The MVP Award is the most exclusive award that an NBA player can get. It signifies that you were the best player in the league. It means that without that player, the team would not be the same. The best example is Nikola Jokic this past year. If you take Jokic off the Nuggets, would Denver have made the playoffs or won a playoff series?
Not everyone can win the award. After all, only 20 players have won the award in the last 20 years. Some players win it more than once, especially in a span that has featured the likes of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Steph Curry, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. With that said, there are still Hall of Fame players that play the game and never win. These 10 players are the best from the modern era, who was incredibly close to winning the award.
Fourth Place Finishes
Chris Webber - 2001
27.1 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.7 BPG
Way back when the Kings fielded a competitive squad. In the 2000-2001 season, the Kings finished third in the Western Conference. Webber had his best season since joining the Kings and was named All-NBA First Team. With Webber leading the way, the Kings ultimately won a first-round playoff series before losing to the Lakers in the second round in four games. It was the first time in 20 years the Kings won a playoff series.
Tracy McGrady - 2002, 2003
25.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.0 BPG (2002)
32.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG (2003)
McGrady finished fourth consecutive seasons while playing for the Orlando Magic as a youngster. In 2002, he lost to winner Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd, and Shaq in that order. The following year, McGrady led the league in scoring but finished behind Duncan (repeat winner), Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant. McGrady’s biggest proponent against him in 2003 was that the Magic were just 42-40 on the season.
Damian Lillard - 2018
26.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Lillard led the Trail Blazers to a No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Lillard was a scoring machine this season. At one point during the season, in February, Lillard scored 197 points over a five-game stretch, which was a franchise record. For February alone, Lillard averaged 31.4 points per game. It was his first All-NBA First Team selection. It was just the third time a Trail Blazer made First Team, joining Bill Walton and Clyde Drexler.
Third Place Finishes
Dwyane Wade - 2009
30.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 7.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG
Wade led the league in scoring this season, but the Heat finished with only four games above .500. Had the Heat finished in the upper tier of the conference, he might have finished even higher. Instead, he was beaten by Kobe Bryant and MVP LeBron James. The biggest margin between Wade and LeBron was about six-win shares, as LeBron led the league with 20.3.
Carmelo Anthony - 2013
28.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG
In 2013, Anthony led the league in scoring and led the New York Knicks to their best overall finish since the days of Patrick Ewing. The Knicks were the No. 2 seed in the East with 54 wins. Anthony became the first Knicks player to score 40 or more points in three straight games. He once scored a 50-point game with no baskets in the paint. It was the most fun New York basketball fans had in years.
Anthony Davis - 2018
28.1 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 2.6 BPG
Diehard fans maintain that had DeMarcus Cousins not been injured around the All-Star break, the Pelicans might have been a top-3 team in the Western Conference. With Davis leading the way, the Pelicans finished 48-34, good for a three-way tie for the fourth-most wins in the West. Davis played without Cousins for half the season and led New Orleans to their last playoff appearance. James Harden won the MVP this season as the Rockets won 65 games.
Second Place Finishes
Jason Kidd - 2002
14.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 9.9 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG
The former New Jersey Nets won 52 games and were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Kidd led all point guards in rebounds and, but just missed out on leading the league in assists for a sixth straight year. Kidd was named All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team for his efforts on both sides of the court. Kidd lost to Tim Duncan, but one has to respect how Kidd put the Nets on the map this season. To no surprise, the Nets made the NBA Finals this year.
Chris Paul - 2008
21.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 11.6 APG, 2.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Paul led the league in win shares and helped the former Hornets make the playoffs, but when you look at MVP Kobe Bryant’s stat line you understand why he won. Bryant averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.8 steals. With that said, the Lakers won only one more game than New Orleans. There’s a valid argument that Paul deserved to be MVP.
Dwight Howard - 2011
22.9 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.4 BPG
Howard led the Magic to 52 wins and the No. 4 overall seed in the East. He was named All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team. It was in 2011 that he won his third straight Defensive Player of the Year Award. Howard led the league in double-doubles, as well as recorded a career-high in steals. He was the best overall center in the league, giving true NBA fans flashbacks to the old days of Shaq.
Kawhi Leonard - 2016
21.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Leonard helped the Spurs set a franchise record for wins with 67. He was named All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team. He won his second straight Defensive Player of the Year Award. The only player that had a better season was Steph Curry, who was named MVP unanimously and led the Warriors to an NBA record of 73 wins. Given the circumstances, you have to believe in any other year, Leonard might have won the MVP.