There is no higher distinction for regular season play in the NBA than the Most Valuable Player award. Given out at the end of each season, the MVP encapsulates who had the best individual season, while simultaneously contributing to winning basketball. Being such a highly-contested award, the athletes who do secure an MVP are immediately thrusted into the forefront of basketball lore. Here is the list of the last 30 NBA MVPs.
NBA MVP List: The Most Valuable Players of The Last 30 Years
2020-21 Nikola Jokic: Denver Nuggets
26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists
After 20 years of no center winning MVP, Nikola Jokic reclaimed the award for big-men. Losing their second-best option in Jamal Murray, the Nuggets were still able to finish third in the West behind the 'Jokers' efficient play. Jokic led the league in PER this season, showing the NBA that it doesn’t take wild athleticism to be the best of the best.
2019-20 Giannis Antetokounmpo: Millwauke Bucks
29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists
Coming off his first league MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo followed it up with one of the best individual seasons to date. Leading the Bucks to the best record in the NBA, Antetokounmpo was able to secure not only the MVP trophy but also the Defensive Player of the Year award, becoming only the third player to do so in a single season.
2018-19 Giannis Antetokounmpo: Millwauke Bucks
27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists
In 2018 the Bucks season ended in disappointment as they lost to the Boston Celtics in seven games during the first round of the playoffs. Antetokounmpo took that loss personally and proceeded to take out his anger on opposing defenders nightly. The Bucks hit the 60 win mark this season and held the best record in the NBA.
2017-18 James Harden: Houston Rockets
30.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 8.8 assists
One of the most dynamic scorers the league has ever seen, it’s almost mystifying that James Harden only has one MVP award. While the Warriors were getting Kevin Durant accustomed to Golden State, Harden got busy putting together an unreal regular-season resume. Notching a league-leading 65 wins, the Rockets set a new franchise record for regular-season wins in 2018.
2016-17 Russell Westbrook: Oklahoma City Thunder
31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists
An MVP season is usually marked with one distinct game that undoubtedly pushes a player above the rest. This came at the last regular season game when Russel Westbrook notched his NBA best 42nd triple-double of the season while putting in the game-winning basket. Westbrook became the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double this season.
2015-16 Stephen Curry: Golden State Warriors
30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.7 assists
Coming off his first MVP, no one thought that Stephen Curry could top what he did the previous season. It turned out he could, and Curry was so dominant in his second MVP season that some were petitioning for him to win the Most Improved Player award. The cherry on top for Curry this season was notching the NBAs best regular-season record ever, as the Warriors finished 73-9. Curry also set the highest points per game mark while shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the free-throw line and became the first unanimous MVP in NBA history.
2014-15 Stephen Curry: Golden State Warriors
23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.7 assists
In his first MVP season, Steph Curry inserted himself as a household name. Routinely hitting insane pull-up threes from 30+ feet, Curry changed the landscape of the NBA forever. Curry would go on to win his first NBA title this season, solidifying himself in the upper-echelon of NBA greatness.
2013-14 Kevin Durant: Oklahoma City Thunder
32.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists
One of the most iconic moments for MVPs that have been robbed from us because of the new NBA award ceremony is the NBA MVP press conference. The league MVP would sit on stage with his teammates and family in attendance and give a speech about the season they just had. This is where a teary-eyed Kevin Durant famously looked at his mother, Wanda Durant, and proclaimed “you’re the real MVP”
2012-13 LeBron James: Miami Heat
26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists
The 2012-13 season saw the most recent and possibly last MVP of LeBron James' career. James would finish the season shooting 40.6 percent from three, the highest mark of his career in an MVP season. This was capped off with a second championship for the Heatles as they beat the Spurs in one of the most iconic NBA finals ever.
2011-12 LeBron James: Miami Heat
27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists
After LeBron James and the Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA finals, some people were slow to put James in the upper-echelon of NBA greats. He quickly dismissed that ludicrous thought by carrying the Heat and leading the league in win shares this season.
2010-11 Derrick Rose: Chicago Bulls
25.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists
“Why not? Why can’t I be the MVP?”. These were the words famously spoken by Derrick Rose before the 2010-11 season started. The hometown kid led the Chicago Bulls to 62 wins and the best record in the NBA, solidifying himself as the youngest MVP in NBA history. Rose would, unfortunately, suffer a litany of injuries and never return to an MVP level but was able to make an impact on a few other franchises as one of the league's best vets.
2009-10 LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers
29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists
The last season that LeBron James would win an MVP in Cleveland came during the 2009-10 season. This was his second of four MVPs and was a clear signal to the rest of the league who the top dog was. James would infamously leave the Cavs to join the Miami Heat during this off-season.
2008-09 LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers
28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists
No single player in NBA history has had the type of expectations that LeBron James had coming out of High School. He passed all those expectations and more putting together one of the best hall-of-fame resumes in NBA history. His first MVP would come in the 2008-09 season at the young age of 24.
2007-08 Kobe Bryant: Los Angeles Lakers
28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists
It is criminal that the late great Kobe Bryant only ended his career with one MVP. After being snubbed the previous two years, Bryant finally was able to secure his NBA MVP trophy in 2008. There is not much to be said about the Lakers legend that hasn’t been said already, as his iconic role in the lore of the NBA transcends any written testimonial.
2006-07 Dirk Nowitzki: Dallas Mavericks
24.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists
Today, over 20 percent of the NBA comes from countries outside the United States. That is one part, due to the generational play that Dirk Nowitzki would display every night. Nowitzki joined the NBA after playing professionally in Germany. Routinely hopping off one foot to hit his signature fade-away, Nowitzki was a master of the mid-range. He went on to win one NBA title in 2011, notably against the Miami Heatles big three.
2005-06 Steve Nash: Phoenix Suns
18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 10.5 assists
Before he was coaching the nets and dealing with the front-office drama of star players wanting to be traded, Steve Nash was winning MVPs, and yes that is supposed to be plural. In his second MVP season, Nash led the league in assists while helping the Suns reach 54 wins.
2004-05 Steve Nash: Phoenix Suns
15.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 11.5 assists
In his first year with the Phoenix Suns, Steve Nash turned around the franchise in unthinkable ways. The previous season the Suns finished with a 29-53 record. After one season with Nash at the helm, the Suns improved to a league-best 62-20 record. Nash’s ability to turn around offenses is a pivotal reason for his MVPs and is something that most fans overlook.
2003-04 Kevin Garnett: Minnesota Timberwolves
24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists
It wasn’t a quiet entrance when ‘The Big Ticket’ was drafted to the Timberwolves. Kevin Garnett embodied the harsh interior defense of the 90s and brought it into the modern NBA. Garnett built one of the most respectable NBA careers which included an NBA championship in Boston.
2002-03 Tim Duncan: San Antonio Spurs
23.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists
In his second MVP season, Tim Duncan was a presence to be messed with in the paint. Dubbed ‘Big Fundamental’ Duncan’s came may not get you to jump out of your seat, but it will put wins on the board. Duncan would go on to win five NBA championships with the Spurs and is widely considered the greatest power forward to ever play the game.
2001-02 Tim Duncan: San Antonio Spurs
25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists
After leading the Spurs to a 58-24 record, Tim Duncan took home his first NBA MVP award. Already an NBA champion and established star, this MVP solidified Tim Duncan as a force in the league for years. Playing all 19 years with the Spurs, Duncan embodies what it means to be a consummate professional.
2000-01 Allen Iverson: Philadelphia 76ers
31.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists
No single player shifted the culture in the NBA like Allen Iverson did. The argument can be made that Allen Iverson refusing to change his looks and dress a certain way helped spur the player empowerment era the NBA is in now. On the court Iverson was equally as iconic, regularly crossing defenders out of their shoes and onto the floor.
1999-00 Shaquille O’Neal: Los Angeles Lakers
29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists
When Shaquille O’Neal made his entrance into the NBA, it was grand and boisterous. Playing 19 seasons for six different franchises, Shaq did plenty to leave his mark on the league. Totaling 4 NBA championships, there aren’t many big-men with a resume built like Shaqs.
1998-99 Karl Malone: Utah Jazz
23.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists
When looking at the most fierce interior scorers in NBA history, Karl Malone stands near the front of that list. Even though Malone was not able to secure an NBA championship, he was able to nab two regular-season MVPs while reaching the finals three separate times.
1997-98 Michael Jordan: Chicago Bulls
28.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists
What better way to end the last dance than with a league MVP and NBA championship. Ending his GOAT resume with five MVPs and six championships, Michael Jordan stands alone at the top of the NBA mountain.
1996-97 Karl Malone: Utah Jazz
27.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists
The concept of ‘voter fatigue’ is commonly thrown around when looking at MVP snubs. Yes, Karl Malone most likely edged out Jordan this year because the voters were simply tired of voting for him, but that doesn’t diminish the season Malone had. Leading the Jazz to a 64-18 record, Malone secured his first MVP.
1995-96 Michael Jordan: Chicago Bulls
30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists
In his first year back post-retirement, Michael Jordan took no time to show that he was still the same high-flying dominating player he was before. Leading the Bulls to a then regular-season record 72-10, there was no question who would take home this year's MVP. Jordan would cap off this season with another championship.
1994-95 David Robinson: San Antonio Spurs
27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists
Even though Michael Jordan may have dominated the 90s, it was the big men who defined it. Nicknamed ‘The Admiral’, David Robinson took home the MVP trophy after leading the Spurs to a league-best 62 wins. Robinson would go on to win two championships with the Spurs.
1993-94 Hakeem Olajuwon: Houston Rockets
27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists
If you want to see the best footwork out of a center in NBA history, look no further than Hakeem Olajuwon. Coming out of the University of Houston, Olajuwon made an immediate impact at the rim leading the league in blocks three different times. Olajuwon was able to secure two championships for Houston, cementing himself as the greatest Rocket of all time.
1992-93 Charles Barkley: Phoenix Suns
25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists
‘The Round Mound of Rebound’ otherwise known as Charles Barkley is quite possibly the most underrated player in NBA history. Standing at only 6’6”, Barkley was able to secure rebounds and score against the biggest and baddest the league had to offer. Even though he never got that coveted championship, Barkley will forever remain a key player in the history of the NBA.
1991-92 Michael Jordan: Chicago Bulls
30.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists
The landscape of the NBA would forever shift after Jordans 1991-92 MVP season. Jordan would go on to win his second championship this year and follow that up with Olympic gold at the summer games. If it wasn’t clear who the face of the NBA was at this point, Jordan damn sure made it clear.