The 3 oldest NBA MVPs of all time
The NBA MVP race is heating up as the 2019-20 campaign is coming to a close. Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetoknoumpo was the prohibitive favorite to take home the hardware for much of the season, but after LeBron James led the Lakers to back-to-back wins over the Bucks and Clippers this past weekend, many believe that the award is now up for grabs.
LeBron just turned 35 in December, but he doesn’t seem to have slowed down at all. While it’s rare to see a player dominating the NBA at this age, it’s not unprecedented, though James doing this in Year 17 after all the miles he has put on his tires is especially impressive. The Lakers star is averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists, and 7.9 rebounds while shooting 49.8 percent overall and 34.9 percent on 3-pointers.
With LeBron potentially winning an MVP at 35 years old, let’s go back in time and take a gander at some of the oldest NBA MVPs in league history.
Karl Malone: 1999
Arguably the greatest player in league history to never win a ring, Malone earned MVP honors as a 35-year-old (he turned 36 in July of that year) playing for the Utah Jazz. The Mailman tallied 23.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game for the 1998-99 season and won the award over fellow big men Alonzo Mourning and Duncan.
Malone led Utah to a league-best record of 37-13 (tied with the Spurs) during the lockout-shortened NBA campaign. The fact that the media voted for Malone puzzled some, though, as his per-game numbers were his worst since his second season in the NBA. One could make a solid case that Duncan was more deserving because he outrebounded Malone and was a superior defender while averaging just 2.1 fewer points (21.7).
Michael Jordan: 1998
Jordan’s final season in Chicago was a storybook ending to an incredible 13-year stint with the franchise. Not only did he capture his sixth and final championship ring, but His Airness also took home the regular-season MVP trophy.
At age 35, Jordan won MVP after playing in all 82 games and averaging 28.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 38.8 minutes per game of action. He also led Chicago to a 62-20 record, which was good enough for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Players such as Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal, and Tim Duncan also received consideration for the award, but Jordan was the consensus pick and thus received the most first-place votes by far (92).
While Jordan and Malone were both 35 years old when they won these respective MVPs, MJ had just turned 35 in February 1998, so he was a younger 35.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 1980
Kareem won MVP a record-setting six times over the course of his illustrious 20-year NBA career. His very last award came during his fifth season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Abdul-Jabbar scored 23.3 points, pulled down 10.1 rebounds, and came up with a whopping 3.2 blocks per contest in 1979-80. The Hall of Famer suited up for all 82 matches in the regular season, and he along with rookie Magic Johnson led LA to an impressive 60-22 record and the top seed in the Western Conference.
Kareem was 33 years old when he earned his final MVP. The runner-up for the hardware was Philadelphia 76ers star Julius Erving, and San Antonio Spurs forward George Gervin received the third-most votes. Los Angeles ended up defeating the Sixers in the 1980 NBA Finals in six games, which resulted in Abdul-Jabbar obtaining his first of five rings as a Laker.