LeBron James recently collected his second consecutive regular-season most valuable player trophy, and the 10th player in NBA history to claim back-to-back MVPs. However, the key words are REGULAR and SEASON. Legends are born in the playoffs, and James knows that in order to wear the crown of The King he must be fitted with a championship ring.
Since 1956 when the first NBA MVP award was given handed out, two players who won MVP finished their pro careers without winning a NBA championship and four are still in pursuit of that elusive chip. LeBron James is currently as member of this dubious ringless fraternity and he hopes his name gets deleted when the 2010 playoffs end.
Here are the six NBA players with regular-season MVPs, but don’t have a championship ring:
Charles Barkley (1984-2000)
Sir Charles captured the MVP during the 1992-93 season and led the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals that season. But Barkley’s Suns ended up losing to Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the ‘93 Finals, and Barkley never got back to The Finals. Barkley finished his career with 23,000 points and 12,000 rebounds. He has said that not winning a NBA title shouldn’t define his career, but you know deep down Sir Charles would give up all those points and rebounds for one ring.
Karl Malone (1985-2004)
With the help of his good friend John Stockton, The Mailman delivered two MVPs to the Utah Jazz. But unfortunately, Stockton and Malone couldn’t deliver a title to Utah. Malone led the Jazz to appearances in the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, but both times his teams lost to Jordan’s Bulls. Then, in 2004, Malone joined Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal with the L.A. Lakers hoping to make one final push for a ring. But Malone fell short again in The Finals, losing to the Detroit Pistons in five games. Malone finished his career as the second-leading scorer in history (36,928), and will go down in history as one of the greatest power forwards to ever play.
Allen Iverson (1996-present)
When we’re talking about Iverson, we’re talking about the best little man in basketball. The man they call The Answer has answered the call several times throughout his 13-year career, putting together a MVP season in 2001 and leading the Sixers to the NBA Finals. But Iverson ran into Goliath in the form of Shaq and the Lakers, and the Sixers were defeated in five games. After stints in Detroit, Denver and Memphis, Iverson rejoined the Sixers but did not finish the season. Iverson is now on the downside of his career and his window of opportunity to win a title may have closed.
Steve Nash (1996-present)
Nash is the only two-time MVP winner not to reach The Finals. He captured his first regular-season MVP in 2005, leading the Suns to the NBA’s best record, but the San Antonio Spurs bounced Nash and the Suns in the conference finals. Then, in 2006, Nash won his second MVP but got bounced from the playoffs by his good friend Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. Voters made a huge mistake by giving Nash the regular-season MVP in 2006. Nash didn’t deserve to win it over Kobe Bryant, who had one of the best statistical seasons that year and should have won MVP.
Dirk Nowitzki (1998-present)
Unlike his BFF Steve Nash, at least Nowitzki can say he made it to the NBA Finals. Nowitzki’s Mavs lost to the Miami Heat in the 2006 Finals, and Dallas has not come close to getting back since. Dallas has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs three of the last four years. The year Nowitzki received his MVP trophy (2007), his Mavericks enjoyed a stellar regular season, winning 67 games and earning the top seeding in the West. But Dirk and the Mavs ended on a whimper as they suffered an embarrassing loss to the Golden State Warriors in the first round in one of the greatest upsets in playoff history.
LeBron James (2003-present)
LeBron is one of four players on this list who can still change their fate. James’ Cavaliers are currently in the conference semifinals and very much in the running for a NBA title. But standing in LeBron’s way in the East are two road blocks: Boston and Orlando. Both are capable of eliminating the Cavs, with the Magic as the bigger threat. Then, if LeBron somehow survives the gauntlet in the East, he has a potential matchup with Kobe Bryant and the defending champion L.A. Lakers in The Finals.