Ranking the 10 Best NBA Finals MVPs of All Time
The 2019 NBA Finals feature a matchup of a basketball dynasty against a hungry team looking to completely exorcise the Ghost of LeBron James from their team’s playoff history. The Golden State Warriors are looking to win their fourth championship in five years, while the Toronto Raptors are making their franchise’s first appearance in the Finals. Reigning two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant missed the first two games for Golden State, and it will be up to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to carry much of the offensive load for the Warriors.
Durant has been one of the best performers in the Finals over the last decade, but today we are at the 10 of the best NBA Finals MVPs of all time. Keep reading to find out who we rank No. 1! (Only one appearance per person on the list).
10. Tim Duncan (2002-03 season)
- Finals stats: 24.7 PPG, 17.0 RPG, 5.3 BPG
The Spurs went into their NBA Finals matchup against the New Jersey Nets with a lot of optimism for the series. New Jersey’s Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin were very good players, but Tim Duncan was already one of the game’s best at the power forward position. He dominated the Nets front line on both ends of the floor, leading every game in total rebounds and averaging more than five blocks per contest for the second of his three Finals MVP awards.
9. Moses Malone (1982-83)
- Finals stats: 25.8 PPG, 18.0 RPG
The Philadelphia 76ers were a force to be reckoned with in the early 80s, and the high school to pro phenom Moses Malone was at the front of their offensive attack. Malone dominated the Lakers front line (including an aging member of our top 10 list) on his way to averaging nearly 26 points and 18 rebounds per game in the Sixers sweep.
8. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970-71)
- Finals stats: 27 PPG, 18.0 RPG
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is arguably the best big man to play the game and is the league’s all-time leading scorer. He dominated the Baltimore Bullets during the 1970-71 NBA Finals, putting up over 27 points per game in the Bucks sweep. Abdul-Jabbar was also named league MVP that season, and he impressive picked up another Finals MVP trophy later in his career in 1985.
7. Kevin Durant (2016-17)
- Finals stats: 35.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 5.4 APG
Two years ago, fans were blasting Durant for leaving the Thunder to join the team that just eliminated them from the playoffs in glorious fashion, but Durant made the smart move. In his second NBA Finals appearance, Durant dominated LeBron James and the Cavs, putting up over 35 points per game and dominating on both ends of the floor. This was the first of back-to-back NBA Finals MVPs for Durant.
6. LeBron James (2015-16)
- Finals stats: 29.7 PPG, 11.3 RPB, 8.9 APG
The reason the Golden State Warriors went all in on signing Durant? LeBron James‘ performance in the 2016 NBA Finals. After going down 3-1, James helped Cleveland pull off the historic upset over Golden State, including making one of the most memorable plays in NBA Finals history with his chase-down block of Andre Iguodala. The block and series win altered the landscape of the NBA as we know it, and has made this year’s free agency period that more impactful on the future of the league.
5. Hakeem Olajuwon (1994-95)
- Finals stats: 32.8 PPG, 11.5 RPB, 2.0 BPG
Houston made easy work of the young up-and-coming Orlando Magic in 1995, and a determined Hakeem Olajuwon spearheaded it. Passed over for the league MVP that season, and ultimately not being acknowledged by David Robinson during his trophy presentation before the start of their playoff series, Olajuwon completely dominated anyone in his path. He put up nearly 33 points per game as Houston captured their first of two championships.
4. Dwyane Wade (2005-06)
- Finals stats: 34.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.7 SPG
After falling down 0-2 to Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, Dwyane Wade took over the series, pulling off four memorable performances to get Miami their first championship ring. He averaged nearly 35 points per game in the series, and he continuously locked down his man on the defensive side of the ball.
3. Jerry West (1968-69)
- Finals stats: 37.9 PPG, 7.4 APG, 4.7 RPG
The only player to win the NBA Finals MVP in a losing effort, the “Logo” Jerry West couldn’t be stopped by the Celtics dynasty of the 60s. Scoring nearly 38 points per game, West made it look easy against Boston. The Celtics ultimately won the series in seven games, although West racked up a 40 point triple-double in the finale.
2. Michael Jordan (1992-93)
- Finals stats: 41.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 6.3 APG
Michael Jordan won six NBA Finals MVPs, but his Airness had his best performance in the 1993 postseason. So much so that this effort makes a strong case for the No. 1 spot on our list. During one four-game stretch of the series, Michael Jordan scored over 40 points in each game. He even dropped 55 on the Phoenix Suns in a Game 4 home win. The Bulls won the series in six games and completed their first three-peat.
1. Shaquille O’Neal (1999-2000)
- Finals stats: 38.0 PPG, 16.7 RPG, 2.7 BPG
The Big Aristotle was always the most physically dominant player on the court during his prime, and the series against Indiana showed how great he was. He tormented Rick Smits and the rest of the Pacers front line, averaging 38 points and almost 17 rebounds per game. O’Neal scored at least 30 points in each game of the series, as the Lakers won their first title of the Shaq-Kobe era. Also, this was the first of O’Neal’s three straight NBA Finals MVPs, and he and Michael Jordan are the only players to achieve the feat.