We have seen greatness on the basketball court for as long as we can remember. Every era has had some amazing players dominate the game, and this is even the case today when looking at elite superstars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James winning championships and achieving spectacular individual achievements.
Individual accolades and team accolades often dictate a player's success in the league and it gives the fans unlimited talking points when comparing careers. But there are only a handful of players that have managed to capture the most amazing of achievements including winning an NBA title, winning an MVP award, and capturing a Finals MVP award. The NBA title is the most important award a player can win because reigning supreme as a member of the best team in the league is very rare.
A lot goes into winning a championship, and that is always a mark used when discussing the all-time great players. Of course, being the best player on the championship team is yet another achievement that results in the Finals MVP award. Other than Jerry West, every player who won the Finals MVP has done so when part of a championship team. Winning both the championship and Finals MVP award is truly a rare feat to consider.
Finally, the MVP award is another individual award that distinguishes the best player from the rest. A regular-season award, the MVP is often given to the most elite player every single season. But what if a player can achieve all three awards in his career? That alone is incredible, as most players never came close to winning 3 titles let alone capturing 3 MVP awards. But which players have captured the trifecta of achievements at least 3 times?
In fact, only 3 players in NBA history have managed to capture the MVP, NBA championship, and Finals MVP three times in their Hall of Fame careers. Here are the only three all-time great players in NBA history to have done it.
4 Championships, 4 Finals MVPs, 4 MVPs
The greatest small forward of all time, LeBron James’ longevity is truly rare and will never be seen from a top-10 player ever again. The King is playing as a superstar player into his late 30s and has a chance to continue to add accolades to his resume including a championship or two. But as things stand, James is one of three players ever with at least 3 titles, 3 Finals MVPs, and 3 MVP awards. In fact, he has 4 titles to go along with 4 Finals MVP awards and 4 MVPs.
It took James a while to win his first title, although he would win 2 MVP awards before his first championship as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. James’ first two MVP awards came in 2009 and 2010, as he began building his case as the upcoming best player in the world while Kobe Bryant and the Los Angles Lakers were winning championships. LeBron would go on to win the MVP award in 2012 and 2013 with the Miami Heat, as winning the championships in both years capped off two excellent seasons. With James’ 4 MVP awards, he is ranked 2nd all-time with the most accolades in that regard.
LeBron should have won his first championship in 2011, but it would happen in 2012 and 2013 as a member of the Big Three Miami Heat alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. LeBron was the Finals MVP in both years, posting 28.6 PPG and 10.2 RPG in 2012 and 25.3 PPG and 10.9 RPG the following season. Easily the greatest championship of LeBron’s career came in 2016 when he somehow led the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors side led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. The King was spectacular in the series, posting 29.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, and 8.9 APG.
James’ last title came in 2020, in a season filled with uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic. LeBron took his time to rest and recover during lapses in the season and ended up winning a championship alongside Anthony Davis with the Lakers. Los Angeles took care of business against the Miami Heat in 6 games in the Finals. James won the Finals MVP in every championship season, giving him juice to start claiming his place as one of the all-time greats on Mt. Rushmore.
5 Championships, 3 Finals MVPs, 3 MVPs
The undisputed greatest point guard of all time, Magic Johnson achieved everything on a team and individual level during his Hall of Fame career. For one, he captured 5 NBA championships as the leading point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. Magic was a rare point guard at the time, standing 6’9” and having some of the broadest shoulders we have ever seen. Thanks to his size and elite basketball IQ, Magic helped create the “Showtime” dynasty that took over the NBA for over a decade.
Magic won 5 championships in the 1980s, clearly indicating the point guard was at the top of his game and was arguably the best player of the decade alongside Larry Bird. Magic’s first came in 1980 at the expense of the Philadelphia 76ers, where the point guard won the Finals MVP award in his rookie season when stepping in for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center in Game 6. That Game 6 performance stands the test of time because a rookie Magic dropped 42 points and 15 rebounds to close out the series and win it all. The next title came in 1982, once again at the expense of the 76ers and Magic won his second Finals MVP award by averaging 16.2 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 8.0 APG.
Magic was the architect of the Lakers’ title run in 1985, although Kareem captured Finals MVP by posting 25.7 PPG and 9.0 RPG. Magic’s back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988 came at the expense of the Celtics and Pistons respectively, with the point guard winning Finals MVP in 1987 by posting 26.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 13.0 APG in quite possibly his best Finals performances on paper. It was clear that Johnson was an elite triple-double threat and he constantly came through for his Lakers teams when he made deep playoff runs.
Magic also won 3 MVP awards in his career, all coming in the 1980s and the last one coming in 1990. Johnson won his first MVP award in 1987, the same year when the point guard won a championship and the Finals MVP award. His second MVP award came in 1989, nailing a career-high 91.1% of his free throws and averaging a double-double with 22.5 PPG and 12.8 APG. The point guard finished 2nd in the league in APG behind John Stockton, and once again created unlimited highlights with his passing and on-court plays. His last MVP award came in the 1990 season, the second-straight season earning the honor and he also capped it off by earning the best record in the Western Conference, once again finishing 2nd in the league in APG behind John Stockton.
6 Championships, 6 Finals MVPs, 5 MVPs
Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time, and it really isn’t close. The superstar shooting guard won 6 NBA titles over his career, capturing the Finals MVP award each time and also adding 5 MVP awards. Quite frankly, Jordan should have won more MVP awards because there was no denying the Chicago Bulls’ superstar was the best player in the league by his rookie season. MJ was simply on another level as a talent, and his resume is clear proof and evidence of that.
Jordan won 5 MVP awards in his career, the first coming in 1988 in what might be the greatest individual season ever. The superstar shooting guard won the scoring title by posting 35.0 PPG, and also won Defensive Player of the Year by dominating the court defensively and chipping in 3.2 SPG. We have not seen a better year on both ends of the floor than the one MJ put up in 1988. His second MVP award came in 1991 when Jordan posted 31.5 PPG to win another scoring title and also chipped in 2.7 SPG. MJ won the MVP award in 1992 in back-to-back fashion, posting 30.1 PPG to win another scoring title to go along with 6.4 RPG and 6.1 APG.
During Michael Jordan’s “second” stint in the NBA following retirement, he won the MVP awards in 1996 and 1998, both seasons resulting in NBA championships. It was clear the NBA was Jordan’s for the taking, and he immediately returned to the top of the mountain in his first full season back with the Chicago Bulls. Alongside Scottie Pippen, Jordan once again formed a dynasty that would last three more seasons. Both MVP seasons were very impressive, to say the least, as MJ won the scoring titles in both years.
Even though Michael’s 10 scoring titles, 5 MVPs, and Defensive Player of the Year award look extremely impressive, there is no doubt the championships and Finals MVP trophies usurp them all. Jordan was known to be a serial winner, and he went undefeated in every Finals appearance he made, holding a perfect 6-0 record. That is truly astonishing, especially when considering how Michael never even had to play a Game 7 despite competing against some great teams including the Seattle SuperSonics, Utah Jazz, and Portland Trail Blazers. Of course, every championship that Michael won also came with a Finals MVP award each time. Sure, Jordan had help with Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, and head coach Phil Jackson, but it was the shooting guard who always made the difference. His first three titles came in 1991, 1992, and 1993 at the expense of the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Phoenix Suns respectively. After Jordan’s retirement, he would win the championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Those championships came at the expense of the Seattle SuperSonics and the Utah Jazz twice.
It was amazing how Michael did not allow some elite Hall of Famers to win championships, including Karl Malone, John Stockon, Patrick Ewing, Shawn Kemp, and Reggie Miller among many others. Michael Jordan caps off the list of only three players with at least 3 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVPs, and 3 MVP awards and quite frankly, he was the best one we have seen.