The NBA Finals MVP is one of the most controversial yet coveted awards in the NBA. It's always rewarded to the best player on the winning team regardless of the best player on the court. In many of LeBron James' finals runs, he was the best player on the floor from either team but since he lost many NBA Finals, he wasn't given the award. Moreover, Andre Iguodala got the NBA Finals MVP in the 2015 NBA Finals over Stephen Curry despite coming off the bench. Cedric Maxwell won the NBA Finals MVP in the 1981 NBA Finals over Larry Bird despite being a role player and not an All-Star.
Another factor not taken into consideration is the entire playoff run. It is named NBA Finals MVP and not NBA Playoffs MVP and so even if a player dominates for the first three rounds but someone else performed better in the Finals, the award will be given to the latter. Hence, it is one of the most controversial yet coveted awards given out in the NBA. As mentioned, it is always given to the winning team player but the inaugural winner of the award was, in fact, on the losing team.
Jerry West is the only player to win NBA Finals MVP on the losing side
1969 was the first year the NBA Finals MVP award was introduced. Back then they looked at individual performances and not the winning or losing team. Jerry West's exploits were so spectacular that the league rewarded him with the NBA Finals MVP award despite being on the losing side.
The LA Lakers led by Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, went up against the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics. The Celtics were looking to repeat themselves as champions and had already won 10 NBA championships before the 1969 NBA Finals in a 12-year period.
The series was a constant back-and-forth and went to seven games. The LA Lakers held a 2-0 series lead but lost four of their next five games. Jerry West averaged a whopping 37.9 points, 7.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. Known as "Mr. Clutch," West dropped 53 points in Game 1 and had a valiant 42-point triple-double in Game 7 with 12 assists and 13 rebounds. He shot 49% from the field in all seven games and had four 40+ games including one game with 39 points.
The league was quick to realize that a player who didn't win his team the championship cannot be awarded NBA Finals MVP. They never awarded a losing team player ever since the 1969 NBA Finals and Jerry West remains the only player to have won it to date.