By winning the NBA title, regular season MVP and NBA Finals MVP for a second consecutive time, LeBron James became one of the few players to win the awards in the same season more than once, joining Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, while Willis Reed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan did it once as well.
The thing that separates Jordan and James from the others is that they both did it twice in a row: Jordan in 1991 and 1992, while James did it in 2012 and 2013.
Willis Reed (1970)
Willis Reed didn’t need to put on a great show in game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals. All he needed to do was step out on the court, and send the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy, while the Lakers went into shock. Reed led the Knicks to a franchise record 60 wins in 1970, and eventually their first NBA title. He became the first player in NBA history to be named the NBA All-Star Game MVP, the NBA regular season MVP, and the NBA Finals MVP in the same season. That same year, he was named to the All-NBA first team and NBA All-Defensive first team, as well as being named as ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year, and the Sporting News NBA MVP. Reed only scored 11 points in the final two games of the series, but averaged 31.8 points in the first four, giving him the award.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1971)
Jabbar won the MVP award six times, and the NBA Finals MVP twice, but only in 1971 did the two come together. He led the Milwaukee Bucks to their only NBA title in ’71, sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in the final, averaging 32.5 points and 18 rebounds per game in the series, after leading the Bucks to a 66-16 regular season, leading the NBA in scoring with 31.7 points per game. He was actually still Lew Alcindor at the time.
Larry Bird (1984, 1986)
Larry Bird won the MVP award three consecutive times (1984-1986), reaching the NBA finals on all three season with the Boston Celtics. In 1984, possibly the greatest series in the long rivalry between the Celtics and the Lakers (7 games), Bird averaged 27.4 points and 14 rebounds, including a huge game 4 (29 points, 21 games) and game 5 (34 points, 17 rebounds) to turn the series around. In 1986, the Celtics beat the Houston Rockets in the final. Bird had two triple doubles in the series, including the clinching game 6, finishing with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists.
Magic Johnson (1987)
A three-time MVP, Magic Johnson won the Finals MVP three times (1980, 1982, 1987), but his third came after he won his first regular season MVP award. In the 1986-1987 season, Magic averaged a career high 23.9 points per game, adding 6.3 rebounds and an NBA-best 12.2 assists per game. In the finals, the Lakers beat Boston in six games, with Johnson’s junior sky hook in game 4 becoming one of the most memorable moments in playoff history. He put up a 16 points, 19 assists, 8 rebounds performance to close out the series.
Michael Jordan (1991, 1992, 1996, 1998)
The only player to win the regular season MVP along with the Finals MVP in the same season more than twice. The first came in 1991, winning his second regular season MVP, while leading the Bulls to their first NBA title, beating the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. His best game was in game 2, as the Bulls tied the series, scoring 33 points, adding 7 rebounds and 13 assists. In 1992 came his third MVP, and second NBA title, along with another finals MVP. This time the Portland Trail Blazers were in the way, and Jordan scored more than 39 points three times in the series, including the famous series opener with six first half three pointers. He added 46 points in game 5, as the Bulls took control of the series once again. In 1996, the 72-10 year, Jordan did the MVP double again. He led the Bulls to a 4-2 series victory against the Seattle Supersonics, but that ended up being his weakest finals performance to date, kept relatively in check by Gary Payton, averaging “only” 27.6 points per game. In 1998 he led the Bulls to their second three-peat and what was the final defining moment of his playing career, finishing the series against the Utah Jazz (4-2) with a 20-footer that gave the Bulls the win in game 6 and the title.
Hakeem Olajuwon (1994)
Olajuwon averaged 27.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game during the regular season to win his first and only MVP award, during a fantastic four year stretch for him personally between 1993-1996. In the NBA finals, he dominated the duel with Patrick Ewing, outscoring the Knicks’ center in all 7 games, averaging 26.9 points per game. Game 6 was his finest performance with 30 points and 10 rebounds, but mostly the block on John Starks, ensuring a win, tying the series at 3-3 and forcing a game 7 which the Rockets won.
Shaquille O’Neal (2000)
Shaquille O’neal, at his most dominant (2000-2002) won three consecutive titles with the Lakers, also coming with three Finals MVPs. However, a regular season MVP came only in the 1999-2000 season, averaging (and leading the league) with 29.7 points per game, adding 13.6 rebounds and 3 blocks. In the finals against the Indiana Pacers, O’Neal dominated on a historic level, averaging 38 points per game, including a massive 41 point-game to clinch the series in game 6.
Tim Duncan (2003)
In the 2002-2003 season, Tim Duncan won his second consecutive regular season MVP award, averaging 23.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. In the finals, beating the New Jersey Nets, he gift wrapped a second NBA title for David Robinson as a retirement present, capping the series off with an almost quadruple-double, finishing with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks.
LeBron James (2012, 2013)
LeBron James became the only player, along with Michael Jordan, to have back-to-back regular season & Finals MVP seasons, winning the titles in 2012 and 2013, adding an Olympic gold medal in between. James is now a four-time MVP winner, two-time in the finals. The first came in the dominant series from start to finish against the Oklahoma City Thunder, with James averaging an impressive 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists, including closing the series with a triple double of 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. The next year, against the Spurs, it was a lot harder, averaging only 16.7 points per game through the first three in the series. The ending was very different, scoring over 32 points three times, including 37 points in game 7 in a performance that erased any doubts anyone had about him.