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Basketball IQ: 11-time NBA champ Bill Russell was never a Finals MVP

June 19, 2014
It may come as a surprise to you that Kawhi Leonard won the Finals MVP more times than the man the trophy was named after. But to clear things up, the only reason why Russell never won the plum is because the NBA didn’t hand out the award until 1969—his last year in the league.

Although Russell played admirably in the ’69 championship to lead Boston to its 11th title, it was Jerry West of the L.A. Lakers who got the prize. With his 37.9 PPG average, including a 42-point triple-double output in Game 7, “The Logo” became the first and only NBA Finals MVP from the losing team.

But had the accolade already existed during Russell’s reign, he would’ve easily won the hardware multiple times. In Game 7 of the 1962 Finals against the Lakers, he scored 30 points and corralled 40 boards to lead the Celtics to a pulsating overtime win. Four years later, also in a Game 7, the five-time MVP tallied 25 markers and 32 rebounds to once again beat L.A.

The NBA must’ve felt like they had done Great Ol’ Bill a disservice by not coming up with the Finals MVP concept during his time. So in 2009, the league took action. In honor of pro basketball’s greatest winner, the award was renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.

Take a bow, Mr. Russell.