Winning the MVP Award is the greatest regular-season accolade for players. It shows that they are the most valuable player to the team and the player who had the most impactful season. Looking back at past MVP winners, every player who has won the Award is almost a guaranteed Hall of Famer.
Looking back at every decade in the NBA, 5 players accumulated the most MVP votes and total points. With respect to the commendable work done by Redditor Unlikely Ticket, here are the top-5 MVP vote-getters per decade. By the end of this article, it might become clear which player was the most dominant in his era.
1. Bob Pettit - 468 Points
2. Bill Russell - 374 Points
3. Dolph Schayes - 234 Points
4. George Yardley - 127 Points
5. Bob Cousy - 123 Points
In the 1950s, Bob Pettit led all vote-getters as the most dominant star of his era. Pettit was the first-ever MVP winner in 1956 for the St. Louis Hawks and he also won the award in 1959. Pettit was a special post player who holds career averages of 26.4 PPG and 16.2 RPG and is the greatest Atlanta Hawks player ever. Bill Russell also earned some MVP votes thanks to his leadership and defensive abilities.
Dolph Schayes, George Yardley, and Bob Cousy all complete the top-5 list of the '50s. Considering that the MVP Award votes were only given starting 1956, the total points will be much lower in comparison to other eras. Still, there is no denying that Bob Pettit was the most complete and dominant player during the 1950s as soon as the MVP Award was given out.
1. Wilt Chamberlain - 1926 Points
2. Bill Russell - 1446 Points
3. Oscar Robertson - 1077 Points
4. Elgin Baylor - 680 Points
5. Bob Pettit - 415 Points
The 1960s were dominated by Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Russell has the rings to his name with 11 championships, but Chamberlain has the unbreakable records. Wilt edges Russell in MVP voting because he won 4 MVPs to go along with unfathomable statistics. No center dominated the game physically like Wilt "The Stilt", and he accumulated stats as easily as possible.
Bill Russell has 5 MVPs to his name but doesn't quite have the regular-season statistics that Wilt Chamberlain put up. That is why, even with 1 more MVP, he has fewer votes than Chamberlain. Oscar Robertson, one of the greatest point guards ever, won the MVP Award in 1964 by averaging 31.4 PPG, 11.0 APG, and 9.9 RPG. Elgin Baylor and Bob Pettit also have MVP votes as all-time great players.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 3239 Points
2. Bob McAdoo - 1392 Points
3. Dave Cowens - 1251 Points
4. Jerry West - 1086 Points
5. Willis Reed - 607 Points
The 70s was the reign of arguably the greatest center ever in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem almost had as many votes as the rest of the top-5 combined, because no player impacted the game like him. Kareem won 5 out of his 6 MVPs during the 70s, and his patented Sky Hook was the most terrorizing shot in NBA history. Bob McAdoo, Dave Cowens, and Jerry West all had over 1,000 MVP votes each as superstars of the game.
McAdoo was an unstoppable scorer with an MVP Award in 1975, Cowens earned his in 1973 for the Celtics, while Willis Reed has an MVP in 1970 for the Knicks. Jerry West didn't win an MVP in his career, but has a scoring title and assist title during the 1970s which earned him his 1,086 MVP votes.
1. Larry Bird - 4186 Points
2. Magic Johnson - 3069 Points
3. Michael Jordan - 1846.8 Points
4. Moses Malone - 1670 Points
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 973 Points
The 1980s were all about Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. These two superstars are icons of the game and helped make the league a global attraction. Larry Bird led all vote-getters in the 1980s as the man with 3 MVP Awards and consistent dominance in the playoffs. It is a shame Larry Legend could not stay healthy because he should have had a longer career.
Magic, the greatest point guard ever, finished second behind Bird and holds 3 MVPs of his own. Magic is one of the greatest Lakers ever and is by far the second-highest vote-getter of his era. Michael Jordan won the MVP in 1989, but his dominance would begin in the 90s so more on him later. Moses Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are two of the greatest centers ever with a combined 9 MVPs to their names.
1. Michael Jordan - 6087 Points
2. Karl Malone - 3917 Points
3. David Robinson - 3216 Points
4. Hakeem Olajuwon - 2087 Points
5. Charles Barkley - 1800 Points
Who else would be number one? The 1990s was ruled by Michael Jordan, as he was the player who took out Karl Malone and Charles Barkley during his reign in multiple playoff appearances. Jordan ran away with MVP votes with over 6,000 points, as he has 5 MVP Awards to his name. No player could score and dominate his position like Jordan so there is no surprise there.
Karl Malone earned his votes by winning the MVP Awards in 1997 and 1999. Malone was one of the most dominant scorers of his generation so he finished second in the 1990s. David Robinson won the MVP Award in 1995, and his dominance in the paint helped the Spurs win championships in 1995 and 1999 with Robinson on the roster.
Hakeem Olajuwon won the MVP in 1994, and his play was the reason the Houston Rockets won back-to-back titles during Michael Jordan's brief retirement. One of the greatest players without an NBA title, Charles Barkley was the MVP of the league in 1993 and he is unsurprisingly a top vote-getter during his era.
1. Tim Duncan - 4260 Points
2. Shaquille O'Neal - 3820 Points
3. Kobe Bryant - 3622 Points
4. Kevin Garnett - 3358 Points
5. Steve Nash - 3027 Points
The 2000s era was ruled by 3 players: Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan. The 3 players have 7 of the 10 championships won during the 2000s, which more than explains their impact on the game. Out of these 3 players, Tim Duncan has the most MVP votes. The Big Fundamental won the MVP in 2002 and 2003 and has 2 MVPs which equals the amount of Shaq and Kobe combined.
Shaq won the MVP in 2000, while Kobe Bryant won the MVP in 2008. Shockingly, both players have a combined 2 MVPs which explains why their votes are behind Duncan. Kevin Garnett, The Big Ticket, won the MVP in 2004 and is the greatest player in Minnesota Timberwolves history. Even with 2 MVPs in 2005 and 2006, Steve Nash is 5th in his era in MVP votes. Other than these 2 seasons, Nash didn't have a shot at MVP which explains why he is behind the other 4 Hall of Famers in this decade.
1. LeBron James - 7154 Points
2. Kevin Durant - 3925 Points
3. James Harden - 3557 Points
4. Stephen Curry - 2809 Points
5. Russell Westbrook - 1823 Points
There is no doubt who the greatest player of the 2010s is. LeBron James has achieved the most of any player during his era, capturing 3 NBA championships and 3 Finals MVPs to go along with 3 MVPs. James is continuing to defy logic by remaining dominant for this long, but his dominance during the 2010s era stood out the most. The King has almost double the number of MVP votes over second-place Kevin Durant.
Durant was the second greatest player in the 2010s era, capturing an MVP and winning 2 NBA championships. With 4 scoring titles to his name, Durant remains the most accomplished scorer of his era. James Harden might be the second-best scorer of the 2010s, as he has 3 scoring titles to his name with possibly the best isolation game ever. Harden has an MVP and finished second in MVP voting a few times in his career.
Stephen Curry has 2 MVPs but surprisingly finds himself 4th on the list. His 2 MVP seasons were iconic, especially his unanimous MVP season, but he fell down the pecking order in the seasons he wasn't the MVP. Mr. Triple-double Russell Westbrook completed the list as the 2016 MVP and one of the most dominant point guards of all time.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo - 1310 Points
2. Nikola Jokić - 989 Points
3. LeBron James - 754 Points
4. Joel Embiid - 586 Points
5. Stephen Curry - 453 Points
In the 2020s so far, Giannis Antetokounmpo has the most MVP votes over the past 2 years. After all, the 2-time MVP led the Bucks to the best record in the East during his two successful campaigns. Giannis Antetokounmpo is unlike any star we have seen before because his raw athleticism and tremendous length allow him to affect the game in all areas.
Second place Nikola Jokic won the award this year and achieved his point total by averaging 26.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 8.3 APG this year. Jokic could be the best passing big man in NBA history, which is an incredible feat to witness. LeBron James is of course on the ballot, while Joel Embiid was in the MVP Race this year alongside Jokic. The greatest shooter ever, Stephen Curry, finishes 5th.