Top Five Greatest Players Never to Win NBA MVP
By John Hareas

SECAUCUS, N.J., May 6, 2008 -- Well, strike Kobe off the list.

For 12 seasons, the question was debated: Was Kobe the greatest player to never win an NBA MVP? Granted, his career is far from over but no doubt up until now, he belonged in the greatest MVP snub discussion along with other Hall of Famers and Laker greats George Mikan, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

So, now that Kobe is taking home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy (named after the NBA’s first Commissioner), who are the greatest players to never bring home the hardware? Here are the top five:

1. George Mikan – How does the Greatest Player of the First Half Century (voted by AP) not be No. 1? The man who won six straight scoring titles, developed a devastating hook shot and led the Lakers to six titles in seven years (one in the old National Basketball League and five in the NBA) deserved multiple MVP awards. Too bad for Mikan that the award was first issued in his final season (’55-56), a season in which he posted career lows.

2. Jerry West – West led the Lakers to the NBA Finals in nine of his 13 seasons, was a 10-time All-Star and All-NBA First Team selection. During West’s prime years in the ’60s, no one was touching the NBA MVP Award unless your last name was Russell or Chamberlain, who combined for eight in 10 years (1960-69) with Oscar Robertson and Wes Unseld claiming the other two. What spoke volumes about West’s ability is that he remains the lone player to win the Finals MVP Award despite playing on the losing team (’69).

3. Elgin Baylor – His impact on the game was transcendent. Not only was Baylor the NBA’s original high flyer but he was a spectacular scorer as well (71 points vs. Knicks in the regular season, 61 vs. Celtics in ’62 Finals). His best season was ironically the Lakers first season in L.A. when he averaged 34.8 points, 19.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists. Good enough for MVP? Not that year. A rookie named Wilt Chamberlain took both the Rookie and MVP honors (37.6 PPG, 27 RPG) that season.

4. John Havlicek – Hondo bridged the years between the Boston dynasties and posted MVP type of numbers in the early ’70s when he led the Celtics revival, averaging 28.9 and 27.5 points while also leading the league in minutes played. No Celtic has scored more career points (26,395) than Mr. Perpetual Motion. At least Hondo took home the Finals MVP hardware when he led the Celtics to a classic seven gamer versus the Lew Alcindor and the Bucks in ’74.

5. Rick Barry – Would Rick Barry be more celebrated had he spent his entire career with the Green and White instead of spending most of it out West? His passion and desire to win was unmatched while possessing the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. Barry scored more than 25,000 points in his ABA/NBA career and if it wasn’t for Wilt and the ’67 Sixers, could have won MVP honors during the ’66-67 season when he averaged 35.6 points. It was Barry who scored 55 points against those very same Sixers in Game 3 of the Finals, the second highest total in NBA Finals history (Barry averaged a record 40.8 for that series). Eight years later, Barry would win the Finals MVP after leading the Warriors to the greatest Finals upset, sweeping the heavily favored Bullets.

MVP Info Lists
Compiled by Andrew Pearson and John Hareas

Top 10 Closest MVP Races
(Voting)


1957 (11 points)
Bob Cousy over Bob Pettit
1956 (14 points)
Bob Pettit over Paul Arizin
1978 (15.5 points)
Bill Walton over George Gervin
1976 (16 points)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over Bob McAdoo
1990 (22 points)
Magic Johnson over Charles Barkley
2007 (25 points)
Dirk Nowitzki over Steve Nash
1997 (29 points)
Karl Malone over Michael Jordan
1958 (30 points)
Bill Russell over Dolph Schayes
1981 (31 points)
Julius Erving over Larry Bird
1965 (32 points)
Bill Russell over Oscar Robertson

Top Scoring Average (PPG)

1. Wilt Chamberlain, 1960 - 37.6
2. Michael Jordan, 1988 - 35.0
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1972 - 34.8
4. Bob McAdoo, 1975 - 34.5
5. Wilt Chamberlain, 1966 - 33.5
6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1971 - 31.7
7. Michael Jordan, 1991 - 31.5
8. Oscar Robertson, 1964 - 31.4
T-9. Allen Iverson, 2001 - 31.1
T-9. Moses Malone, 1982 - 31.1

Longest-Tenured Winners*

  • Kobe Bryant - won following his 12th season
  • Karl Malone - 12th season
  • Hakeem Olajuwon - 10th season
  • Charles Barkley - 9th season
  • Kevin Garnett - 9th season
  • Steve Nash - 9th season
  • Dirk Nowitzki - 9th season
  • Magic Johnson - 8th season
  • Shaquille O'Neal - 8th season
  • Bob Cousy - 7th season
*First MVP Award
Greatest Players
Never to Win*


1. George Mikan
2. Jerry West
3. Elgin Baylor
4. John Havlicek
5. Rick Barry
6. Elvin Hayes
7. Dolph Schayes
8. Dominique Wilkins
9. Isiah Thomas
10 . John Stockton

*Beginning with the 1955-56 season

MVP Career Points

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 38,387
2. Karl Malone - 36,928
3. Michael Jordan - 32,292
4. Wilt Chamberlain - 31,419
5. Moses Malone - 27,409
6. Hakeem Olajuwon - 26,946
7. Oscar Robertson - 26,710
8. Shaquille O'Neal - 26,286
9. Charles Barkley - 23,757
10. Allen Iverson - 22,988

*NOTE: Kobe Bryant ranks 12th (21,619)

Most Career Points
at Time of First Win*


1. Karl Malone, 1997 - 25,592
2. Kobe Bryant, 2008 - 21,619
3. Hakeem Olajuwon, 1994 - 17,899
4. Charles Barkley, 1993 - 16,128
5. Dirk Nowitzki, 2007 - 15,173
6. Shaquille O'Neal, 2000 - 14,687
7. Kevin Garnett, 2004 - 13,864
8. David Robinson, 1995 - 12,209
9. Magic Johnson, 1987 - 10,805
10. Willis Reed, 1970 - 9,539


Position-by-Position Breakdown
PG = 8 | SG = 6 | SF = 4 | PF = 9 | C = 26

Center (26)

1957-58 - Bill Russell, Boston
1959-60 - Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia
1960-61 - Bill Russell, Boston
1961-62 - Bill Russell, Boston
1962-63 - Bill Russell, Boston
1964-65 - Bill Russell, Boston
1965-66 - Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia
1966-67 - Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia
1967-68 - Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia
1968-69 - Wes Unseld, Baltimore
1969-70 - Willis Reed, New York
1970-71 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee
1971-72 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee
1972-73 - Dave Cowens, Boston
1973-74 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee
1974-75 - Bob McAdoo, Buffalo
1975-76 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers
1976-77 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers
1977-78 - Bill Walton, Portland
1978-79 - Moses Malone, Houston
1979-80 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers
1981-82 - Moses Malone, Houston
1982-83 - Moses Malone, Philadelphia
1993-94 - Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston
1994-95 - David Robinson, San Antonio
1999-00 - Shaquille O'Neal, L.A. Lakers

Small Forward (4)

1980-81 - Julius Erving, Philadelphia
1983-84 - Larry Bird, Boston
1984-85 - Larry Bird, Boston
1985-86 - Larry Bird, Boston
Power Forward (9)

1958-59 - Bob Pettit, St. Louis
1955-56 - Bob Pettit, St. Louis
1992-93 - Charles Barkley, Phoenix
1996-97 - Karl Malone, Utah
1998-99 - Karl Malone, Utah
2001-02 - Tim Duncan, San Antonio
2002-03 - Tim Duncan, San Antonio
2003-04 - Kevin Garnett, Minnesota
2006-07 - Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas

Point Guard (8)

1956-57 - Bob Cousy, Boston
1963-64 - Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati
1986-87 - Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers
1988-89 - Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers
1989-90 - Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers
2000-01 - Allen Iverson, Philadelphia
2004-05 - Steve Nash, Phoenix
2005-06 - Steve Nash, Phoenix

Shooting Guard (6)

1987-88 - Michael Jordan, Chicago
1990-91 - Michael Jordan, Chicago
1991-92 - Michael Jordan, Chicago
1995-96 - Michael Jordan, Chicago
1997-98 - Michael Jordan, Chicago
2007-08 - Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers