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 have an NBA Finals MVP yet, but that means he is in pretty good company. Celtics legend Bill Russell doesn’t have one, either.

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

There must be some sort of error in the history books, right? How could one of the greatest players in league history have walked away from the court without that honor on his resume?

MORE: Ranking Curry’s greatest NBA Finals performances

Why Bill Russell never won NBA Finals MVP

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

Lakers star Jerry West received the award after averaging nearly 38 points across seven games, but Russell and the Celtics won the series. West remains the only player in NBA history who has been named the Finals MVP in a losing effort.

NBA renames Finals MVP award to honor Bill Russell

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

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

Who votes on NBA Finals MVP?

The NBA Finals MVP award has been handed out each year since the 1969 NBA Finals. The award winner is chosen by a panel of 11 media members. They cast their votes immediately after the last game of the series concludes, and the player with the highest vote total wins the award.

Full list of NBA Finals MVP award winners

Michael Jordan owns 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 who has won the award with three different franchises (Cavaliers, Heat and Lakers).

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is the most recent winner of the award. He led Milwaukee to its first championship in 50 years, 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 Golden State Warriors
2017 Kevin Durant Golden State Warriors
2016 LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers
2015 Andre Iguodala Golden State Warriors
2014 Kawhi Leonard San Antonio Spurs
2013 LeBron James Miami Heat
2012 LeBron James Miami Heat
2011 Dirk Nowitzki Dallas Mavericks
2010 Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers
2009 Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers
2008 Paul Pierce Boston Celtics
2007 Tony Parker San Antonio Spurs
2006 Dwyane Wade Miami Heat
2005 Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs
2004 Chauncey Billups Detroit Pistons
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 Rockets
1994 Hakeem Olajuwon Houston Rockets
1993 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls
1992 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls
1991 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls
1990 Isiah Thomas Detroit Pistons
1989 Joe Dumars Detroit Pistons
1988 James Worthy Los Angeles Lakers
1987 Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers
1986 Larry Bird Boston Celtics
1985 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Los Angeles Lakers
1984 Larry Bird 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 SuperSonics
1978 Wes Unseld Washington Bullets
1977 Bill Walton Portland Trail Blazers
1976 Jo Jo White Boston Celtics
1975 Rick Barry Golden State Warriors
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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