One thing people love to talk about in sports is legacy. After any big event, whether it be a team winning a championship, a player putting together an all-time performance, or a player winning an award, people ask the question “How does this affect (Insert All Time Great)’s legacy? The award that probably helps a player’s legacy the most is a Finals MVP.
It is pretty simple. The overwhelming majority of the time, the Finals MVP goes to the best player on the team that won the finals. What is better than being the best player on a championship team? Not much. Some guys have won Finals MVPs, and it completely changed the way we looked at them forever. Here are the top 8 players who have the most to gain with a Finals MVP.
Honorable Mention: LeBron James. Believe it or not, another ring for LeBron would not do too much for his legacy. It would be awesome but he has already accomplished so much and is already one of the two best players of all time, so he can’t go much higher.
8. Jimmy Butler
Playoff Jimmy. Butler has been known for almost “coasting” during the regular season the past couple of years and then exploding in the playoffs. He led his team to the finals in 2020 as the 5 seed, was a jump shot away from the finals last year, and picked off the 1st-seeded Bucks this year. Butler made the All-Star game 6 times, the All-NBA third team 4 times, and the All-NBA Defensive Second Team five times. This is likely a Hall of Fame track, and winning a Finals MVP without a second superstar (Sorry Bam) would cement him into the Hall of Fame, and probably a Top 75 Player of All Time
7. Jayson Tatum
Tatum brought his team to The Finals last year and it was one of the worst performances by a superstar in a while. Not only would a Finals MVP this year be a great redemption story, but fantastic for his legacy. Tatum is already a 4-time All star, 2 Time All NBA, and 1 Time All NBA First Team. He will probably add on one more All-NBA First team for this year as well. With a Finals MVP, Tatum would join only 22 other plays with 3 All NBAs, 2 All NBA 1st Teams, and a Finals MVP. Joining that type of company at this age would be the very beginning of a First Ballot Hall of Fame career.
6. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis has had one of the weirdest careers of all active players. He was one of the most dominant players in the league in New Orleans but was just not winning enough to truly be “respected” by a lot of people. He then continued his dominance in 2020 and was the leading scorer for the Lakers’ championship team. Ever since he has been very inconsistent. A Finals MVP would be huge for him. If he wins one this year, he would be one of 15 players to have 4 All NBA First Teams, 2 Rings, and a Finals MVP. Davis is already a Top 75 player all time, add a Finals MVP and he cements himself in the Top 50 at the worst.
5. Joel Embiid
The 2023 MVP has a ton to gain with a Finals MVP. Everyone knows how dominant Embiid is, but the question is can he do it in the playoffs? He has the reputation of being a playoff dropper, but he can easily change that. If he were to win Finals MVP, he would join 18 other guys to win both an MVP and Finals MVP. Only 10 of those guys did both in the same season. Embiid has finished Top Two in MVP voting for the past three seasons, add a Finals MVP this year, and we are talking about a Top 25 peak of all time, and probably Top 50 overall.
4. Kevin Durant
The Suns are down 2-1 as of Saturday morning, but anything can happen in the playoffs. Many people might not hold this type of Finals MVP too heavily because Durant only played 8 regular season games with the Suns, but a Finals MVP is a Finals MVP. This one would be Durant’s third, only five other guys have three or more. Who are those five? You may or may not have heard of them. Their names are Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, and Shaquille O’Neal. The overwhelming majority of people have Durant as a Top 15 player of all time, add a Finals MVP to his resume, and he is debatably Top 10.
3. James Harden
Though Harden is not the best player on the Sixers, there is still certainly a world where his team can win the title and he wins Finals MVP. People forget about who Harden was in his prime, and that was a walking efficient 30-point triple-double. Though he has a history of being a playoff dropper”, part of the reason is that he ran into the All-Time Great Warrior Dynasty multiple times. If he were to win Finals MVP this year, he would join 11 other players who have 6 All NBA First Teams, an MVP, and a Finals MVP. The worst player on that list is Kevin Durant, that would be the type of company he would join.
2. Nikola Jokic
Similar to Embiid, if Jokic wins Finals MVP this year, he would probably have a Top 15-20 three-year peak of all time. Everyone knows he is one of the greatest offensive players of all time, the question is can he win a title with that type of play and his lack of defense? If this were to happen, he would join 9 other players who won 2 MVPs, and 1 Finals MVP. Who are those guys? They are Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. All of these guys are easily Top 25, and debatably Top 20 all time, that would be the company Jokic joins.
1. Steph Curry
Steph Curry has already accomplished so much, why does he have the most to gain? He is already an all-time great, but adding another Finals MVP puts him in different conversations. He had a couple of weak moments in which he is ranked lower because of it, but those moments will only become smaller if he wins a Finals MVP in back-to-back seasons.
Only six guys have won Finals MVP in back-to-back seasons. Those guys are Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Curry’s old teammate Kevin Durant. If he were to win Finals MVP again, he would be a 5 Time Champion, 2 Time MVP, and a 2 Time Finals MVP. The only guys to accomplish that much are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, and Michael Jordan. It is this type of company that would make him enter the Top 5 discussions.
The Finals MVP Award is probably the biggest legacy-shifting award in the league. A lot of players have a ton to gain by winning this award this year. Regardless of who wins it, it will be huge for their legacy.
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