The NBA playoffs are under way, and fans of the game and of online gaming alike will be taking interest in the outcome of the Finals MVP award. They may well consider some NBA Championship betting odds which will soon be trickling in most sportsbooks.
Last year, the mighty LeBron James claimed the award, making him the only player to have won it at three different franchises. In the 2020 post season, James had been shooting well from the field, but also illustrated commitment defensively. Of course, following his legendary block in the 2016 NBA Finals, was there ever any doubt about his defensive ability?
This article looks at some of the greatest players to have claimed the Finals MVP award, starting with a closer look at LeBron James.
The sight of LeBron James winning the Finals MVP had already become a familiar one by 2020. While this effort was with the LA Lakers, before that he’d laid his hands on the award twice with the Miami Heat (2011-12 and 2012-13) and once with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers (2016).
This fourth time breaks LeBron’s tie with 'Magic' Johnson, Tim Duncan, and Shaquille 'Shaq' O’ Neal. Now, he’s going after the great Michael Jordan’s record of six.
It’s easy to see why James has been so prolific. He’s immensely versatile and able to play in all five traditional positions with a comfort that is impossible to defend by other teams. Strong defensively and able to mount a multi-faceted attack, plus his next-level passing ability and and athleticism to grab rebounds and impact in the paint, James is a nightmare opponents would prefer not to have.
His 2020 series stats are just an example:
- 29.8 points per game
- 11.8 rebounds per game
- 8.5 assists per game
- 1.2 steals per game
- 0.5 blocks per game
When it comes to Finals MVP, one man dominated the 1990s: Michael 'Air' Jordan. From seasons 1991 through to 1993, and 1996 through to 1998, the sight of Michael Jordan winning the MVP with the Chicago Bulls was a regular occurrence.
At six times, he is the current record holder for most Finals MVP wins. He averaged 31.4 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game and 8.4 assists per game to win his first MVP title, and, later, in the 1993 Finals, he’d set a record average of 41.0 points per game.
The man considered "the greatest" was simply immense. Why? His shooting and his scoring prowess. Especially impressive was his work within the perimeter, where he scored a lot of his points, and outside of the perimeter he was sublime on defense, winning the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award for the 1987-88 season.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson
'Magic' Johnson won the Finals MVP award three times in his career, all with the LA Lakers.
His first was especially memorable, as he put in one of the finest performances in NBA Finals history in the 1980 Game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers. In taking his first Finals MVP, he became the youngest - and only rookie - to win the NBA Finals MVP.
In just 47 minutes, he notched up the following stats in the game:
- 41 points
- 15 rebounds
- 7 assists
- 3 steals
Johnson was a winner through and through, one of the many reasons he was so formidable on the court. His passing was nigh-on flawless, and he was able to guide the team during play. Often, people thought of him as a “coach on court.”
Like 'Magic,' Tim Duncan is a three-time winner of the NBA Finals MVP (1999, 2003, and 2005), each time with San Antonio Spurs.
Unfortunately for him, Duncan was much under-rated and stood somewhat in the shadow of Shaquille O’ Neal over the course of his career. In his prime, he was ultra-consistent, played a mean game at the low post, and was strong defensively, earning the moniker, 'The Big Fundamental."
Perhaps one of his finest performances was in the decisive sixth game versus the New Jersey Nets in 2003. During the game, he’d chalk up a triple double of 21 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists, and lead the Spurs to the title and himself to the NBA Finals MVP award.
The following year, he’d achieve his dream of playing basketball at the Olympic Games. With Team USA, he’d bring back a bronze from the 2004 Athens Games.
Shaquille O’ Neal
Just like 'Magic' and Tim Duncan, 'Shaq' is a three-time recipient of the NBA Finals MVP. From 2000 to 2003, Shaq obtained all three of his Finals MVPs while serving the LA Lakers.
Besides being big, the 7’1” center was strong and a real challenge to play against, as players such as Pau Gasol found out earlier in his career. The fact that opponents also had to contend with the late, great Kobe Bryant didn’t make their task any less enviable.
While on the way to the first of his trio of Finals MVPs, Shaq hit the 40+ points mark in three of the Lakers' six games against the Indiana Pacers, averaging 38 points and 17 rebounds per game. In his next two Finals MVP successes, he’d average 33.0 points per game and almost 16 rebounds, followed by 36.3 points and 12.3 rebounds.
There was simply no stopping 'Shaq.'
One of the amazing things about the NBA is that it consistently generates spectacular performances. With the playoffs under way, teams are beginning to set the stage for the Finals. Audiences will undoubtedly see more sparkling performances.
With LeBron already eliminated from contention, who will emerge as the Finals MVP this time?