Writer: Jameson White
For the last three decades, there has been some incredible talent roaming the NBA. Of the incredible talent, the best have won rings and an even smaller percentage of them have won Finals MVP. I will be starting a series of articles each week, ranking the ten Finals MVPs for each decade. Here is starting off with the MVPs of the 1990’s:
The Top Finals MVP performances of the 90’s, ranked from 10 to 1:
10. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 1996
Credit to Complex
After returning from a brief retirement in 1994, it took the great Michael Jordan a couple of seasons to once again be atop the NBA landscape. In the 1996 NBA Finals against the Seattle SuperSonics, Michael Jordan had a stat line of 27.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.7 SPG, and 0.2 BPG with a shooting percentage of 42% in 42 MPG.
9. Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets, 1994
Credit to HoopsHabit
In the first season in which Michael Jordan was retired (for the first time), it was someone else’s turn to break past his Finals dominance. In 1994, that team was the Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, facing the New York Knicks. Hakeem “The Dream” completely dominated fellow legendary center, Patrick Ewing. In this series, Olajuwon held Ewing to 18.9 PPG on 36% shooting. In doing so, Hakeem won 1994 Finals MVP, as he had a stat line of 26.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 3.9 BPG, to go along with shooting 50% from the field in 43.1 MPG.
8. Isaiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons, 1990
Credit to The Shadow League
In the second of back-to-back titles for the Detroit Pistons against the Portland Trail Blazers, point guard Isaiah Thomas won NBA Finals MVP with a stat line of 27.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.6 SPG and 0.4 BPG on 54% shooting from the field in 38.4 MPG. Even though he was the smallest, Thomas was the leader of the “Bad Boy” Pistons, and always seemed to come provide the team with an offensive or defensive spark when it was needed.
7. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 1998
Credit to Total Form Fitness
In the last Finals series of what would amount to Michael Jordan’s quest for being 6-for-6 in the championship series, “His Airness” took on the Utah Jazz. For most of this series, the Utah Jazz kept Jordan in check. In game six, however, Jordan showed exactly why he was going to be immortalized as an All-time great; down by three with 43 seconds left in the game, Jordan took a layup to the rim and scored. Needing a stop, Jordan jumped a pass from NBA All-Time Assist leader John Stockton, and seconds later, he hit one of the most iconic game-clinching shots in NBA history. In this series, he averaged 33.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, and 0.7 BPG to go along with shooting just under 43% from the field in 41.7 MPG.
6. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 1992
Credit to Pinterest
In Michael Jordan’s second NBA Finals, he and the Chicago Bulls faced Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers. This was a matchup between players who were compared to each other the entire season; if there was going to be any player who caught Jordan, it was going to be Drexler. Jordan in this series, however, laid those claims to rest, as he outscored, and simply outplayed, Drexler in 5 out of 6 games, with the exception being game three. With this, Jordan won Finals MVP with averages of 35.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 0.3 BPG while shooting 52.6% from the field in 42.3 MPG.
5. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs, 1999
Credit to NBA.com
In just Tim Duncan’s second season in the pros, he brought San Antonio its first ever NBA championship, defeating the New York Knicks. The Spurs had created a duo known as the “Twin Towers,” as they deployed the best and most talented big-man duo the league had ever seen with Duncan and David Robinson. Duncan won Finals MVP with a stat line of 27.4 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 2.2 BPG while shooting 53.7% in 45.8 MPG.
4. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 1997
Credit to The Cheat Sheet
In Michael Jordan’s fifth trip to the NBA Finals, he won yet again against the Utah Jazz. This time, he did so in one of his most memorable performances yet. In game one of this series, Jordan hit a game-winning 20-footer at the buzzer. The Jazz and Bulls took turns beating each other in games two, three, and four, and when gameday for game five came around, Jordan woke up with the flu. Despite this, he played in a game five that would be later known as “the Flu game,” and even though visibly weak, he lead the Bulls with 38 points, including a game-clinching 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining. In his MVP series, he averaged 32.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 0.8 BPG while shooting 45.6% from the field in 42.7 MPG.
3. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 1991
Credit to fhm.com
In the very first of Michael Jordan’s titles, “His Airness” took down the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers, effectively ending one dynasty and starting another. In a series that included NBA legends Magic Johnson and James Worthy, Jordan bested the both of them, having what would end up being his most well-rounded Finals series he ever played. Jordan averaged 31.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 11.4 APG, 2.8 SPG, and 0.7 BPG while shooting nearly 56% in 44 MPG.
2. Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets, 1995
Credit to The Shadow League
In the second of back-to-back titles for the Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, they took down Shaquille O’neal and the Orlando Magic. Olajuwon outplayed the young Magic center, becoming one of the few players in history to score at least 30 points in every game of a series, including a game-winning tip in at the buzzer in game one. Hakeem won Finals MVP, averaging 32.8 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, and 2.0 BPG while shooting 48.3% from the field in 44.8 MPG.
1. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 1993
Credit to Hoops Habit
Finally, the best Finals performance of Michael Jordan’s career. The performance came at the end of his first “three-peat,” as the Bulls faced regular season MVP, Charles Barkley, and the Phoenix Suns. Jordan has always been a fierce competitor, but particularly in this series he showed why he was the greatest player on the court consistently. Jordan scored more than 40 points or more four different times in this series, including a 55-point performance in game four. Chicago won in six games, with Jordan averaging an astonishing 41.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 0.7 BPG while shooting almost 51% from the field in 45.7 MPG. Any player who averages more than 40 points in an NBA Finals series is more than deserving of the top spot on the list ranking the Finals MVP performances of the 1990’s.