Winning an NBA championship is the greatest achievement in the world for an NBA player. It is the eternal goal of every athlete who comes into the league wanting to make a name for themselves. It takes something special to be a champion, and only one team out of thirty gets to experience this every single year. Becoming an NBA champion as “the man” on a team is the most important way to gain respect from peers and fans across the world for any individual player.
What is equally as impressive is the stand-out player during a Finals series, in which you capture a Finals MVP Award. Very few players have managed to achieve this incredible feat, and it showcases which star was most impactful in the brightest stage of them all. It is time to name the last time a player won Finals MVP per position, and some names could be surprising.
Point Guard: Tony Parker - 2007
Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA championship in 2007, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in 4 games. Parker averaged 24.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 3.3 APG in the series, taking control of LeBron and company in a relatively comfortable manner. Parker’s lane penetration was a constant threat and the Cavaliers had no answer outside of Daniel “Boobie” Gibson’s three-point shooting.
Parker is a future Hall of Famer who has 4 rings and the Finals MVP he earned in 2007. The reason it has been over a decade since a point guard has won is that the game has changed so much. It is very unlikely that a 6’2” point guard could possibly be the most dominant player for a championship team….unless Chris Paul can win his first NBA title this year with the Phoenix Suns. Nonetheless, the Frenchman was the last point guard to do it.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant - 2010
Kobe Bryant’s second straight championship in 2010 resulted in him earning his second Finals MVP with the Lakers. Bryant averaged 28.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, and 2.1 SPG while leading Los Angeles to a Game 7 victory over the Big Three Boston Celtics. Without starting center Kendrick Perkins in the lineup, the Celtics struggled to handle Pau Gasol (18.6 PPG and 11.6 RPG), arguably the second-best player.
Bryant was the most consistent performer on the court in the 2010 Finals as he led all players in scoring (and shot attempts). The Black Mamba would not be denied his 5th NBA championship and no shooting guard has come close to replicating Bryant’s dominance in the Finals. Nowadays, dominant small forwards are the key to success in the grandest stage of them all.
Small Forward: LeBron James - 2020
As mentioned, small forwards have been the most impactful players in the last 9 NBA Finals. That is why the past 9 Finals MVPs have been small forwards, with LeBron James capturing 4 of them. The last time LeBron was Finals MVP was last year, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to victory against the Miami Heat in 6 games.
LeBron averaged 29.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, and 8.5 APG while proving he was still the best player in the world at 35 years of age. Jimmy Butler (26.2 PPG) tried his best to make the Heat competitive, but he was sorely outmatched as James had a talented Anthony Davis (25.0 PPG and 10.7 RPG) beside him. Small forwards are dominating the NBA these days and the head of that pack is The King, LeBron James.
Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki - 2011
Dirk Nowitzki completed arguably the biggest upset in Finals history when he led the Dallas Mavericks past the Big Three Miami Heat with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Dirk was dominant all playoffs long and averaged 26.0 PPG and 9.7 RPG while outplaying the entire Miami Heat roster. Dwyane Wade was solid by averaging 26.5 PPG, but LeBron James was incredibly disappointing by failing to make an impact in the series (17.8 PPG) by shooting fewer shots than either Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
It was Dirk Nowitzki’s time to win a ring, and no superteam on the planet could take it off him. Dirk proved once and for all he is a top-50 player of all time and the most dominant shooting big man in NBA history. The German’s one-legged fadeaway destroyed all competition and it has been over a decade since a power forward has captured the Finals MVP.
Center: Shaquille O'Neal - 2002
Arguably the most dominant physical force in NBA history, Shaquille O’Neal was the last center to win Finals MVP. It has been nearly 20 years since a big man placed his stamp on an NBA Finals, which is why O’Neal is often critical of modern NBA big men who don’t dominate with size. Shaq was one of a kind and it is hard to compare anyone to him, as he averaged 36.3 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 2.8 BPG for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The only 2 big men to win the Finals MVP since Shaq was Tim Duncan (2005) and Dirk Nowtizki (2011) but both players started at power forward. It is unlikely that a center wins Finals MVP this season and it could be a while before that happens considering forwards are the best players in the league right now. O’Neal once again proved he is a once-in-a-lifetime player by being the only center to win Finals MVP in almost two decades.
Credit for the idea: CrossNposter