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Mailbag: NBA MVPs and Their Rings

Posted by Neil Paine on June 2, 2011

BBR reader Jamey wrote in with this question:

"I'm watching the NBA Finals, and one of the hosts of the pre-game show said that there are 7 players who have won the MVP award that have not won an NBA championship ring. Can you tell me who they are?"

Sure can. In fact, in order to answer this question, I had to create a query that counted rings for all MVPs. Here is that list (I only counted a player as having won a ring if he played in the postseason with an NBA or BAA championship team):

Player Rings MVPs
Bill Russell 11 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965
Bob Cousy 6 1957
Michael Jordan 6 1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 6 1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980
Kobe Bryant 5 2008
Magic Johnson 5 1987, 1989, 1990
Shaquille O'Neal 4 2000
Tim Duncan 4 2002, 2003
Larry Bird 3 1984, 1985, 1986
Willis Reed 2 1970
Dave Cowens 2 1973
Bob McAdoo 2 1975
Bill Walton 2 1978
Hakeem Olajuwon 2 1994
David Robinson 2 1995
Wilt Chamberlain 2 1960, 1966, 1967, 1968
Oscar Robertson 1 1964
Wes Unseld 1 1969
Julius Erving 1 1981
Kevin Garnett 1 2004
Bob Pettit 1 1956, 1959
Moses Malone 1 1979, 1982, 1983
Charles Barkley 0 1993
Allen Iverson 0 2001
Dirk Nowitzki 0 2007
Derrick Rose 0 2011
Karl Malone 0 1997, 1999
Steve Nash 0 2005, 2006
LeBron James 0 2010, 2009

The 7 MVPs who never won a ring are, of course, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, & Derrick Rose. And no matter what happens in the 2011 Finals, either Dirk or LeBron will be able to remove himself from that list.

9 Responses to “Mailbag: NBA MVPs and Their Rings”

  1. AYC Says:

    Barkley, K. Malone and Iverson are the only retired MVP's without rings; Nash, and now Rose, are the only MVP's who haven't made the finals.

    PS I hope a post on newly-retired Shaq's legacy is in the making....

  2. Jason J Says:

    PG - Magic & Cousy
    SG - Jordan & Bryant
    SF - Bird
    PF - Russell & Duncan
    C - Kareem & Shaq

    Those are the regular season MVPs with three or more championships... as far as completely arbitrary all-time All-NBA teams go, it's not bad...

  3. Cort Says:

    amazing how many great great players didnt win a season mvp, but mostly due to playing in a time with other superstars copping the award or getting shafted in voting. west, baylor, barry, frazier and havlicek are just 5 of the greats who never won a season mvp.
    but west probly should have won it in 1970, barry definitely got shafted in 1975 because of his unpopularity, and hondo could have won it in 1972 or 73. almost averaged a triple double those years. baylor was a contender almost every year in the 60s but with oscar, wilt, russell and west on his own team to contend with, not much chance.

    west did win playoff mvp the first year they gave the award in 1969. he still is the only player from the losing team to win it. his performance warranted it however. would love to see the box scores from the 69 finals. i think he averaged close to 40 ppg that series with an injured hamstring, no 3-point line and not being allowed to travel and palm a lot.
    i think his game 7 stat line was 42 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists in a 108-106 heartbreaker. west also authored games of 53 and 45 points in that finals, i believe.

  4. Cort Says:

    i think stockton was a bit superior to nash as well all-around, but never could get the ring or an mvp, yet deserved a title or 2 for sure. so does nash. i like steve a lot, but his 2 mvps would not have been likely in any other era since the 50s. stockton had years in the late 80s/early 90s that were better, but no way he was going to be mvp ahead of the superstars of that era. nash is a better shooter than john but stock was the better defender and great in the clutch. played at an all-star level into his 40s. amazing, especially at his size. in 17 of his 19 seasons he played every game. 1 year he missed 4 games and in 98 he missed the first 18 after off season knee surgery following their first finals trip. in 92 he broke a leg bone in the olympic qualifiers yet still came back to play later in the games. cal ripken has nothing on stockton.

  5. Jason J Says:

    Stockton was maybe the best game managing point guard of all time, but he had zero chance of winning an MVP. During his best seasons he had to contend with Jordan, Barkley, Magic, and Olajuwon when they were on winning teams. Not to mention he played with Karl Malone, and playing with a teammate of relatively equal value will tend to wash out votes.

  6. Cort Says:

    jason j
    yea i agree, thats what i was saying. had john played in 2005-06 in his prime i think he might have won an MVP, although he wasnt as flashy as nash so that works against him too. i do think malone benefited more from stockton than vice versa. had malone been a better finisher the last half of his career, stockton would have had over 20,000 assists. last part of his career malone missed innumerable layups or was fouled and missed. he was more concerned with drawing the foul and not getting blocked since by then he had lost a lot of lift and had gotten too bulky/muscular.
    i think an assist should be given if a guy makes a great pass, the receiver gets fouled and misses but makes both FTs. or maybe half of one if they split the two.
    i remember after utah nearly upset LA in the 2nd round of the 1988 playoffs that riley called stockton the "best little man ever." later in the same playoffs during game 6 of the 88 Finals, wilt was interviewed at halftime by brent musburger and said if he had to start a team at that time, the first guy he would pick was john stockton. think about that. i dont think wilt ever played with a true point guard, other than maybe guy rodgers for a spell with the warriors, but certainly no one of john's caliber, so that might have weighed into his statement since he would want a great playmaker to feed him. west and goodrich were hybrid guards, although jerry was a fine passer, but that was also late in wilt's career in LA and those two were the primary scorers for the lakers - not pass first point guards like stockton.

  7. Rg73 Says:

    The most striking thing to me about Stockton (besides the fact that he had microfracture surgery at 35 in October before the season and returned after missing 18 games and wasn't any worse for the wear) is that he showed virtually no effects of aging. If you look at his per minute numbers the last couple years of his career, his PER, his WS/48, ORtg, DRtg, just about any metric, there's really no real decline. His last season there was a little decline in PER and FG%, but well within his career averages. Yes, his minutes were reduced after his knee surgery, but still, to have no decline on a per minute basis at age 40? I think he could have very easily played another 5 years without much drop off. I'm pretty sure he's better than his son, even in his 50s. Just an amazing and underrated player.

    @Jason J: I suspect you'll be able to pencil in Lebron at SF to round out your all time top 10 in the not so distant future.

  8. Cort Says:

    I agree with you about john. his minutes dropped to about 28 per game the last few years, and he was still playing very, very well. john elway was called a great athlete for winning super bowls in his final seasons at age 37-38 or so. but he played only one way on offense in a sport ruled by specialization. he didnt play defense, block or tackle anyone or do special teams or kick. just handed off and passed/read defenses, and occasional ran.
    plus although he was a tremendous athlete, at 6-3 and 235 or so elway was not much smaller than the average NFL player. stockton's responsibilities as an NBA point guard against athletes bigger and superior to the NFL went far beyond elway's, but football is so over-analyzed (and overhyped) they want us to think you have to be a rocket scientist to play QB. plus stockton was unfairly painted some as "dirty" to explain why someone his size who looked like him could be so great. very very unfair and sad, to say the least.
    what stock did at 40-41 made him the most amazing athlete in pro sports at that time to me. no other point guard, with the exception of nash now in his upper 30s, has played so well at such an advanced NBA age. stockton set some of the toughest picks in the NBA on men who dwarfed him. he played D, he passed better than almost anyone in NBA history, shot well, even rebounded and ran the floor well at 40+. and remained a great clutch player and competitor with a massive bball IQ and heart.
    john could have played til he was 45, he was the best conditioned athlete in the NBA. especially if he was playing 20-25 minutes a game. he might still be able to play backup point guard today for 15 minutes a game. smartest player ive seen since bird. nash has taken over that mantle since john retired.
    as for his son though, i have to disagree. i was impressed with him at gonzaga and he was only a freshman. he played well the 2nd half of the season, and was one of the reasons the bulldogs turned their season around and made the NCAAs again. if he gains a little size and weight i look for big things from john's son in college. he sees the floor extremely well, is an excellent passer, is very quick and competitive.

  9. Double A Says:

    One of the most intyersting things here is that unlike other sports in Basketball all retired players who have won an MVP are in or will soon be Hall of Famers!