Published on 24 Oct 2021 5:43 pm (UK Time)
Perhaps the biggest honour a single player can receive is being named MVP not for the game, but for the entire season. This is reserved for not just the best point scorers but also the best team players too, who made victory possible through their actions throughout the series. Naturally, many NBA MVP awards have been handed out to the association’s top talent over the years.
Today we’re taking a lot at the players who have racked up the most NBA MVP awards since the association first started. We’re focusing on the top end of the MVP rankings to showcase the best talent, spanning players from the past and players right now. Knowing your MVPs can help when taking on Fanduel’s NBA money lines too.
The NBA player with the most MVP awards is Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who played 20 seasons before retiring. He started with the Milwaukee Bucks but is perhaps better remembered for his plays with the Los Angeles Lakers alongside a young Magic Johnson.
Over his illustrious career, he won the NBA MVP award 6 times. That’s a quarter of his played seasons, not bad at all. What’s more, many of the players below share their records with another player. That isn’t the case with Abdul-Jabbar, he is the only player to date who won 6 MVP awards.
The next player who racked up the second-most annual NBA MVP awards is Michael Jordan. Entering the association while Abdul-Jabbar’s career was winding down, Jordan played 15 seasons, mainly for the Chicago Bulls but also the Washington Wizards too. Even the most casual sports fan should know Michael Jordan’s name, he helped popularize the NBA worldwide throughout the 90s.
He has 5 MVP awards as a whole, a third of the seasons he played, but he played less than Abdul-Jabbar. If he hadn’t retired in 2003 and was able to keep playing, maybe he would have surpassed the #1 spot, who knows? What we do know is that, alongside his vast collection of accolades, Jordan’s name is permanently stamped on the NBA’s history and its continued success.
Tied with Michael Jordan at 5 NBA MVP awards is Bill Russell, a player who graced the court before Abdul-Jabbar or Jordan even started their own careers. Russell was active from 1956 to 1969 for one team, the Boston Celtics. While they’re renowned for their ballgame prowess, it was Russell that helped establish that legend by serving 11 NBA championships in his 13-year career. This also makes him tied with a hockey player for most championships won in an American sports league, full stop.
At a modest 5 MVPs, that’s nearly half of the seasons that he played, so that’s pretty impressive. Alongside his many other achievements, Russell isn’t just an established MVP, he’s also considered one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history.
Here’s another name that the average American should recognize, whether they’re a sports fan or not. LeBron James can be compared to Michael Jordan in that regard since both became massive superstars that grew beyond the NBA. Having recently settled at the Los Angeles Lakers after playing most of his 18 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He also played for the Miami Heat and this makes him the only player who has won NBA championships across 3 franchises.
You’re here for the MVP stats, however. James was named MVP 4 times throughout his career. While that’s a lower percentage compared to his games played, it should be noted that he isn’t done yet…
Next, we have another classic basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain, who played from 1958 to 1973. Having started out as a Harlem Globetrotter, Chamberlain played with the Golden State Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers, and Los Angeles Lakers for a total of 14 seasons. In that time, he won 4 regular-season MVP awards, making him the 5th most valuable player by the numbers. He holds many, many NBA records, so he’s often a shoo-in for best basketball player discussions.
As an older player who’s next up with 3 MVP awards, Larry Bird deserves a mention. Like Chamberlain and many other great players, he played for the Boston Celtics from 1979 to 1992. He finished off his illustrious career as part of the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” that won gold. As for those MVP awards, three of them were won consecutively from 1984-86, and he’s the only forward to do it so far.