How many NBA Finals MVP awards does Bill Russell have? Why Celtics legend never earned award despite winning 11 championships

The Warriors’ Stephen Curry may not yet have an NBA Finals MVP, but that means he’s in pretty good company. Celtics legend Bill Russell doesn’t have one either.

Yes, you read that right: Russell, who reached 12 NBA Finals and won 11 championships in his career, never took home the Finals MVP trophy.

Some mistake has to be in the history books, right? How could one of the greatest players in league history have left the field without that honor on his CV?

MORE: Ranking Curry’s greatest NBA Finals performances

Why Bill Russell never became NBA Finals MVP

Russell only had one opportunity to be named Finals MVP. The award was first introduced during the 1969 NBA Finals, the final championship series of Russell’s career.

Lakers star Jerry West earned the honor after averaging nearly 38 points in seven games, but Russell and the Celtics won the series. West remains the only player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP after losing.

NBA renames Finals MVP award in honor of Bill Russell

In 2009, then-commissioner David Stern announced that each series’ Finals MVP would receive the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award.

“Who better to name this prestigious award than one of the greatest players of all time and the ultimate champion,” Stern said at the time.

Who Chooses the NBA Finals MVP?

The NBA Finals MVP award has been presented annually since the 1969 NBA Finals. The winner will be selected by a jury of 11 media representatives. They cast their votes immediately after the end of the last game in the series, and the player with the highest number of votes wins the prize.

Full List of NBA Finals MVP Award Winners

Michael Jordan holds the record for most Finals MVP awards in league history with six. LeBron James is next in line behind Jordan with four Finals MVP trophies. He is the only player to have won the award with three different franchises (Cavaliers, Heat and Lakers).

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is the youngest honoree. He led Milwaukee to their first championship in 50 years by averaging 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals per game against Phoenix in the 2021 NBA Finals.

Year player team
2021 Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks
2020 Lebron James Los Angeles Lakers
2019 Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors
2018 Kevin Durant Warriors of the Golden State
2017 Kevin Durant Warriors of the Golden State
2016 Lebron James Cleveland Cavaliers
2015 Andre Iguodala Warriors of the Golden State
2014 Kawhi Leonard San Antonio Spurs
2013 Lebron James intense heat
2012 Lebron James intense heat
2011 Dirk Nowitzki Dallas Mavericks
2010 Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers
2009 Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers
2008 Paul Pierz Boston Celtics
2007 Tony Parker San Antonio Spurs
2006 Dwyane Wade intense heat
2005 Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs
2004 Chauncey Billups Detroit piston
2003 Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs
2002 Shaquille O’Neal Los Angeles Lakers
2001 Shaquille O’Neal Los Angeles Lakers
2000 Shaquille O’Neal Los Angeles Lakers
1999 Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs
1998 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls
1997 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls
1996 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls
1995 Hakeem Olajuwon Houston missiles
1994 Hakeem Olajuwon Houston missiles
1993 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls
1992 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls
1991 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls
1990 Isia Thomas Detroit piston
1989 Joe Dumars Detroit piston
1988 James Worthy Los Angeles Lakers
1987 Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers
1986 Larry Vogel Boston Celtics
1985 Kareem Abdul Jabbar Los Angeles Lakers
1984 Larry Vogel Boston Celtics
1983 Moses Malone Philadelphia 76ers
1982 Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers
1981 Cedric Maxwell Boston Celtics
1980 Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers
1979 Dennis Johnson Seattle Super Sonics
1978 Wes Unseld Washington balls
1977 Bill Walton Portland Trail Blazer
1976 Yo Yo White Boston Celtics
1975 Rick Barry Warriors of the Golden State
1974 John Havlicek Boston Celtics
1973 Willis Reed New York Knicks
1972 Wilt Chamberlain Los Angeles Lakers
1971 Kareem Abdul Jabbar Milwaukee Bucks
1970 Willis Reed New York Knicks
1969 Jerry West Los Angeles Lakers

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