Since the 1955/56 season, the NBA has annually awarded one player the National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Award (MVP). The award is a recognition of the outstanding contribution that player has provided in terms of their performances on the court.
The trophy that is presented to the winner is the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. It is named in honor of the president of the NBA from 1946 until 1963, who then went on to become the commissioner.
From its inception until the 1979/80 season, the winner was chosen by the NBA players themselves in the form of a vote. From then onwards it has been chosen by a panel of 100 respected broadcasters and sportswriters in the USA and Canada.
In earlier incarnations of the system, media members with open alliances and bias toward particular NBA franchises were still allowed to cast their votes.
At the beginning of the 2016/17 season, the league decided to move towards creating a more balanced outcome that could not be accused of favoritism. The members are now much more carefully selected and their impartiality is considered to be a key criterion in their participation.
The voting members each choose their personal top 5 players and rank them 1-5
EACH VOTE COUNTS AS FOLLOWS:
1st = 10 points
2nd = 7 points
3rd = 5 points
4th = 3 points
5th = 1 point
In 2010, one ballot was introduced to allow fans to cast votes online. The player who accrues the most points in total wins the award.
At the time of writing, the current holder of the award is Nikola Jokić (Denver Nuggets). He is only the second NBA Draft player that was selected in the second round (41st in 2014) ever to win the award.
Every player who has ever won the NBA MVP award (who was technically eligible to be accepted) has been inducted into the Hall of Fame in due course.
Stephen Curry in 2015/16 is the only player ever to have won the award by unanimous decision.
Shaquille O’Neal (1999/00) and LeBron James (2012/13) both fell just one vote short of winning unanimously.
Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Tim Duncan (US Virgin Islands), Steve Nash (Canada), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), and Nikola Jokić (Serbia) are the only MVP winners considered to be international players in the eyes of the NBA.
NBA MOST REGULAR-SEASON MVP WINNERS
6 x MVP – 1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980
5 x MVP – 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965
5 x MVP – 1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998
4 x MVP – 1960, 1966, 1967, 1968
LeBron James *
4 x MVP – 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013
3 x MVP – 1979, 1982, 1983
3 x MVP – 1984, 1985, 1986
3 x MVP – 1987, 1989, 1990
2 x MVP – 1956, 1959
2 x MVP – 1997, 1999
2 x MVP – 2002, 2003
2 x MVP – 2005, 2006
2 x MVP – 2015, 2016
2 x MVP – 2019, 2020
* active players
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads the pack having won the award a record number of six times. He is also the only player in NBA history ever to win the award despite the fact that his team did not make the NBA Playoffs in the same season (1975/76)
Bill Russell and Michael Jordan both claimed the prize 5 times each.
Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James, 4 times each.
Larry Bird, Moses Malone, and Magic Johnson each took 3.
Bob Pettit, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, Steve Nash, Giannis Antetetokounmpo, and Stephen Curry have each taken the award twice.
Russell, Chamberlain, and Bird are the only three players ever to win the award for three consecutive years.
Only two players in their rookie season have ever won the award:
Wilt Chamberlain in 1959/60 and Wes Unseld in 1968/69
HOW WE WOULD CHOOSE THE MVP AWARD
The panel of experts who vote for the MVP awards will tend to consider a number of factors when determining their choices.
They are not bound to reveal any techniques or systems that they use so it is highly probable that each places greater importance on certain statistics over others. We put our heads together here at The Jump Hub and discussed how we would go about deciding the MVP.
THIS IS WHAT WE CAME UP WITH:
When determining valuable player award winners, all the major statistical categories will certainly be factored in.
Player efficiency rating (PER)* must surely also play a large part in any decision-making.
*PER is a formula that was created by John Hollinger. It analyzes a player’s stats and combines them into one overall number. Representing a player’s efficiency right down to a ‘per-minute’ level, it is a highly respected and utilized tool. It is particularly well-liked among the gambling community where sports bettors can see an at-a-glance representation of a player for a quick idea. Rather than having to trawl through their wider stat list. While it does round the edges off in terms of individual areas of the game where a player shines, it gives a really good indication of the all-around abilities of any given player and is invaluable when making such decisions.
It stands to reason that the player’s team record would also be taken into consideration. Wins and losses play their part, if somewhat less so than specific performance stats.
A player’s other accomplishments throughout the season are a key factor for us. Scoring titles, league-leaders in any given area. Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) awards etc…
We can only look at player performances across the NBA regular season, as the MVP award is close to the start of the NBA Playoffs.
OUR FAVORITE MVP SEASONS
Try as we might, here in the Jump Hub office, we simply could not agree on the order in which the performances that best exemplified the NBA MVP award should appear. We, therefore, list our collective top ten here for your perusal in alphabetical order for fear of starting a riot in here.
Wilt Chamberlain – 1959/60
37.6 points per game (PPG)
2.3 assists per game (APG)
27.0 rebounds per game (RPG)
28.0 Player efficiency rating (PER)
In his very first season in the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain broke no less than 8 separate NBA records. He almost literally blew the league away with his size, skill, and athleticism. Producing performances that are still remarkable over six decades later.
He started as he meant to go on with an astonishing 43 points and 28 rebounds in his very first appearance!
Wilt Chamberlain led the league in PER and finished second in the number of free throws made.
In the 1959/60 season when Chamberlain was a rookie, the lowest average point total of any team was 107.3. Over half a century later in the 2012/13 season, the highest average point total by any team was only 106.1!
Players had a lot more possessions to work with back in the late 50s and early 60s. The game was played at a frenetic pace which makes it difficult to compare to the modern game.
Whatever the differences, one thing is certain; Wilt Chamberlain was like a hand-grenade going off in the National Basketball Association and his rookie season must have terrified those who had to compete against him.
Allen Iverson – 2000/01
Allen Iverson’s first full campaign of the new millennium makes him fully deserving of his place on this list.
He picked up his second scoring title by producing a highly impressive average of 31.1 points per game. He finished second in the number of steals and also in free throws made. His slightly diminished PER is due, in part, to the fact that he had to play so many minutes that season. In fact, he led the NBA there too. The 76ers lacked options when it came to scoring and placed the responsibility squarely on Iverson’s shoulders. He responded magnificently and led the team to 56 regular-season wins. The most the franchise had seen for 16 years.
In no less than 15 different games across a period of only 2 months, Allen Iverson scored 40+ points. He became the living embodiment of a one-man team and without him, Philadelphia would have had nothing.
The next player on the highest-scoring list averaged less than 13 points per game. Let that sink in.
Arguments about the greatest players ever to grace the NBA with their presence seldom go smoothly. But no one can argue that Allen Iverson was streets ahead of the competition in 200/01
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 1971/72
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s greatest of his record-breaking 6 MVP seasons came at the age of 24. He logged his career-best number of points, field goals, and free throws. Milwaukee took 63 wins as a result of the Robertson/ Abdul-Jabbar dynamic and the latter established himself as the league’s best front-court player.
KAJ finished the season as the highest scorer, 2nd highest in rebounds and field goal percentage. Perhaps most impressively, he annihilated the competition in terms of his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and led the pack by almost 7 clear points.
Abdul-Jabbar remains the all-time NBA leading scorer and 1971/72 was clearly his best scoring season.
Remarkable stuff from a true basketball legend.
LeBron James – 2008/09
2008/09 was the season that LeBron James really showed the world what he was capable of.
James led the NBA in PER (2nd highest in NBA history), finished second in the league in terms of his scoring, and placed in the top 10 for both assists and steals. He recorded a career-high in blocks.
His hard work and dedication were rewarded by his first NBA All-Defensive First Team selection.
Staggeringly, James led the whole Cavaliers roster in every single major statistical category. Points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks.
He wasn’t up against the stiffest competition there, to be fair, but that still represents a quite remarkable feat.
He, almost single-handedly, managed to drag Cleveland to a franchise record of 66 wins and 16 losses. They were not able to progress far in the NBA Playoff series.
It’s hard to overstate what an impressive season this was from LeBron James. Bettered only in our collective opinion (the only thing we did agree on) by:
LeBron James 2012/13
Here again, LeBron James puts in an incredibly efficient season and some excellent stats. 6 straight games with 30+ points and a 60% or better rate of success. In no small part because of his efforts, the Miami Heat put together a 27 game winning streak. It remains the second-longest in NBA history.
Overall, LeBron James shot with a remarkable 57% accuracy across the whole season and hit 41% of his 3-point efforts.
With a final PER of 31.6, he led the NBA in this parameter for the sixth straight season. Nothing short of miraculous.
In the 2012/13 season, James became one of only four players in league history to average 26.8 points, 7.3 assists, and 8 rebounds in a single NBA season.
One (idiotic) vote prevented him from being the first unanimously selected MVP in NBA history.
Finishing 2nd in the NBA for Defensive Player of the Year voting, James actually got the most votes from opposing coaches. They knew what he was capable of and had witnessed him tearing their own teams to pieces time and again.
James is, arguably, the greatest player ever to set foot on a basketball court. We know. It’s subjective. But nobody can argue that he isn’t right there at the top of a very exclusive tree. In our opinion, this was the season that cemented his greatness for all time.
Michael Jordan 1987/88
In his 4th ever NBA season, Michael Jordan was utterly dominant and nigh-on unplayable.
His scoring that season was a full 5 points clear of anybody else and his success rate was 53.5% overall.
He led the league in field goals made, free throws made, and in steals.
Throw into the mix a few more achievements if you will.
Defensive Player of the Year
NBA record for most blocks by a guard in one season (131).
Led the Bulls to a 50-32 record.
Michael Jordan is still the only player in NBA history to win both the scoring title and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
Such was his importance to the Chicago Bulls that the next highest scorer on their roster was a full 22 points behind MJ.
In honesty, the Bulls at that time were a below-average side and might even have been among the worst in the league were it not for their ace card.
It’s hard to argue with anyone who insists that Jordan’s later years were his best. But for us, to drag this side almost single-handedly to where he did was nothing short of unbelievable. Still, we acknowledge that it might have been pipped by:
Michael Jordan 1995/96
Michael Jordan returned from a two-year absence from basketball to completely and utterly dominate the NBA once again. Is there any other player in history who could have done the same? It seems unlikely.
Then 33 years old, Jordan’s return to the game of basketball he loves so much couldn’t really have gone any better and he sailed to his 4th MVP.
He rocked up and promptly took his eighth scoring title. He led the whole NBA in PER, came 2nd in free throws made, and 3rd in steals.
The Chicago Bulls won an NBA record of 72 games that season.
Statistically, this wasn’t Jordan’s most impressive ever season but the circumstances of it are almost beyond belief.
Michael Jordan nonchalantly returned from the wilderness to flex his muscles and big basketball brain once again and remind us just how great of a player he was.
Shaquille O’Neal – 1999/00
The 1999/00 season was the first where a player finished just one vote shy of being unanimously awarded the MVP trophy.
He was also selected for the NBA All-Defensive First Team.
Shaq was unstoppable that season and crushed the competition.
Attempted field goals
Shaquille O’Neal is perhaps the most physically imposing player that the NBA has ever seen. He could intimidate or suffocate almost any opponent but was surprisingly quick when necessary.
O’Neal brought everything to the table for his MVP season. He was almost unplayable at either end of the court. It is no surprise that the Los Angeles Lakers took the NBA record at 67-15.
If Shaq had been able to hit more than a, frankly awful 52.4% of his free throws then it is terrifying to think how much more dominant he could have been. 1999/00 was the season when he really became a legend.
Oscar Robertson – 1963/64
But for a pesky 0.1 discrepancy on his rebounds, Oscar Robertson would have repeated his record-breaking feat of averaging a triple-double across the course of an entire NBA regular season. He still remains the only person ever to do so.
In 1963/64, Robertson finished first in assists and first in free throw percentage.
He was second in scoring and ninth in field-goal percentage.
It seems that playing in the era when Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell were plying their trade in the NBA didn’t do Oscar Robertson any favors. He only managed to win the MVP trophy once. However, given how ground-breaking and record-destroying those other two were, it remains a testament to his talents that he managed to do so.
As mentioned earlier, the pace of the game was so much higher back then that these kinds of numbers may never be seen again. Robertson is one of the forgotten superstars of NBA history but not here in The Jump Hub office.
Let’s take a look at which teams have produced the most NBA MVP award winners in league history.
NBA TEAMS ACCORDING TO MOST MVP AWARDS
10 x MVP – 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1973, 1984, 1985, 1986
Los Angeles Lakers
8 x MVP – 1976, 1977, 1980, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2000, 2008
6 x MVP – 1966, 1967, 1968, 1981, 1983, 2001
6 x MVP – 1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998, 2011
5 x MVP – 1971, 1972, 1974, 2019, 2020
4 x MVP – 1979, 1982, 1994, 2018
3 x MVP – 1993, 2005, 2006
San Antonio Spurs
3 x MVP – 1995, 2002, 2003
Golden State Warriors
3 x MVP – 1960, 2015, 2016
Oklahoma City Thunder
2 x MVP – 2014, 2017
2 x MVP – 2012, 2013
2 x MVP – 2009, 2010
2 x MVP – 1997, 1999
2 x MVP – 1956, 1959
1 x MVP – 2007
1 x MVP – 2004
1 x MVP – 1978
Los Angeles Clippers
1 x MVP – 1975
New York Knickerbockers
1 x MVP – 1970
1 x MVP – 1969
1 x MVP – 1964
It’s impossible to know what accolades individual players take more pride in and what satisfaction they glean from winning.
But it’s hard to see how it could get much more prestigious and affirming than to be named the most valuable player. Knowing that a large panel of basketball experts all appreciate what you do and recognize your talents enough to choose you above all others must be a pretty special feeling.
It still remains to be seen who will win the MVP award this season but the online sportsbooks seem to agree that Nikola Jokić, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid are the favorites. Stay connected to The Jump Hub to find out more as the final games of the season unfold.