NBA MVP winners: the best basketball players ever who have won the MVP

NBA MVP winners: the best basketball players ever who have won the MVP

Grace Waruguru
February 7, 2023 at 11:52 AM

Do you know all the NBA MVP winners? Every season, gifted players with exceptional talent take home this coveted award, gaining global recognition for honing their skills. Check out this list of players who have taken home this envious accolade.

NBA MVP winners
Denver Nugget's Nikola Jokic, MVP winner in 2021 and 2022, during a match against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 28, 2023. Photo: Mitchell Leff
Source: Getty Images

The MVP (Most Valuable Player) award is given by vote to the individual with the most impact on his team, leading them to victory. The maiden MVP award was given in the 1955-1956 season and has continued every year since. Here are all the NBA MVP winners.

NBA MVP winners

The MVP is a significant career highlight for any NBA player and their team. Here are all the NBA MVP winners by year since its inception in 1955:

1956 - 1960

The winners who won during this period are some of the oldest NBA MVP winners. They include:

  • 1956: Bob Petit - St. Louis Hawks
  • 1957: Bob Cousy - Boston Celtics
  • 1958: Bill Russell - Boston Celtics
  • 1959: Bob Petit - St. Louis Hawks
  • 1960: Wilt Chamberlain - Philadelphia Warriors

1961 - 1965

NBA MVP winners by year
Michael Jordan, a 5-time MVP winner, speaks during the celebration of life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant on February 24, 2020. Photo: Kevork Djansezian
Source: Getty Images

During this period, Bill Russell made history by becoming one of the early back-to-back NBA MVP winners. Unfortunately, the 11-time NBA championship winner passed away in July 2022. Here are all the award winners of that time:

  • 1961 - 1963: Bill Russell - Boston Celtics
  • 1964: Oscar Robertson - Cincinnati Royals
  • 1965: Bill Russell - Boston Celtics

1966 - 1970

Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia 76ers dominated this season by winning four of the five awards. He played in the NBA for 14 years as a centre. Unfortunately, the former player died in October 1999 of natural causes. Here is the NBA MVP winners list for that period:

  • 1966 - 1969: Wilt Chamberlain - Philadelphia 76ers
  • 1970: Willis Reed - New York Knicks.

1971 - 1975

unanimous NBA MVP winners
6-time MVP, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, before the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets at Arena on April 03, 2022. Photo: Sean M. Haffey
Source: Getty Images

These five years saw Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Milwaukee Bucks win the award thrice. David Cowens, who bagged the accolade in 1973 has been listed as one of the worst NBA MVP winners, owing to his record of a 0.1 rebound per game edge against Kareem. Here are the winners of that period:

  • 1971-1972: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Milwaukee Bucks
  • 1973: David Cowens - Boston Celtics
  • 1974: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Milwaukee Bucks
  • 1975: Bob McAdoo - Buffalo Braves

1976 - 1980

Kareem moved to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975 and continued to dominate the NBA MVP winners list, winning thrice in five years. Here are the winners during that period:

  • 1976 - 1977: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Los Angeles Lakers
  • 1978: Bill Walton - Portland Trail Blazers
  • 1979: Moses Malone - Houston Rockets
  • 1980: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Los Angeles Lakers

1981 - 1985

back to back NBA MVP winners
The late Kobe Bryant during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on January 27, 2008, in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Lisa Blumenfeld
Source: Getty Images

1982 and 1983 were unique because Moses Malone became the first NBA player to win the MVP award back-to-back for two different teams as a centre. Here are all the winners during that period:

  • 1981: Julius Erving - Philadelphia 76ers
  • 1982: Moses Malone - Houston Rockets
  • 1983: Moses Malone - Philadelphia 76ers
  • 1984-1985: Larry Bird - Boston Celtics

1986 - 1990

In 1990, Magic Johnson, playing as a forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, was termed one of the controversial NBA MVP winners after the second team received more first-place votes. (38 against 27). Here are the winners of that period:

  • 1986: Larry Bird - Boston Celtics
  • 1987: Magic Johnson - Los Angeles Lakers
  • 1988: Michael Jordan - Chicago Bulls
  • 1989 - 1990: Magic Johnson - Los Angeles Lakers

1991 - 1995

worst NBA MVP winners
Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets during the match against Chicago Bulls on January 04, 2023, in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Michael Reaves
Source: Getty Images

Michael Jordan's star rose in the early 90s, seeing him become MVP twice between 1991 and 1995. He was the point guard for the Chicago Bulls. Here are the players who won during that period:

  • 1991 - 1992: Michael Jordan - Chicago Bulls
  • 1993: Charles Barkley - Phoenix Suns
  • 1994: Hakeem Olajuwon - Houston Rockets
  • 1995: David Robinson - San Antonio Spurs

1996 - 2000

In the years leading to the new millennium, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz team were in stiff competition for the prestigious accolade. They both won it twice within that period. Here is the complete list of MVP winners in that period:

  • 1996: Michael Jordan - Chicago Bulls
  • 1997: Karl Malone - Utah Jazz
  • 1998: Michael Jordan - Chicago Bulls
  • 1999: Karl Malone - Utah Jazz
  • 2000: Shaquille O'Neal - Los Angeles Lakers

2001 - 2005

controversial NBA MVP winners
4-time MVP, LeBron James, reacts during a game against the Boston Celtics on January 28, 2023. Photo: Maddie Meyer
Source: Getty Images

Tim Duncan, playing centre for the San Antonio Spurs won the MVP back-to-back in 2002 and 2003. The following are all the winners between 2001 and 2005:

  • 2001: Allen Iverson - Philadelphia 76ers
  • 2002 - 2003: Tim Duncan - San Antonio Spurs
  • 2004: Kevin Garnett - Minnesota Timberwolves
  • 2005: Steve Nash - Phoenix Suns

2006 - 2010

During this period, Steve Nash, the point guard for the Phoenix Suns, took home the title for the second time, while the late Kobe Bryant bagged the award for the first and last time. Here are all the MVP winners between 2006 and 2010:

  • 2006: Steve Nash - Phoenix Suns
  • 2007: Dirk Nowitzki - Dallas Mavericks
  • 2008: Kobe Bryant - Los Angeles Lakers
  • 2009 - 2010: LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers

2011 - 2015

youngest NBA MVP winners
Dirk Nowitzki reacts after the Mavericks defeated the Suns at the 2022 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2022. Photo: Christian Petersen
Source: Getty Images

In 2011, Derrick Rose made history when he became one of the youngest NBA MVP winners at 22 years old. He was the point guard for the Chicago Bulls. Here are the other winners in that period:

  • 2011: Derrick Rose - Chicago Bulls
  • 2012 - 2013: LeBron James - Miami Heat
  • 2014: Kevin Durant - Oklahoma City Thunder
  • 2015: Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

2016 - 2020

In 2016, Stephen Curry became the first unanimous NBA MVP winner, meaning that all votes were in his favour. Here are the other winners in those five years:

  • 2016: Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors
  • 2017: Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder
  • 2018: James Harden - Houston Rockets
  • 2019 - 2020: Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks

2021 - 2022

Nikola Jokic, the centre for Denver Nuggets, bagged the title in 2021 and 2022. Fans are eagerly waiting to see who will be named the NBA MVP in 2023.

NBA MVP winners not in hall of fame
Russell Westbrook of the Los Angeles Lakers a match against the Brooklyn Nets on January 30, 2023. Photo: Sarah Stier
Source: Getty Images

Who won the most MVP awards in NBA?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, now a retired player has the most MVPs so far. The 75-year-old (2023) last played for the Los Angeles Lakers which he joined in 1975.

NBA MVP winners not in the hall of fame

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is an organization dedicated to promoting, preserving, and celebrating basketball locally and internationally. The body recognizes NBA players who have shown exceptional skill in the game.

Athletes can only become Hall of Famers after having retired for three years. Here are the MVP winners who are not in the hall of fame:

  • Nicola Jokic
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • LeBron James
  • Derrick Rose
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Kevin Durant
  • James Harden
  • Stephen Curry
  • Russell Westbrook

These NBA MVP winners have excelled in their play, setting their teams ahead of the rest in specific seasons. For those that are still active players, their fans will be looking out for their performance in years to come.

READ ALSO: Richest NBA players and their net worth

Sports Brief published a list of the wealthiest NBA players and their net worth. These players make money primarily from the sport and related endorsements.

The 59-year-old Michael Jordan tops the list with a net worth of $1.5 billion. The retired player is now into business and has made a pretty penny from his deal with Nike, his main sponsor. Check out the article above and read about all the wealthy basketball players and how much they are worth.

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Grace Waruguru
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