Answer: Only 20.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I find it fascinating that the player who usually wins the most coveted individual award in basketball, rarely wins the even-more coveted team award. In fact, there have only been 12 different players throughout the history of the NBA to do so – Michael Jordan and Bill Russell accomplished the feat a record 4 times, Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar twice, and the rest of the pack once. The last player to double-dip was Tim Duncan in 2003, and prior to that, Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 – only 2 instances in the last 11 years.
There are several theories as to why MVPs have failed to win Championships. Some will claim that the MVP is a popularity contest, oftentimes awarded to the wrong player who was never as deserving to begin with. Others will point to the fact that the MVP is usually awarded to the player who gets the most out of their team, or essentially overachieves. Consequently, since they were saddled with an inferior supporting cast to begin with, they should have never been expected to win a championship. Finally, there is a 3rd group consisting of conspiracy theorists, Cubs fans, and the modern day Benjamin Button himself – Greg Oden, who would have you believe that the award is simply as “cursed” as they are.
Regardless of who you believe, one thing is apparent: history has shown that it is extremely challenging for NBA players to win both the MVP and a NBA Championship within the same season, despite the fact that the MVP is usually awarded to the “best player on the best team” during the regular season. Below are the select group of 12 players that were successful in accomplishing this rare feat. Included are stats for each relevant season, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com: