There have been some great players throughout NBA history who have won the MVP Award in their eras. Two of the most exciting decades of basketball came in the 1990s and 2000s, where guys such as Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal dominated respectively. But what if the 5 most dominant MVPs over those two decades went to battle against each other?
The 90s era had Magic Johnson (1990 MVP), Michael Jordan (1996 MVP), Charles Barkley (1993 MVP), Karl Malone (1999 MVP), and Hakeem Olajuwon (1994 MVP) win championships and individual awards. Magic and Jordan are regarded as the two best players who have ever played the position, while Barkley and Malone are arguably top-20 players of all time in their own right. Hakeem “The Dream” won 2 NBA titles with the Rockets and is a top-5 center ever.
During the 2000s, Allen Iverson (2001 MVP) and Kobe Bryant (2008 MVP) were the two best backcourt players. LeBron James (2009 MVP) was the best small forward by far, while Tim Duncan (2002 MVP) and Shaquille O’Neal (2000 MVP) dominated the paint. But do these 5 stars have enough to take on the 90s MVPs? It is time to find out.
Magic Johnson vs. Allen Iverson
At the point guard spot, 2 Hall of Famers battle it out. Magic brings size, rebounding, and playmaking against a scoring threat in Iverson. Johnson will lead the offense by his lonesome, making sure his scorers have the ability to get buckets at ultimate efficiency. At the point guard position, nobody can do it better.
Iverson will make sure he will put pressure on Magic, taking any chance he gets to score the ball. Iverson realizes that Bryant is on the court with him, but will be confident in his ability to take the larger guard off the dribble. This matchup is exciting because of the fact the players are polar opposites in playing style.
Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant
This matchup is about as even as it gets because both players have unstoppable scoring ability and a killer instinct that cannot be usurped. Jordan and Kobe play the same way and are almost identical, but the difference comes in the way they will receive the ball from their point guards.
Jordan and Magic will form an amazing duo with perfect chemistry in this series, while Bryant and Iverson will approach every game as two individuals. The main difference is in styles of play, not due to particular deficiencies on the court. Either way, Jordan vs. Bryant is the marquee matchup in this 7-game series.
Charles Barkley vs. LeBron James
Charles Barkley is one of the best paint threats ever, although the presence of Malone and Hakeem will be an issue on the court. Barkley will need to work out with the two bigs on clearing space for him because the 1993 MVP is at his best operating down low. Meanwhile, LeBron will play his best basketball and be the biggest advantage for his team.
The King will be the “Magic Johnson” of his side, setting up his scorers and attacking the basket when the plays are not working. LeBron is a better player than Barkley and will prove it in this series by leading his team in assists and finishing second in scoring behind MJ. LeBron will also up his level when he sees Jordan across the court from him.
Karl Malone vs. Tim Duncan
The ultimate power forward matchup. Karl Malone and Tim Duncan are the two greatest to ever play the position and will go toe-to-toe all series long. Malone has the edge in scoring because of his beautiful mid-range jumper, but Duncan has the defensive advantage. Both players will also have a major impact on their teams.
As a result, there is little to separate them. Duncan and Shaq form a dominant duo but so do Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon. Malone will benefit more from his guard play than Duncan will, because Magic can recreate the Stockton-Malone pick n’ roll play in possibly an even better way.
Hakeem Olajuwon vs. Shaquille O’Neal
Hakeem Olajuwon got the better of Shaquille O’Neal in past history, but we are talking about a prime Shaq in this series. Shaq is larger than Olajuwon and more powerful, so he will be his usual dominant self over the series. But O’Neal will also struggle with defending Hakeem’s impressive post moves.
In the end, there is also too little to separate these two bigs. O’Neal will put up larger scoring and rebounding numbers due to his raw size, but Hakeem will have big plays to neutralize the big man’s impact in spots throughout the series. Overall, this matchup is also one of the more exciting ones in the series.
90s MVPs Advantage
The 90s MVPs are stacked at every position, although the duo of Magic and Jordan outweighs that of Iverson and Bryant. While Iverson is a scorer and can be somewhat selfish on the court, Magic is the polar opposite and will succeed whenever Jordan gets his touches. Magic can also outrebound Iverson and will be a problem down low. Jordan, of course, is the best player on the court.
Otherwise, their interior scoring is ridiculous as Barkley will always find a way to be around the basket. Malone and Olajuwon are two bigs who can score down low with ease and will feed off the brilliance of Magic and Jordan. The team’s interior presence and also the sheer perfection of Magic and Jordan will be the biggest advantage for the 90s MVPs.
00s MVPs Advantage
The 2000s MVPs have a ton of superstar talent, and their greatest advantage will come in the form of LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal. James is much more athletic than Barkley and will have no problem being the facilitator or driving to the basket when he is one-on-one with the 1993 MVP. A player of James’ physicality is nowhere to be found on the court since he takes Malone’s size and combines it with unstoppable athletic ability.
Otherwise, the presence of Shaquille O’Neal is always a problem. The center is so massive, that even one of the great defenders ever in Hakeem Olajuwon will struggle against him. Hakeem will have no problem scoring on Shaq, but he will be in foul trouble throughout the series. O’Neal will play with vigor in this series, and that will make the 2000s MVPs a tough team to defend against.
Who Wins The Best-Of-7?
This series will go down to the wire, although the first 4 games are even blowouts. Games 1 and 2 go to the 90s MVPs because the duo of Magic and Jordan work unbelievable well. The 2000s MVPs will have a very tough time defending Jordan in the pick n roll, while number 23 will make a living coming off Olajuwon’s screens. Magic has virtuoso performances in both games, resulting in 110-92 and 115-95 victories.
As expected, the 2000s MVPs adjust. LeBron puts his head down and dominates Game 3, posting 40 points and 12 rebounds to go along with 8 assists. With the game down to the wire at the end of the game, a Kobe Bryant game-winner ensures LeBron’s dominant performance does not go to waste. Instead of falling 0-3, the 2000s MVPs have a shot to even the series.
Which they do. Shaq and LeBron combine for 70 points, and Allen Iverson finds his spark by chipping in 22 points after 3 pedestrian games. Michael Jordan slightly struggles from the perimeter thanks to Bryant’s efforts on defense, so O’Neal and James have enough to sneak a 99-96 victory.
Game 5 is all about Michael Jordan. The GOAT drops 37 points, going toe-to-toe with Bryant who manages 38 points of his own. The shooting guard battle goes down to the wire in the 4th quarter, but O’Neal struggles with the “Dream Shake” all game long which forces a late double team. Hakeem dishes out to Jordan, who takes a quick jab step before nailing a buzzer-beater to win the game.
Once again, Jordan has an incredible game in Game 6. After poor offensive performances from Barkley, Johnson, and Malone; the shooting guard is forced to drop 40 points. Thanks to defensive assignments given to Bryant and LeBron, Jordan shoots below 45%. That gives the 2000s MVPs enough chance to overcome Jordan’s firepower, as Duncan and Shaq put up monster double-doubles to win the game in OT. In a pivotal Game 7, all players play up to par. Even Charles Barkley, who has a quiet series, manages 15 points and 15 rebounds. But the game is all about the 4th quarter, where the 90s MVPs find their rhythm on offense. The 90s MVPs finish the quarter on 52% shooting while making all their free throws as well. Jordan scores 30, Magic registers 13 assists, and the 90s MVPs pull away to win the series in a 133-129 victory.
Result: 90s MVPs vs. 2000s MVPs 4-3
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan