NBA Finals: Ranking the Last 5 Finals MVPs, From Steph Curry to Nikola Jokic

NBA Finals: Ranking the Last 5 Finals MVPs, From Steph Curry to Nikola Jokic

Edwin Kiplagat
June 13, 2023 at 7:50 AM
  • Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets are NBA champions for the first time
  • In 2021, Giannis Antetokounmpo produced an iconic performance in the NBA Finals, which is regarded as one of the best in NBA history
  • Sports Brief ranks the last five MVPs on criteria like individual performance, opponent, and clutch performances

The NBA Finals offer NBA stars a chance to rise to the occasion and make a name for themselves. Players who won Finals MVP awards have dragged their teams through the NBA Finals to championship glory.

Nikola Jokic received his first Finals MVP award after an impressive finals run. He joins a few players in NBA history with a Finals MVP and the regular season award.

Nikola Jokic, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, NBA Final, NBA Final MVPs
Steph Curry and Nikola Jokic each have two regular season MVPs and two Finals MVPs. Photos by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE and Joe Murphy/NBAE.
Source: Getty Images

Stephen Curry is the reigning Finals MVP. He led the Golden State Warriors to their 4th NBA title in eight years. Giannis Antetokounmpo won the award in 2021, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to their first title in half a century.

LeBron James won his fourth Finals MVP in 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers, while Kawhi Leonard won the award with the Toronto Raptors in 2019. How do the performances of these five players rank? Sports Brief takes a look.

5. LeBron James - 2020

James' Cleveland Cavaliers locked horns against a Warriors team that had won 73 regular season games. They went 3-1 down in the series, but he helped them pull off a miraculous comeback in one of the greatest NBA Finals of all time. Although Kyrie Irving hit an iconic game-winner over Stephen Curry, James' presence on both ends of the court helped the Cavaliers win their first and only title.

James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists in 7 games in the series. His performance elevated his status in the GOAT conversation.

4. Kawhi Leonard - 2019

Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to their first and only NBA title in 2019 with a legendary run in the playoffs. In six games against the Golden State Warriors, he averaged 28.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.8 steals to win his second NBA Finals MVP, per Bleacher Report. He would be higher on the list, but the Raptors faced an injury-plagued Warriors team.

Moreover, he hit one of the most iconic shots in NBA history in the second round against the Philadelphia 76ers. His buzzer-beater in Game 7 saw the Raptors book their spot in the conference finals.

3. Nikola Jokic - 2023

Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets to their first-ever NBA championship. He had a superb run in the playoffs. He averaged 30.2 points, 14 rebounds, and 7.2 assists against the Heat. It was a phenomenal run from the Serbian big man, who not only contributed with his scoring but also rebounding, passing, and defense.

The 28-year-old led all players in total points (600), rebounds (269), and assists (190) in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, making him the first player to lead all three categories in a single postseason, per USA Today. Jokic and the Nuggets had a solid run this postseason, but they faced two play-in teams (Minnesota and Lakers) and an 8th seed in the finals.

2. Stephen Curry - 2022

Stephen Curry was heavily criticized for not winning the NBA Finals MVP. He had three NBA titles but had not won the Finals MVP award. In the 2022 NBA Finals, Curry silenced doubters with incredible performances. The Golden State Warriors went into game 4 trailing 2-1 and couldn't afford to go 3-1 down.

Curry produced his best finals game in Game 4. He scored 43 points on 14-of-26 shooting, including a 7-of-14 mark from 3-point range. That performance essentially helped the Warriors take control of the series. They never lost another game.

In the series, Curry averaged 31.2 points, 5.0 assists, and 6.0 rebounds against the Boston Celtics.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo - 2021

Antetokounmpo has one of the best finals performances this century in the 2021 finals. He was crowned the Finals MVP after leading the Bucks to their first title since 1971. In his first Finals appearance, the Greek Freak dominated by averaging 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, and five assists per game, per CBS Sports.

He scored only 20 points in a Game 1 loss. However, he followed that with back-to-back 40-point games. He scored a sensational 50 points in the 105-98 Game 6 series-clincher. It is one of the few 50-point games in the NBA Finals.

Ranked: Last 10 NBA champions

Sports Brief earlier ranked the last 10 NBA champions.

The 2017 Warriors top the list since they went 16-1 in the postseason. They went 12-0 in the Western Conference and lost only one game in the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat are second on the list.

The 2022 Bucks are 9th, while the 2016 Cavaliers are 3rd on the list.

Edwin Kiplagat photo
Edwin Kiplagat
Editor- Other Sports