From LeBron’s block to Jordan 41: The NBA Finals MVP | The NBA Finals

10) Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks striker), 2011

Dirk Nowitzki had his only championship facing off against the “Hitles,” the Miami superstar team that formed when all-stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh took their talent to South Beach to join Dwyane Wade, else Perennial All-Star. The first game of the series immediately gave cause for concern. In a tense, low-grade case in Miami, Nowitzki used a splint to shrug off a torn tendon in his left hand before hitting the match winner with his injured hand. He then won the fourth game despite suffering a sinus infection and a temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit, which underscores his now undisputed ability to play excellently in difficult conditions.

9) Jerry West (Guard Los Angeles Lakers), 1969

1969 was his sixth World Cup appearance – he had lost all five previous games to the Boston Celtics led by Bill Russell. Despite this track record, West played incredibly, averaging 38 points per game throughout the series, including a performance of 53 points in Game 1 and a 40-point triple-double in Game 7, which the Lakers lost to give Boston the title. West’s inspiring performance wasn’t lost on his opponents: Russell famously remarked that “Los Angeles didn’t win the championship, but Jerry West is the champion.” Powers that are also recognized for West’s theatrical quality, giving him the first-ever Finals Player of the Year, and the only award ever given to a player on the losing team.

8) Hakim Aliwan (Houston Rockets Center) 1995

Sometimes losing amongst other superstars in the 1990s, they were two years of quiet domination by the league’s top international star, Hakim Olaywan. One of the many performances on this list determined by the exceptional quality of his opponent, the Shaquille O’Neal-led Olajuwon Rockets swept the Orlando Magic that knocked Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan out of the playoffs (the only team to do so in the 1990s). Olajuwon scored over 30 points per match and won the match winner over wasting his teammate in Game 1.

7) Dwyane Wade (The Guard, Miami Heat), 2006

Wade’s 2006 play is, so far, the best Michael Jordan impression he’s ever seen on the Finals stage. He was an unlikely candidate to be the series’ MVP—after all, he was his teammate O’Neill, a three-time MVP in his own right. However, after losing the first two games, it was Wade who scored 42, 36, 43 and 36 points in four straight wins to bring Miami their first championship. According to the (often controversial) composite statistic known as the Player Proficiency Rating (PER), the 2006 Wade Series was the best single performer in more than 20 years.

6) Bill Russell (Boston Celtics Center) 1962

Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles with the Celtics. Photo: Bill Shaples/The Associated Press

Well, that award didn’t even exist until 1969, but such was Russell’s dominance that we give him one award anyway. During his 13 years in the league, Russell Celtics won the championship 11 times, including eight consecutive titles.

Russell’s defense-oriented style doesn’t translate well into statistics, but as he pointed out, “The way I play, my team wins.” This was especially true during his dominant 1962 performance against the West Lakers. And in a fashion similar to Bill Russell, he led the Celtics in scoring that series. He played all 53 minutes of Match 7, which went into overtime, and racked up 30 points and 40 rebounds in the process.

5) Shaquille O’Neal (center, Los Angeles Lakers), 2000

For a certain generation of fans, Shaq was a real-life superhero: he even had one role in a (not so cool) movie. His power peaked at the turn of the millennium when he and Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to three consecutive titles. During the first of those rounds, back in 2000, Shaq was nearly unstoppable. One voter shy of winning the unanimous regular season MVP title, Shaq dominated the Indiana Pacers, averaging 38 points and 16.7 rebounds over six games. If possible, Shaq was more dominant than the numbers indicate.

4) Magic Johnson (Guard Los Angeles Lakers) 1980

In 1980, when he was just 20 years old, Johnson became the youngest player ever to be selected as the MVP of the Finals. At the most famous moment in the series, Johnson starts to win Game 6 as his team’s center position (traditionally the longest position on a team) even though he is usually the team’s goalkeeper (traditionally the shortest position). Johnson would take turns playing through all five potential positions during the game on his way to earning 42 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists in a title-winning performance.

3) Willis Reed (Center, New York Knicks), 1970

Willis Reed may be the most unfamiliar name on this list to casual fans, but critics still regularly refer to the hall of stoic leadership in Game 7 of the 1970 series to this day.

Reed averaged more than 31 points per game during his first four games, being the New York Knicks’ top scorer. The Knicks led the series 3-2 after five games, but their Game 5 win came at a high cost—Reed injured, tearing a muscle in his right thigh. The injury caused him to miss the sixth game that the Knicks lost by more than 20 points.

To the astonishment of Knicks fans, an injured Reed exited Game 7. He fired and made the Knicks’ first shot and spent most of the first half defending Wilt Chamberlain before an injury forced him out of the match. The Knicks went on to win the game and the championship. His presence that evening inspired all viewers, and led legendary broadcaster Howard Cosell to tell Reid, “You embody the best that the human spirit can offer.”

2) Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls goalkeeper), 1993

Michael Jordan after his performance as MVP at the 1993 finals
Michael Jordan after his performance as MVP at the 1993 Finals. Photo: Andrew D Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

As anyone who’s seen The Last Dance will assure, Michael Jordan has a lot to do, many Ultimate offers to choose from. His first championship, against the Magic Johnson Lakers in 1991, gave us the “Spec-tak –The first step.” Jordan’s second final, in 1992, introduced us to the indifference of ‘mockery’. He took home his fourth title in 1996 on Father’s Day, a coincidence that likely further complicates it. Jordan’s raw and emotional reaction to his first title after his father’s murder. And the list goes on – there’s The Flu Game in 1997, and he grabbed the title five seconds earlier in 1998.

However, Jordan’s greatest finals performance on the field is also the most difficult to sum up in a single phrase or moment. In 1993, Jordan Bulls won their third consecutive championship, a feat no team has achieved since Celtics Bill Russell. At an absurd 41 points per game, Jordan set the record (which still stands) for the most points per game in a Series Finals.

1) LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers striker), 2016

it’s a approx Flip between Jordan’s highlights in 1993 and LeBron James’ overall distinction in 2016. But upon closer examination, it’s clear that James’ 2016 achievement is undeniably unique.

Let’s start with his opponent – James and the Cavaliers were playing for the defending champion Golden State Warriors, a team led by Steve Curry in a season in which he became firstEver He was unanimously elected the best player. The Curry Warriors also won 73 games during the regular season, breaking the record previously held by Bulls Jordan.

James’s condition was bleak. After Game Four, Cleveland was down 3-1, a deficit that no team in the Finals had overcome. However, in the last three games, James was unstoppable. He scored 41 points in both Games 5 and 6 before capping the series with a double in Game 7. He led every major stat class for the series, something no other player in the playoffs did. And on top of all statistical excellence, James penned his own play. “The Block” (has its own entry on Wikipedia) was an amazing manhunt for reigning Finals MVP Andre Iguodala who held the score to a tie in the last moments of Game 7.

The victory also ended Cleveland’s drought in all major professional sports, which extended into 1964. Not bad for a kid from neighboring Akron.

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