With James Harden set to become the 2017-18 NBA MVP, he'll no longer one of the best players in the NBA to never win top individual honors. However, there are plenty of greats who never hoisted the MVP Trophy.
Here, we chronicle the 30 greatest NBA players who never won the MVP. Whether these players were overshadowed by teammates with more star power, were robbed by the voting committee, or put together phenomenal careers but simply not that one standout season, these great basketball players somehow never were recognized as the league's Most Valuable Player.
Considering that he is the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA history to date, it’s surprising to note that Ray Allen never really came close to ever winning an MVP. The 10-time All-Star never finished higher than ninth in the voting over his 18-year career.
“Pitchin” Paul Arizin was one the first great scorers in NBA history. Arizin was selected as an All-Star in each of his 10 seasons for the Philadelphia Warriors. Truth be told, if he had not chosen to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps during two of the prime years of career, he likely would not be on this list.
Playing alongside Jerry West for the Los Angeles Lakers was a small forward by the name of Elgin Baylor. Baylor enjoyed a career in which he was an All-Star 11 times, All-NBA First Team 10 times and scored over 23,000 points. Inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977, Baylor still never won an MVP Award in his 14-year career.
Splitting his career between the NBA and ABA, Rick Barry is one of the most prolific scorers and accurate shooters in basketball history. In his 14-year career, Barry scored over 25,000 points, was selected to 12 All-Star teams and led the 1975 Golden State Warriors to a championship. Despite all this, Barry never won an MVP Award.
Slightly undersized to play small forward, Adrian Dantley still managed to get buckets. In fact, he got a lot of them. Dantley won two scoring titles and amassed over 23,000 points in his 15-year career. Still, he never finished higher than seventh in MVP voting.
One of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history, Clyde Drexler never managed to win an MVP Award in his 16-year NBA career. Drexler did however score over 22,000 points, make 10 All-Star teams and was also an instrumental part of the Houston Rockets' 1995 championship-winning team.
The man who was supposed to bring a title back to Madison Square Garden but never did also never won an MVP Award. Still, with career averages of 21 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, along with 11 All-Star selections, Patrick Ewing is easily one of the greatest centers in NBA history.
One of the smoothest point guards in NBA history, Walt Frazier was the most charismatic stars on the New York Knicks teams that won championships in 1970 and 1973. Frazier was a point guard who could do just about everything on a basketball court, as he was named to four All-NBA First Teams, seven All-NBA Defensive Teams and seven All-Star teams. Still, in his 13-year career Frazier was never named NBA MVP.
George “The Iceman” Gervin was one of the greatest pure scorers in basketball history. Over 14 seasons, primarily with the San Antonio Spurs, Gervin averaged over 25 points per game and won four scoring titles. Despite being selected to 12 All-Star Games too, the man often credited with inventing the finger roll never won an MVP.
Standing at 7-2, Artis Gilmore was one basketball’s first true giants. Gilmore played in both NBA and ABA during his 17-year career and is among the leaders in rebounds and blocks on the all-time list. Although Gilmore did win ABA MVP in 1972, he never won an NBA regular-season MVP Award.
Playing alongside Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, some basketball fans have forgotten or are yet to realize just how good John Havlicek was. Although he never won MVP, Havlicek did manage make 13 All-Star teams, score over 26,000 pints and win eight championships, including winning Finals MVP in 1974.
Although he is seldom talked about anymore, Elvin Hayes enjoyed an immensely successful NBA career. “The Big E” scored over 27,000 points, nabbed over 16,000 rebounds and blocked over 1,700 shots, and he was an All-Star in three different decades. Despite all of these incredible numbers, Hayes never won a regular-season MVP in his 16-year career.
One of the greatest playmakers in NBA history, Jason Kidd was never able to get his hands on an MVP Award. A 10-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA First Team selection, Kidd came closest to winning MVP in 2002 with the New Jersey Nets when he lead them to their first ever NBA Finals appearance.
From Brooklyn, Bernard King was one the NBA’s most lethal scorers of the 1980s. Playing the brightest years of his career with his hometown Knicks, King won the 1985 scoring title by averaging nearly 33 points a game. Remembered best for scoring 60 points on Christmas Day in 1984, King finished second in MVP voting to Larry Bird that same season.
Before Magic Johnson came along, there was Pete Maravich. “Pistol Pete” was one of the first players to make passing an art form. In addition to being a brilliant passer, Maravich also could rack up points with the best, winning the NBA’s 1977 scoring title with over 31 points per game. Although his career only lasted nine seasons, Maravich is one of the most unique and enigmatic players to grace a basketball course — and never to win MVP.
Similar to other players on this list, Kevin McHale likely would have won an MVP in his career had he not been playing alongside one of the NBA’s greatest ever in Larry Bird. In McHale’s 13-year career as a Boston Celtic, he made seven All-Star teams, won two Sixth Man of the Year Awards and made three All-NBA Defensive First Teams.
Despite the fact that his career was derailed due to his need for a kidney transplant, Alonzo Mourning was still able to establish himself as one of the most dominating defensive forces in NBA history. A two-time Defensive Player of the Year and seven-time All-Star before his ailment, Mourning was still able to come back to the NBA after his kidney transplant and play key minutes for the Miami Heat during their 2007 title run.
A true ironman from the center position, Robert Parish is the NBA’s all-time leader in games played with 1,611. In the 21 seasons it took Parish to play all those games, he managed to win four NBA championships, score over 23,000 points, grab over 14,000 rebounds and make nine All-Star teams. Still, Parish never finished higher than fourth in MVP voting over his lengthy Hall of Fame career.
Although his career is far from over, if point guard Chris Paul has never won a regular-season MVP. Since arriving to the NBA in 2006, Paul has led the league in assists four times, steals six times and played in nine All-Star games and counting. Paul came closest to winning MVP with the now New Orleans Pelicans in 2008, finishing second to Kobe Bryant.
Perhaps the greatest defensive point guard in NBA history, Gary Payton was a matchup nightmare for every team he faced. Also one of the greatest trash-talkers in NBA history, Payton was selected to nine All-Star teams and made the All-NBA Defensive First Team an incredible nine times as well. Despite being on of the best two-way point guards ever, Payton never finished higher than third in MVP voting.
A 10-time All-Star, Pierce’s 2008 NBA Finals MVP Award should serve as fine consolation prize for the former Celtics great.
On a different team and in a different era, Scottie Pippen likely would have won an MVP Award, but it just so happened that Pippen played alongside the greatest player in NBA history. As Michael Jordan’s running mate, Pippen was still able to establish himself as the premier small forward of the 1990s. Pippen was selected to eight All-NBA Defensive First Teams, won 1994 All-Star Game MVP and won six titles in his 17-year NBA career.
Beginning his career in 1949 while the NBA was still in its infancy, Dolph Schayes was one of the NBA’s first great centers. Schayes made it to 12 All-Star games and six All-NBA First Teams. Averaging over 18 points and 12 rebounds over his career, Schayes came closest to winning MVP in 1958 when he finished second in the voting.
Taking a glance at John Stockton’s résumé as an NBA player, it’s hard to believe the point guard never won an MVP Award. Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, has the fifth greatest win share total at 207.5 games, led the league in true shooting percentage three times and played in 10 All-Star Games over his nearly 20 years with the Utah Jazz. Stockton’s brilliance playing point guard did however help his teammate Karl Malone with two MVP Awards.
The heartbeat of the Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” teams, Isiah Thomas led the Pistons to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. Thomas, who possessed a unique combination of smooth skill and shrewd toughness, averaged over 19 points, nine assists and nearly two steals per game over his 13-year NBA career for Detroit. Not once, however, did Thomas win MVP.
Another player scarcely mentioned anymore in basketball circles, Nate Thurmond was just behind Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain as the greatest center of his era. In his 14-year NBA career, Thurmond averaged over 15 points and 15 rebounds per game and was selected to seven All-Star teams. With Russell and Chamberlain in the way, however, Thurmond never did manage to win MVP.
Although his career isn’t over, Dwyane Wade will likely go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history never to win a regular-season MVP. One of the most electrifying players to grace a basketball court, Wade came closest to winning MVP in 2009 when he averaged over 30.2 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one block per game, all while shooting 49.1 percent from the field. He did win the 2006 Finals MVP.
Despite his silhouette being the logo of the NBA, Jerry West never won a regular-season MVP Award. Nicknamed “Mr. Clutch,” West was a 14-time NBA All-Star, elected to 10 All-NBA First Teams, four NBA All-Defensive First Teams and even won the 1969 NBA Finals MVP in a losing effort to the Boston Celtics.
Remembered fondly as one the NBA’s greatest dunkers, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Dominique Wilkins is also one of the greatest small forwards in NBA history. Although his Atlanta Hawks could never get past Jordan’s Bulls, Wilkins still managed to score over 26,000 points and make nine All-Star teams along the way. Wilkins came closest to winning MVP in 1986 when he finished second in the voting to Larry Bird.
Playing alongside two of the NBA’s greatest ever in Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it is easy to overlook just how good James Worthy was. On almost any other team, the seven-time All-Star likely would have gotten more recognition and MVP votes. Instead, “Big Game James” chose to play his entire 12-year career with the Lakers and won three championships in the process.
You'll receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams.
Emailed daily. Always FREE!
Get the latest news and rumors, customized to your favorite sports and teams. Emailed daily. Always free!