How Many Players Have Won Back-to-Back NBA MVP Awards?
Including the first man to receive the honor following the 1955-56 season, legendary St. Louis Hawks forward Bob Pettit, 35 different NBA players have won the coveted Most Valuable Player award. Of those 35, 15 have won the NBA MVP multiple times, the most recent being Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Well, assuming you believe this Woj bomb to be true anyway, which we do. And if turns out not to be, we’ll certainly rectify the numbers here.
Not only does Jokic become the 15th player to win multiple NBA MVP awards, but he also becomes the 13th player to win back-to-back NBA MVPs. However, the feat has been accomplished 15 times as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James did it twice.
Here’s a quick look at all the instances in which a player won the NBA MVP in back-to-back seasons, sometimes even back-to-back-to-back seasons.
Bill Russell (1961, 1962, 1963)
We’ll kick off the list with one of those who went back-to-back-to-back, legendary Boston Celtics center Bill Russell. The 11-time champ won his first NBA MVP award following the 1957-58 campaign and was just the third player to win it, following Pettit and Celtics teammate Bob Cousy.
Pettit won it for a second time in 1959, and Wilt Chamberlain won it for the first time in 1960. But Russell then took control of the trophy for the next three years, winning it in 1961, 1962, and 1963. He won it for the fifth and final time in 1965.
Wilt Chamberlain (1966, 1967, 1968)
After collecting his first NBA MVP trophy in 1960 as a member of the Philadelphia Warriors, Wilt Chamberlain didn’t win another for six years. But like Russell, he took control of the award for three years in the late ’60s as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, winning it in 1966, 1967, and 1968. Wilt also led the Sixers to an NBA title in 1967, the first of his two championships.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1971, 1972 — 1976, 1977)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still owns the most NBA MVP trophies with six and was the first to go back-to-back on two separate occasions. He was still known as Lew Alcindor when he won his first in 1971, the same year he led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA title. He won the award as Kareem the following year.
Abdul-Jabbar won the award for the first time as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1976, his fourth win overall. What’s notable about this particular victory was that the Lakers had a losing record of 40-42 that season and missed the playoffs. He led the team to an NBA-best 53-29 record the following year and took home his fifth NBA MVP trophy, tying Russell for the most in history. Kareem set a new mark with his sixth win in 1980.
Moses Malone (1982, 1983)
While Moses Malone wasn’t the first to win NBA MVP in consecutive years or for two different teams, he was the first and is still the only player to win the award in consecutive years for different teams. After winning the award for the second time with the Houston Rockets in 1982, he won it again in 1983 as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Larry Bird (1984, 1985, 1986)
Larry Bird held the NBA MVP trophy hostage for the next three seasons following Malone’s back-to-back wins, winning it in 1984, 1985, and 1986. His Celtics appeared in the NBA Finals in each season, winning titles in ’84 and ’86. Bird was also named NBA Finals MVP in those series victories.
Magic Johnson (1989, 1990)
Magic Johnson broke his rival’s NBA MVP streak by winning the award for the first time in 1987. Michael Jordan won his first in 1988, but Magic took it back in 1989 and won it for the third and final time in 1990. Johnson played just one more season before retiring for the first time in 1991 after acquiring HIV.
Michael Jordan (1991, 1992)
Tied with Bill Russell for the second-most NBA MVP wins is Michael Jordan with five. As mentioned, he won the award for the first time in 1988, the year he also won NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Following Magic’s back-to-back run, Jordan went back-to-back himself in 1991 and 1992. He also led the Chicago Bulls to their first two championships in those seasons.
His Airness won the award for the fourth time in 1996 and then again following “The Last Dance” season in 1998.
Tim Duncan (2002, 2003)
Tim Duncan won his first NBA MVP award in his fifth season with the San Antonio Spurs. And that 2001-02 campaign was arguably the best of his career as “The Big Fundamental” averaged a career-high 25.5 points per game, adding 12.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. He won the award again in 2003, the same year he won his second of five NBA titles.
Steve Nash (2005, 2006)
While there are those who believe Steve Nash didn’t deserve to win one, let alone back-to-back NBA MVP trophies for the Phoenix Suns in 2005 and 2006, it still happened. Nash led the league in assists both years and also took the Suns to the Western Conference Finals both years. But Phoenix failed to advance to the NBA Finals both times.
LeBron James (2009, 2010 — 2012, 2013)
LeBron James won his four NBA MVP awards in a five-year span and is the only player besides Kareem to go back-to-back twice. And like Kareem, LeBron did it for two separate teams. He won his first two in 2009 and 2010, the final two seasons of his first run with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And he went back-to-back again in 2012 and 2013, the same two seasons he won his two NBA titles in South Beach.
Stephen Curry (2015, 2016)
Stephen Curry won his first NBA MVP in 2015, the same he won his first title with the Golden State Warriors. He won it again in 2016, the same season the Warriors set a new regular-season record with 73 victories. The Dubs, of course, couldn’t finish things off as they lost to LeBron and the Cavs in the NBA Finals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019, 2020)
Two years after winning the NBA Most Improved Player award, Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo won his first NBA MVP trophy in 2019 after averaging 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.3 steals. “The Greek Freak” helped the Bucks join the Celtics and Lakers as the only teams with multiple back-to-back NBA MVP winners when he won again in 2020.
Nikola Jokic (2021, 2022)
Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic is now the 13th man to win back-to-back NBA MVP awards. The Serbian superstar averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 1.5 steals for the Nuggets this past season.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference
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