The NBA MVP award is the cause of many debates over it's long history. The award recipient is “the best-performing player of the regular season.” However, if a player performs better than everyone else and his team doesn't make the playoffs, that player will rarely win. There have also been many occurrences where a player loses the award just because someone else's team finished higher in the standings. Some players also have the misfortune of having a teammate that outperforms or equals their performance. In this case, they split votes and lose the chance of being MVPs. The following players on our list have all had these circumstances happen to them in their careers. Let's look at the 10 greatest NBA players who have never won an MVP award.
10 greatest NBA players who have never won an MVP award
10. Patrick Ewing
A New York Knicks center who dominated at both ends of the court should have been a lock for an MVP award in his career. He was the Knicks leader, brought them to numerous playoff appearances, and averaged 22.8 points per game and 10.2 rebounds during his Knicks career. In 1993, when he averaged 29 points and 12 rebounds, he only finished fourth in the voting. You're probably asking why Ewing couldn't get a top-three finish in MVP voting. The answer is Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, and David Robinson.
9. Clyde Drexler
There is a common theme of players on this list. Most of them are from the 1980s and 1990s. Drexler's absence of an MVP and other accolades was affected by Michael Jordan the most out of almost anyone else. Drexler led the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1992 NBA Finals, boasting a career-high 25 points per game, seven rebounds, and seven assists. That season was the closest Drexler would come to an MVP, finishing second to one of the best seasons in NBA history by Michael Jordan. Drexler also missed out on his NBA Championship, losing to, you guessed it, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. He finished top-ten in MVP voting three times and was top five twice.
Drexler did manage to win an NBA Championship in the 90's, teaming up with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston during the 1995 season. However, it is worth noting it was during Michael Jordan's baseball hiatus.
8. Rick Barry
Barry was one of the great scorers of his era during his time with the San Francisco, later Golden State Warriors. During his time in Golden State, he averaged 25.6 points per game and might've had a better chance at an MVP if he hadn't gone to the ABA in his prime. Barry averaged over 30 points per game during his four seasons in the ABA. The closest he came to an MVP award was being voted fourth in 1975 and 1976. His best season statistically came in 1975, when he averaged 31 points, six assists, six rebounds, and three steals per game. If a player had those averages in the modern era, he would likely be a unanimous MVP choice. After returning from the ABA, Barry averaged 30 points per game in the first three seasons but never came close to another MVP.
Many argue that Barry's bad reputation was a factor in his inability to get award votes.
There is no chance that Scottie Pippen would be given MVP votes as he rode shotgun to Michael Jordan. The forward was in Jordan's shadow for most of his NBA career, which was a big talking point in the aftermath of the ‘Last Dance” documentary. Pippen was great at both ends of the floor and regarded as one of the best perimeter defenders in league history. Pippen may not care about his lack of MVPs since he has six NBA championships crowding his trophy case, but he does deserve more recognition. When Jordan left for a year and a half to play baseball, Pippen was the leader of a team whose regular season performance didn't have as big of a dropoff as people predicted. Pippen also received his highest MVP vote during these seasons, finishing third in 1994.
In the same boat as Pippen with the Bulls, it was tough to garner MVP attention, being Karl Malone's sidekick. Stockton was the best point guard in the league in the 1990s, being a part of two Utah Jazz championships and many deep playoff runs. He was also a factor at both ends of the floor, but his greatest strength was his ability to run the offense. He is the NBA's leader in assists with 15,806, with many of them going to the team's scorer, Malone. Malone was the guy who received most of the MVP votes from the Jazz. Despite his success, Stockton's highest MVP finish was seventh in 1989.
5. Kevin McHale
Mchale spent most of his Celtics years behind Larry Bird in acclaim from the public. McHale was a part of three championships with the Celtics, but the closest he came to an MVP award was finishing fourth in 1987. In the 1987 season, McHale averaged 26 points and ten rebounds per game. Much like Pippen, Mchale's game did so much to open up the floor for Bird that it was beneficial for the team but forced McHale to be underappreciated. While he didn't win an MVP, McHale did earn his fair share of accolades. He was a three-time NBA Champion, seven-time all-star, three-time All-Defensive First Team, two-time Sixth Man of the Year, and is an inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
4. Dwayne Wade
The most recent member of the list, Wade, had the misfortune of playing with some legends of the game causing him to miss out on MVP awards. His best season in the league was during the 2008-2009 season when he had 30 points per game and led a 43-win Miami Heat team to the playoffs. It's worth an argument that without Wade the Heat are probably a lottery team that season, which means no one else was more valuable to their team. Despite that, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant finished ahead of Wade in MVP voting. If there was ever a time for Wade to win it, that season was it, as James then joined Wade in Miami to chase some more championship rings. Once James left Miami, Wade was out of his prime and unable to challenge for the illustrious award.
Wade did win an NBA Finals MVP in 2006 when he led the team to the title.
3. Isiah Thomas
Thomas' career came at the worst time for the point guard, as his early years and prime was overshadowed by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Then, much to his chagrin, his later years were overshadowed by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Thomas' best chance to win the award was during the Pistons' back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990, but the Pistons' place amongst national recognition didn't last long enough. During his prime, Thomas was averaging over 20 points and ten assists per game, but that was during the Celtics and Lakers runs. The best finish Thomas had in MVP voting was fifth in 1984 and was top ten only four times.
Like Wade, Thomas was an NBA Finals MVP when the Pistons won in 1990.
2. Elgin Baylor
The stats that Baylor managed to put up in his career are staggering, to say the least. The problem for Baylor was that he dominated alongside names such as Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Bill Russell. Baylor averaged 34 points, 19 rebounds, and five assists per game in the first year he finished runner-up in voting. In his second runner-up finish, Baylor averaged 34 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists per game. During his career, Baylor was a top-ten finisher nine times, and in the top five six times. The reason he didn't break through and win one of his own? Wilt Chamberlain was averaging around 40 points per game, Oscar Robertson was averaging a triple-double, and Bill Russell was the most winningest player in history.
1. Jerry West
You may be asking: how does a guy become the silhouette of the league's logo but not win its MVP award? That is a question that West probably asks himself a lot, as one of the best players of all time didn't manage to win one in his career. The fact that West didn't win one isn't what hurts. It's that he finished second in voting four times in his career, including a run of three in a row from 1970 to 1972. West was one of the greatest scorers in basketball history. He averaged 27 points, 6.7 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.6 steals per game. He was selected to play in 14 All-Star games and was All-NBA twelve times. West won a single NBA championship but was the Finals MVP for that title.
Early in his career, West was runner-up to Wilt Chamberlain, then later to Kareem Abdul Jabaar and Willis Reed. Three legends who beat West out, but this doesn't make it sting any less.