DAR Sports: The 10 Greatest NBA Finals MVPs

By @TrueGodImmortal 

With the NBA Finals underway and the race to finish currently the task for the Warriors and the Cavs, I wanted to take a look back at the greatest NBA Finals MVP winners. From Jordan to Kobe to Shaq to LeBron, many of the greatest players ever have showed up on the biggest stage and left their mark. Who had the best performances? Let's take a look at the 10 Greatest Finals MVPs.

*Michael Jordan 
(1992, 35.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.7 SPG)

-There's two things about this performance from Michael that stands out to me. First, his game 1 performance where he hit those six three pointers and gave the infamous shrug. Two, his scoring average was out of this world and he was, as expected, the best player in the entire Finals. The Blazers were a pretty stacked team, and they challenged the Bulls, but Jordan took over in this series amazing performances in games 1, 5, and 6 to clinch the victory in the series. His greatest game of the series was easily game 5, as he would put up an amazing 46 points on the night, and give the Bulls a 3-2 advantage. Yes, all of Jordan's first three Finals MVP wins will be on this list and rightfully so. In 1992, Jordan was simply magnificent.

*Shaquille O'Neal 
(2000, 38.0 PPG, 16.7 RPG, 2.8 BPG)

-When we look at the perfomance Shaq had in these Finals, this is the greatest. In a 6 game series with the Pacers, Shaq proved he was the most dominant player of the era by bullying in the post and taking over when he was needed. Kobe wasn't quite the star the Lakers needed him to be yet, but he was certainly getting there. Still, Shaq was the most dominant player in this series and no one could stop him. The Pacers didn't have an answer and throughout every game, Shaq did what he wanted. This was the series that made me realize Shaq was the best player in the NBA that season (and the next season as well). The MVP finally captured his first ring and the first of three straight Finals MVPs, becoming one of the very few to do so.

*LeBron James 
(2016, 29.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 8.9 APG)

-This is the greatest NBA Finals performance from LeBron and that's why it's the only selection of his three Finals MVPs. His 2012 Finals MVP was definitely a good one, and so was his 2013 win, but this one is his true special Finals MVP victory. Going against a 73-9 team with the unanimous MVP, LeBron and company faced immeasurable odds it seemed. The Warriors were up 3-1, and honestly, LeBron wasn't playing his hardest IMO aside from game 3. After the craziness of game 4, you could feel the shift in momentum and LeBron took over from there. With the Warriors not having their rim protection, and the fire lit under him, LeBron went off and put up back to back 41 point perfomances in games 5 and 6, and closed out game 7 with a triple double. LeBron was nothing short of magnificent and led the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history. His legacy was solidified.

*Dwyane Wade
(2006, 34.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 2.7 SPG)

-One of the greatest feats I've ever witnessed, Wade put on a show that hasn't been rivaled by many since. Wade took a Heat team that had a less than spectacular Shaq and a lot of grizzled veterans against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks took a 2-0 lead and then Wade just decided he refused to lose. His heroics in the final 4 games of the series allowed the Heat to win the series in 6 games, and for Wade to etch his name in the history books. While Wade went on to win two more titles later in his career, this was his greatest accomplishment overall and probably the most important title win for him.

*Hakeem Olajuwon
(1995, 32.8 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.0 BPG, 2.0 SPG)

-The Dream was one of the greatest big men in the history of the game. His 1994 Finals campaign was great, but there's something about his dominant 1995 perfomance over the bigger, stronger, and younger Shaq that really sticks out to me. The Magic seemed like an unstoppable force, but Hakeem and the poised Rockets were the defending champions and they were ready for the challenge ahead. My favorite performances from Hakeem in this 4 game sweep are games 2 and 4, where he locked in defensively and offensively and was the driving force of their series victory, but make no mistake about it, every game Hakeem showed why he deserved to win the Finals MVP.

*Tim Duncan
(2003, 24.2 PPG, 17.0 RPG, 5.3 APG)

-When the Spurs and the Nets went toe to toe in 2003, it was the marking of the end of the Twin Towers era. Duncan was focused on dominating in the paint, and his performance was without a doubt one of the greatest I've ever seen. Pulling down 17 rebounds and putting up 24 points a game, Duncan was about as unstoppable as he had ever been. This led the Spurs to a 6 game victory over the Nets, and at this time, I think Duncan was the best player in the NBA at this time. Big time players show up in big time moments, and this was Duncan's greatest NBA Finals performance without question.

*Shaquille O'Neal
(2001, 33.0 PPG, 15.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, 3.4 BPG)

-I debated between this MVP and Shaq's 2002 MVP, and while the numbers in 2002 are more impressive, doing it against the New Jersey Nets who had absolutely no solid post presence wasn't as an impressive feat IMO. Also, with Kobe Bryant stepping up and becoming a much better player, the fact that Shaq still asserted his dominance is key. Against a lengthy defender in Dikembe Mutumbo and a legendary center in his own right, Shaq imposed his will and put up great numbers and alongside Kobe, who had just come of age, they defeated the 76ers in 5 games. Iverson and the 76ers were overmatched, but the fact remains Shaq did what he needed to do and without his performance, the series could have gone 6 or 7 games.

*Kobe Bryant
(2009, 32.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG)

-This is what I like to call the true final chapter of Kobe's NBA greatness. Sure, in 2010, he was clutch for the Lakers in their win over the Celtics, but that series is still a bit lackluster to me upon reflection. However, 2009 was Kobe's year. He was a top two MVP candidate, led his team to a 65-17 record and they made it to the Finals ready to strike and get what they felt was rightfully for them. After a tough loss to the  Celtics the year before, the Lakers returned to the Finals and with Kobe as the best player, the outcome against the Magic was almost clear. Kobe played great in all 5 games, but his performances in game 1 and 4 are the two best of the series. This was Kobe's finest hour in the NBA Finals without question.

*Michael Jordan
(1991, 31.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 11.4 APG, 2.8 SPG, 1.4 BPG)

-There have been some truly great performances from Michael Jordan in the playoffs, but this is one of my absolute favorites in his career. Jordan was in his first NBA Finals and ready to do what he needed. Kicking off the series with a 36 point performance in a tough loss, the Bulls regrouped after game 1, and won 4 straight games to win their first NBA Title. Jordan, faced with the prospect of losing his first NBA Finals took off in games 2 and 3, scoring like he was known for, but also getting his teammates more involved by dishing out the highest amount of assists in any of his Finals appearances. This was the most well rounded Jordan performance in the Finals and that's why it is included here. Jordan was the best NBA Finals performer of all time and his first three peat are three of the greatest performances for their own different reasons.

*Michael Jordan
(1993, 41.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG)

-This is the greatest Finals performance ever. I will stand by that. Jordan, in all his glory, went toe to toe with the 62-20 team of destiny, the Charles Barkley led Phoenix Suns. Jordan and the Bulls were honestly the underdogs going in, but that never stopped them from doing what needed to be done. The Bulls came in and had an amazing two wins on the road, with Jordan having a magnificent 42 point performance in game 2. After an epic 3 OT game that ended in a Suns win (Jordan put up 44 this game), the Bulls bounced back with a huge game 4 win that saw Jordan put up his single greatest Finals game with 55 points to give the Bulls the 3-1 lead. The Bulls were pushed to the limit in the next 2 games, but they would win game 6 barely and hold on to win the third title in their first three peat. This is the greatest NBA Finals performance ever IMO.



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