Who Decides The NBA Finals MVP?

The NBA Championship is the ultimate goal of all of the teams in the league. It defines the success of a franchise that can increase its value.

Besides the championship ring, the NBA also awards the best player in the Finals, which can cement an already-great player’s legacies by winning the Finals MVP.

There are a lot of controversies surrounding this award and why it was given to some players whom some fans and analysts believe should have been given to someone else, like Andre Iguodala over Stephen Curry in 2015 and Cedric Maxwell over Larry Bird in 1981.But what exactly is the NBA Finals MVP, and who decides who wins this trophy?

The NBA Finals MVP is decided by a panel of eleven media members that will vote for who they think should win the award. The player who receives the most votes wins. The NBA Finals MVP has almost always been given to the best player on the winning team, except in 1969.

Who Decides on the NBA Finals MVP?

The NBA Finals MVP is an annual award given to the best and most impactful player of the NBA Finals.

It has been given since 1969, with most of the winners coming from the winning team, except for the inaugural winner, Jerry West of the losing Los Angeles Lakers, who took home the award over a Boston Celtics player.

In 2009, the award was renamed to Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award to honor the 11-time NBA Champion, Hall of Famer, and Celtics Great.

A panel of eleven media members decides on this award at the end of the Finals. Here are the voting results for the 2022 Bill Russel NBA Finals MVP, Stephen Curry, who won unanimously.

1. Sam AmickThe AthleticStephen Curry
2. Howard BeckSports IllustratedStephen Curry
3. Tim BontempsESPN.comStephen Curry
4. Doris BurkeESPN RadioStephen Curry
5. Chris HaynesYahoo SportsStephen Curry
6. Mark JacksonESPN/ABCStephen Curry
7. Madeline KenneyBay Area News GroupStephen Curry
8. Jacques MonclarbeIN Sports FranceStephen Curry
9. Shaun PowellNBA.comStephen Curry
10. Marc J. SpearsAndscapeStephen Curry
11. Gary WashburnBoston GlobeStephen Curry

Here is another example of the media members voting for the controversial 2015 NBA Finals MVP when Andre Iguodala, who didn’t start in every game of the series, took home the award over Stephen Curry or  LeBron James of the losing Cleveland Cavaliers.

1. Sam AmickUSA TodayAndre Iguodala
2. Steve AschburnerNBA.comLeBron James
3. Howard BeckBleacher ReportLeBron James
4. Ken BergerCBSSports.comAndre Iguodala
5. Hubie BrownESPN RadioAndre Iguodala
6. Jason LloydAkron Beacon JournalAndre Iguodala
7. Zach LoweGrantlandLeBron James
8. Rusty SimmonsSan Francisco ChronicleAndre Iguodala
9. Marc SpearsYahoo SportsAndre Iguodala
10. Marc SteinESPN.comAndre Iguodala
11. Jeff Van GundyABC TVLeBron James

What Factors Contribute to the NBA Finals MVP Award?

The Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award is one of the controversial awards in the NBA because of the lack of objective criteria in voting like stats.

Also, since the panel of media personnel decides who they think deserves the award, there can be a lot of subjectivity during the decision process.

Besides individual stats, the overall impact in the series is crucial when deciding who wins the Finals MVP when the game is over.

One recent memory was in 2015 when the Golden State Warriors won the championship, and Andre Iguodala was awarded the Finals MVP trophy over Stephen Curry.

While Curry finally won his first Finals MVP award in 2022, some fans still believe that Curry should have already won the award in 2015.

NBA Finals MVP Awardees Since 1969

1969Jerry WestLos Angeles Lakers
1970Willis ReedNew York Knicks
1971Kareem Abdul-JabbarMilwaukee Bucks
1972Wilt ChamberlainLos Angeles Lakers
1973Willis Reed (2)New York Knicks
1974John HavlicekBoston Celtics
1975Rick BarryGolden State Warriors
1976Jo Jo WhiteBoston Celtics
1977Bill WaltonPortland Trail Blazers
1978Wes UnseldWashington Bullets
1979Dennis JohnsonSeattle SuperSonics
1980Magic JohnsonLos Angeles Lakers
1981Cedric MaxwellBoston Celtics
1982Magic Johnson (2)Los Angeles Lakers
1983Moses MalonePhiladelphia 76ers
1984Larry BirdBoston Celtics
1985Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2)Los Angeles Lakers
1986Larry Bird (2)Boston Celtics
1987Magic Johnson (3)Los Angeles Lakers
1988James WorthyLos Angeles Lakers
1989Joe DumarsDetroit Pistons
1990Isiah ThomasDetroit Pistons
1991Michael JordanChicago Bulls
1992Michael Jordan (2)Chicago Bulls
1993Michael Jordan (3)Chicago Bulls
1994Hakeem OlajuwonHouston Rockets
1995Hakeem Olajuwon (2)Houston Rockets
1996Michael Jordan (4)Chicago Bulls
1997Michael Jordan (5)Chicago Bulls
1998Michael Jordan (6)Chicago Bulls
1999Tim DuncanSan Antonio Spurs
2000Shaquille O’NealLos Angeles Lakers
2001Shaquille O’Neal (2)Los Angeles Lakers
2002Shaquille O’Neal (3)Los Angeles Lakers
2003Tim Duncan (2)San Antonio Spurs
2004Chauncey BillupsDetroit Pistons
2005Tim Duncan (3)San Antonio Spurs
2006Dwyane WadeMiami Heat
2007Tony ParkerSan Antonio Spurs
2008Paul PierceBoston Celtics
2009Kobe BryantLos Angeles Lakers
2010Kobe Bryant (2)Los Angeles Lakers
2011Dirk NowitzkiDallas Mavericks
2012LeBron JamesMiami Heat
2013LeBron James (2)Miami Heat
2014Kawhi LeonardSan Antonio Spurs
2015Andre IguodalaGolden State Warriors
2016LeBron James (3)Cleveland Cavaliers
2017Kevin DurantGolden State Warriors
2018Kevin Durant (2)Golden State Warriors
2019Kawhi Leonard (2)Toronto Raptors
2020LeBron James (4)Los Angeles Lakers
2021Giannis AntetokounmpoMilwaukee Bucks
2022Stephen CurryGolden State Warriors

Players With the Most Number of NBA Finals MVP

Ball with trophy

1. Michael Jordan – 6

2. LeBron James – 4

T-3. Magic Johnson – 3

T-3. Shaquille O’Neal – 3

T-3. Tim Duncan – 2

T-6. Willis Reed

T-6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

T-6. Larry Bird

T-6. Hakeem Olajuwon

T-6. Kobe Bryant

T-6. Kevin Durant

T-6. Kawhi Leonard

Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls Dynasty of the 1990s currently holds the record for most Finals MVP Awards with six.

LeBron James follows him with four, which he accomplished in three different teams. Like LeBron, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kawhi Leonard both won the award in more than one team.

Magic Johnson is the only rookie to win the award at age 20 in 1981, while his teammate, Kareem, is the oldest player to win at age 38 in 1985.


The NBA Finals MVP is awarded to the most impactful player during the NBA Finals.

While there can be heated debates whenever the winner is not unanimous, the player who won the individual is usually more concerned with the team award, the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

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