The Last 5 instances of NBA MVPs not contesting the Conference Finals

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets.

As the Denver Nuggets and recently-named NBA MVP Nikola Jokic were swept away in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs by the Phoenix Suns, the MVP of the League has been eliminated before the Conference Finals for the second consecutive season.

Of course, Jokic's MVP award was deserved for his great performance during the 2020-21 NBA regular season, especially because he put the Denver Nuggets in third place in the West in Jamal Murray's absence in the latter stages of the campaign. However, he will be disappointed that his team could not make the Conference Finals.

5 Most recent times when the NBA MVP did not reach the Conference Finals

The NBA MVP trophy has been awarded 66 times since the 1955-56 NBA season and the winner's team has not reached the Division/Conference Finals 14 times. In the 1975-76 NBA season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the MVP and his LA Lakers did not make it to the NBA Playoffs.

Now, with Jokic's team falling in the second round and Giannis Antetokounmpo's (Milwaukee Bucks) early exit from the 2020 NBA Playoffs, we have had two consecutive years where the MVP has not made it to the Conference Finals, for the first time since 1979.

In this article, we will give you the last five instances where the NBA MVP could not put his team among the top four squads in the NBA Playoffs.

Without further ado, let us take a look.

#5 Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) - NBA MVP, 2020-21 season

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets.

Nikola Jokic won the 2020-21 NBA MVP deservedly after appearing in every game for the Denver Nuggets and recording emphatic all-around numbers. He averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game with 56/38/86 shooting splits in the 72-game regular round.

In the NBA Playoffs, 'Joker' performed excellently in the first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, which Denver won in six games. However, the Nuggets looked overwhelmed by Chris Paul and Devin Booker in the second round, and were swept by the Phoenix Suns.

Denver finished the campaign with a 47-25 record, but Jamal Murray's knee injury proved costly as the team's chances of mounting a deep run in the 2021 NBA Playoffs were derailed, despite having the NBA MVP in their ranks.

#4 Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) - NBA MVP, 2019-20 NBA season

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020.
Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks dominated the regular season for the second consecutive season last year, and the Greek player earned his second consecutive NBA MVP award deservedly, while also taking home the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Despite having a 56-17 record in the regular season (the best in the NBA), the Milwaukee Bucks were not the same when the 2019-20 season resumed in the Orlando bubble after four months of inactivity due to COVID-19.

Giannis averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game with a steal and a block too and won his second NBA MVP award. However, he could not guide his team into the Conference Finals as Miami Heat took the Bucks down in the second round.

#3 Russell Westbrook (OKC Thunder) - NBA MVP, 2016-17 NBA season

Oscar Robertson leads a "MVP" cheer for Russell Westbrook.
Oscar Robertson leads a "MVP" cheer for Russell Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook's 2016-17 NBA regular season was historic as he became only the second player (and the first since 1962) to average a triple-double for an entire campaign, joining the legendary Oscar Robertson.

Westbrook's efforts were sufficient for the OKC Thunder to build a 47-35 record and finish in sixth place in the West, and his 42 triple-doubles (a record) earned him the NBA MVP over James Harden.

However, Harden had the last laugh as the Houston Rockets defeated OKC in the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, winning the series in five games.

#2 LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) - NBA MVP, 2009-10 NBA season

LeBron James in 2010.
LeBron James in 2010.

Before Russell Westbrook's early exit from the 2017 NBA Playoffs, each NBA MVP since 2011 had at least played in the Conference Finals. Before that streak occurred, it was LeBron James in 2010 who had not put his team in the Conference Finals after an NBA MVP effort in the regular season.

'The King', who turned out for the Cleveland Cavaliers back then, won his second consecutive NBA MVP after leading the Cavs to a league-leading 61-21 record. He averaged 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game with 50/33/76 shooting splits.

However, the 2010 NBA Playoffs ended early for the Cavs, as the Boston Celtics took them out in six games during the Conference Semis. The series ultimately proved to be the end of James' first stint in Cleveland.

#1 Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) - NBA MVP, 2006-07 NBA season

Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks in 2019.
Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks in 2019.

Dirk Nowitzki's 2006-07 regular season was spectacular as he led the Dallas Mavericks to a 67-15 record (the best in the NBA during that year and the best in franchise history).

Nowitzki averaged 24.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in the regular season with 50/41/90 shooting splits in 78 appearances in the regular season to win the NBA MVP.

The 'We Believe' Golden State Warriors, with Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Jason Richardson and others, got in Dallas' way in the first round and eliminated them in six games to become the first eighth-seeded team to beat a top seed in a seven-game series.

This meant the 2006-07 Mavericks also infamously became the only team in NBA history to win at least 65 regular-season games and lose in the first round of the postseason.

Dear reader, could you please take a short 30-second survey to help us improve and give you better NBA/basketball coverage on our site? Here's the link for it.

Edited by Anantaajith Ra
Fetching more content...
App download animated image Get the free App now