LeBron James hasn’t been officially announced as the MVP yet, but it’s pretty close. With the 2012 regular season award coming to him, he’ll be the eighth NBA player to win the award for a third time, putting him level with Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Moses Malone. He does need that NBA title that the rest of the guys on the list have.

The higher echelon? Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The 1970’s, perhaps the worst decade in the history of the league, were an easy time for a big and talented center to win and pile up MVP awards.

LeBron James – 3 Awards (2009, 2010, 2012)

LeBron James is the only player from the Cleveland Cavaliers and pretty soon, the Miami Heat (not official yet) to win the MVP award. He’s one of six NBA players to win the award and still not win the title. James reached the Eastern finals in the season he won his first award (2008-2009), reached the Eastern Semi Finals in 2010 and looks like the favorite to come out of the East in 2012 after the Bulls got knocked off. His career averages are 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists after nine seasons in the league.

Magic Johnson – 3 Awards (1987, 1989-1990)

In my opinion, the second greatest player in the history of the league behind Jordan. Still, his 1987 award came because reporters felt that three consecutive awards to Larry Bird is a bit too much, and Jordan was better than anyone that year (37.1 points per game). Magic Johnson won the NBA title five times, winning the finals MVP three times. In 1987 he led the Lakers to an NBA title. In 1989 they reached the finals and in 1990 lost in the conference semi finals. His career averages, after 12 and some seasons in the league – 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists.

Larry Bird – 3 Awards (1984-1986)

The greatest Boston Celtics player of all time, which means a lot. He’s one of only three players to win the MVP award three consecutive times, along with two great centers who’ll come about a bit later. Bird won three NBA titles, two of them during his MVP winning seasons. In 1985 he and the Celtics lost in the NBA finals to the Lakers. His career averages, after 13 seasons – 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.

Moses Malone – 3 Awards (1979, 1982-1983)

Unlike most players on this list, Malone has been around quite a few teams – ABA, Buffalo, Rockets, 76ers, Bullets, Hawks, Bucks and the Spurs. He won two of his MVP award while playing for the Houston Rockets, winning his third one in 1983, leading the 76ers along with Dr. J to their last NBA title. He also won the Finals MVP that year. His career averages in the NBA – 20.6 points, 12.2 rebounds per game.

Wilt Chamberlain – 4 Awards (1960, 1966-1968)

Not just the most dominant center and player of his era; The most dominant player of all time. Sorry Shaq. Wilt won the NBA title twice – once with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1967 and a second time while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972, when he was not the 60’s Wilt anymore. He won the Finals MVP in 1972, and is the tallest player to ever lead the league in assists. He won his first MVP for his rookie season. Career averages after 14 seasons in the league – 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds per game.

Michael Jordan – 5 Awards (1988, 1991-1992, 1996, 1998)

If voting was based only on basketball achievements and who was the best player during the season, Jordan would be number one in this category as well. But humans do make mistakes, and gave MVP awards to Magic, Barkley and Malone during seasons Jordan was better. He was always better. He won the NBA titles in 1991-1993 and again in 1996-1998, winning six Finals MVP awards. Career Averages – 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game.

Bill Russell – 5 Awards (1958, 1961-1963, 1965)

If only we’d have stats for blocks during Russell’s era… We didn’t have DPOY award back then as well… Russell might have ended up with a dozen awards in his 13 year career, which saw him win the NBA title with the Boston Celtics 11 times; Holding the record for the most championships won by an athlete in a North American sports league. His career averages – 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 6 Awards (1971-1972, 1974, 1976-1977, 1980)

Jabbar actually won his first MVP award named Lew Alcindor, but we’ll give him six anyway. He won only one NBA title with his first five awards while playing for the Bucks and Lakers. Then Magic Johnson came along, and Jabbar ended his career with six NBA titles. His career averages – 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds per game. He won the finals MVP twice.

Images: James Magic Malone Wilt Jordan Russell Kareem