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NBA History: 3 players who won multiple MVPs but no championship rings

Giannis accepting his first MVP award in 2018.
Giannis accepting his first MVP award in 2018.
Thato Diale
Modified 14 Nov 2020, 15:57 IST

Since the 1955-1956 season, 34 players have had the honor of being named the NBA's Most Valuable Player of the regular season. Of those 34 players, 23 have gone on to win the title in the same year they won league MVP. That list of players includes the likes of Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Stephen Curry.

Jordan, James, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Larry Bird are the only players in league history to have won league MVP and the title in the same season on more than one occasion.

What this information shows us is that more often than not, having an MVP-caliber player on your team increases the chances of winning a championship. There are only 8 players in NBA history who have failed to win a championship after winning league MVP honors. This list includes the likes of Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley and James Harden.

However, there are only three players from that list who have won multiple regular season MVP, awards but have not won an NBA title. We discuss those three players below:

#3 Karl Malone — NBA MVP in 1997 and 1999

Statistically, the 'Mailman' is one of the greatest players in NBA history. Karl Malone won league MVP honors twice, in the 1996-97 season and the 1998-99 season. He made the All-NBA First Team 11 times, is a 3-time member of the All-Defensive First Team, and made 14 All-Star teams, winning All-Star Game MVP twice.

He is ranked second on the All-Time Points Leaders list with 36,928 points, second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His career averages are spectacular, averaging 25 PPG and 10 rebounds per game in the regular season, and 24.7 PPG and 10.7 boards per game in the playoffs. A physically dominant power forward who always delivered, earning him the name 'Mailman'.

However, he failed to deliver a championship in his three trips to the NBA Finals, losing in 1997 and 1998 to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, and in 2004 to the Detroit Pistons. Despite his failure to win a title, he is still regarded as one of the greatest Power Forwards to ever play the game of basketball. His career numbers and games played, 1,476 to be exact, are a testament to his incredible efficiency and consistency over the course of his 19-year career.


#2 Steve Nash — NBA MVP in 2005 and 2006

Steve Nash is one of twelve players in NBA history to win back-to-back MVPs.
Steve Nash is one of twelve players in NBA history to win back-to-back MVPs.

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018, Steve Nash is one of the most accomplished point guards to ever play the game. Eight All-Star Game appearances, five-time assist leader and made the All-NBA First Team three times. He was a true floor general and the engine to the '7 seconds or less' Suns offense under Mike D'Antoni, that was truly ahead of its time. The current Brooklyn Nets head coach is one of twelve players in NBA history to win consecutive MVP awards.

Nash made 3 Western Conference Finals appearances in his career, once with the Dallas Mavericks in 2003 and twice with the Phoenix Suns with 2005 and 2006. Those two years in Phoenix were also the years Nash won league MVP honors, averaging 15.5 PPG and a league-leading 11.5 assists per game in 2005, and finished ahead of LeBron James and former teammate Dirk Nowitzki for the MVP award in 2006. However, the Suns lost to the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 and the Mavericks in 2006.


Out of the twelve players to have won consecutive MVP awards, he is one of only two players to have never won a title. That should most certainly not take away from his overall contributions to the game, as he is one of the key players who have contributed to today’s style of play. We will see his imprint on the Brooklyn Nets in his first season as the head coach.

#1 Giannis Antetokounmpo — NBA MVP in 2019 and 2020

Giannis averaged 29.5 PPG on his way to his second MVP award in the 2019/20 season
Giannis averaged 29.5 PPG on his way to his second MVP award in the 2019/20 season

The Greek Freak has already accomplished a lot in his 7-year NBA career. A 4-time All-Star, two All-NBA First Team appearances, two All-Defensive First Team appearances and the 2019-2020 Defensive Player of the Year award. His most impressive accolade to this date is undoubtedly winning back-to-back MVP awards.


Antetokounmpo averaged a career-high in points (29.5 PPG), rebounds (13.6 RPG), and was the only player that ranked in the top five in scoring and rebounding this past season among qualifying players.

For context, the last player to achieve this feat on the team with the most wins that season Shaquille O’Neal in the 1999-00 season. Giannis is also the third player in NBA history to win league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, after Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994.

Jordan and Olajuwon, though, have both accomplished something that Giannis has not — winning an NBA Championship. Giannis Antetokounmpo is, fortunately, still only 25 years of age. Therefore, there is a lot of playing time left in his career — more than enough time to win a championship ring. The Milwaukee Bucks have finished as the No. 1 in the NBA for two consecutive seasons, but crashed out in the second round in five games to the Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat.

Published 14 Nov 2020, 15:57 IST
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