordan (32) - 1995-1996
30.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.3 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.5 BPG
When Jordan came back to the NBA, he had a sour taste in his mouth when the Bulls were eliminated in the playoffs without making a run to the NBA Finals. The first of the three championships, Jordan transformed his body into vintage MJ.
Jordan led the league in scoring and became the only player to win the NBA Finals MVP Award for the fourth time back then. His scoring title was the eighth of his career as the Bulls went back to becoming NBA champions.
3. Karl Malone (33) - 1996-1997
27.4 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG
It's been documented that Jordan believed that he should have won the MVP, which was used as extra motivation to take down the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. Regardless, Malone has one of the best seasons in his career and did it as the third-oldest MVP.
Malone narrowly beat Jordan by receiving 11 more votes than MJ. His 55% field-goal percentage was about six percentage points higher than Jordan, but either way, this was a spectacular season by both players.
2. Michael Jordan (34) - 1997-1998
28.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG
The final season of the last dance with the Bulls featured another great performance from Jordan. It was the fifth and final MVP his Jordan's career. In the playoffs, Jordan passed Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leader in points scored.
The Bulls won the Eastern Conference Championship for a third straight season while winning 62 games in the regular season. It was also the same season that Jordan hit his climatic shot over Bryon Russell in the NBA Finals against the Jazz.
1. Karl Malone (35) - 1998-1999
23.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Malone became the oldest MVP ever during the lockout-shortened season. Malone also declared on his Los Angeles-based radio show that he would demand a trade from the Jazz at the end of the lockout, citing a lack of respect from team owner Larry H. Miller and the media. Despite all of these distractions, Malone won his second MVP in three seasons.
The Jazz finished 37-13 over a 50-game regular season. The team lost to the Trail Blazers in the second round. For now, Malone remains the only player aged 35 or higher to be named the best player during a regular season.