More often than not, the Most Valuable Player award goes to a great scorer. The NBA leans towards the offensive end of the floor, so it's not usual to see solid defenders make it to the top of the list, even if they make an even bigger impact.
Even so, there has been a handful of players who have climbed their way in the MVP ladder while also being acknowledged by his lockdown defense. They've been named Most Valuable Player and also Defensive Player of the Year at some point in their careers.
Thus far, just five players have won both accolades, with Giannis Antetokounmpo becoming the most recent addition to that impressive list. Today, we're going to honor them by talking about the only players in NBA history to win MVP and DPOY awards:
MVP (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998), DPOY (1988)
No list of the greatest players to ever list would be complete without Michael Jordan's name in it. The GOAT won the MVP award 5 times over his career and is one of the few guards to ever be named Defensive Player of the Year. Simply legendary.
Jordan's first MVP season came in 1988. He took the league by storm and led the Chicago Bulls to a 50-win season. He played all 82 games, led the league in scoring (35.0 points), minutes (40.4), and steals (3.2). He became the first player to ever win the MVP and DPOY award the same season.
Then, Jordan had to wait 3 more years before being named MVP again. He took his game up a notch by averaging a league-high 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.7 steals per game. The Bulls won 61 games and he won his first-ever NBA Championship.
Jordan kept his foot on the gas in 1992 to win back-to-back MVP awards. He led the league in scoring again with 30.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.1 dimes, and 2.3 steals per game. The Bulls had a 67-15 record and went on to win their second straight ring.
The GOAT won his third straight ring and retired for a season and a half. He picked up things where he left them in 1996 by averaging a league-high 30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.2 steals per game. The Bulls broke the record for most regular-season wins (72) and won the ring again.
And last but not least, Jordan was named Most Valuable Player again at 35 years old. He led the Bulls to their second three-peat and a 62-win season with averages of 28.7 points (league-high), 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. It doesn't get more dominant than that.
MVP (1994), DPOY (1993, 1994)
No one made the most out of Jordan's first retirement more than Hakeem Olajuwon. He stepped up as the best two-way player in the league and it wasn't even close. He averaged a league-high 4.2 blocks per game and 1.8 steals in 1993 to be named Defensive Player of the Year.
Then in 1994, Olajuwon had arguably the greatest individual season in NBA history. He averaged 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 3.7 blocks per game. The Rockets won 58 games, Hakeem led them to a 4-3 series victory in the Finals and was named MVP, DPOY, and Finals MVP in the same season. Wow.
MVP (1995), DPOY (1992)
David Robinson went down as one of the most dominant and physical players to ever live. His defensive impact was clearly felt in 1992 when he averaged 12.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and a league-high 4.5 blocks per game, thus earning the Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Three years later, a more mature Robinson made a strong case for being the best player in the world. He averaged 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.7 steals, and 3.2 blocks per game, leading the Spurs to a 62-win season and being named MVP.
MVP (2004), DPOY (2008)
Kevin Garnett is one of the greatest competitors of all time. He could never lead the Timberwolves to success but he clearly tried his best, especially in 2004 when he averaged 24.2 points, a league-high 13.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.2 blocks per game. Minnesota won 58 games and he was named MVP.
Then, in 2008 when he finally had a chance to compete for a ring with the Boston Celtics, The Big Ticket took his already impressive defense up a notch. He averaged 9.2 boards, 1.4 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game, and his physicality was contagious for an outstanding defensive unit, thus being named DPOY.
MVP (2019), DPOY (2020)
Giannis Antetokounmpo has recently joined elite company. He's coming off an MVP season when he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA-best 60-22 record, although he couldn't finish the job in the playoffs.
The Greek Freak kept it going this season with averages of 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game for a historically good Bucks' defense. Milwaukee had the best record in the league again and he was named DPOY. He's also reportedly leading the MVP race, so he'll join Jordan and Hakeem as the only players to win both awards the same season. That's impressive.