MVPs and championships in the four major sports (Part 2)

Yesterday, saw the first part of my look at the connection between MVPs and championships in the four major North American sports. Now, the second and final part will look at multi-time winners of both, as well as totals and the unluckiest MVPs who never won a championship.

Note: Any gaps in career span in all tables below are seasons that a player was either retired, completely missed due to injury, was not playing professionally due to WWII/other reasons or there was a lockout.

Players with multiple MVPs and Championships


Only nine players in NBA history have multiple MVPs and Championships. Three of these players won their championships with multiple teams, Kareem (5 Lakers, 1 Bucks), LeBron (2 Cavs, 2 Heat) and Wilt (1 76ers, 1 Lakers).

Player Position Career Span # of MVPs # of Championships
Kareem Abdul Jabbar C 1969-1989 6 6
Bill Russell C 1956-1969 5 11
Michael Jordan SG/SF 1984-93, 1994-98, 2001-03 5 6
LeBron James SF/PF 2003- 4 3
Wilt Chamberlain C 1959-1973 4 2
Magic Johnson PG/SG 1979-91, 1995-96 3 5
Larry Bird PF/SF 1979-1992 3 3
Tim Duncan PF/C 1997-2016 2 5
Steph Curry PG 2009- 2 3


Only five players in NFL history have won multiple MVPs and championships (NFL Championship + Super Bowls), with all of them being quarterbacks. The fact that Montana and Young were on the same team from 1987 to 1992 is definitely a historical outlier. Manning (1 Colts, 1 Broncos) is the only one to win his championships with different teams.

Player Position Career # of MVPs # of Championships
Peyton Manning QB 1998-2010, 2012-15 5 2
Tom Brady QB 2000- 3 5
Johnny Unitas QB 1956-1973 3 3
Joe Montana QB 1979-1990, 1992-94 2 4
Steve Young QB 1985-1999 2 3


Only 14 players in NHL have won multiple Hart trophies and Stanley Cups. Dominik Hasek is the only goalie to have accomplished this. Mark Messier is the only one to win his championships with multiple teams (Oilers 5, Rangers 1).

*Howe played in the rival World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1973-79 and won two Avco Cups (in addition to his 4 Stanley Cups) with the Houston Aeros in 1974 and 1975.

Players Position Career # of MVPs # Of Champ
Wayne Gretzky C 1978-1999 9 4
Gordie Howe RW 1946-71, 1973-80 6 4*
Eddie Shore D 1926-1940 4 2
Howie Morenz C 1923-1937 3 3
Bobby Orr D 1966-77, 1978-79 3 2
Bobby Clarke C 1969-1984 3 2
Mario Lemieux C 1984-97, 2000-04, 2005-06 3 2
Jean Beliveau C 1950-51, 1952-71 2 10
Mark Messier LW/C 1978-2004 2 6
Guy Lafleur RW 1971-85, 1988-91 2 5
Sidney Crosby C 2005- 2 3
Bill Cowley C 1934-1947 2 2
Phil Esposito C 1963-1981 2 2
Dominik Hasek G 1990-2002, 2003-04, 2005-08 2 2


Only 13 MLB players have won multiple MVPs and World Series Championships. Five of these players (Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, and Maris) all played for the New York Yankees.

Player (AL) Position Career Span # of MVP (League) # of Champ
Jimmie Foxx 1B/3B/C 1925-42, 1944-45 3 (NL) 2
Joe DiMaggio CF 1936-42, 1946-51 3 (NL) 9
Stan Musial OF/1B 1941-44, 1946-63 3 (AL) 3
Yogi Berra C/OF 1946-63, 1965 3 (NL) 10
Mickey Mantle CF/1B 1951-1968 3 (NL) 7
Albert Pujols 1B/LF/3B 2001- 3 (AL) 2
Lou Gehrig 1B 1923-1939 2 (NL) 6
Mickey Cochrane C 1925-1937 2 (NL) 3
Hank Greenberg 1B/LF 1930, 1933-41, 1945-47 2 (NL) 2
Frank Robinson OF/1B 1956-1976 2 (AL and NL) 2
Roger Maris RF 1957-1968 2 (NL) 3
Joe Morgan 2B 1963-1984 2 (AL) 2
Johnny Bench C/3B/1B 1967-1983 2 (AL) 2


Totals and takeaways

Sport # of players to win MVP Players with multiple MVPs MVPs who won a championship MVPs without championship MVP never played in championship
NFL 47* 9 (19.14%) 25 (53.19%) 22 (46.80%) 9 (19.14%)
NBA 33 13 (39.39%) 26 (78.78%) 7 (21.21%) 2 (6.06%)
NHL 58 18 (31.03%) 46 (79.31%) 12 (20.68%) 6 (10.34%)
MLB (Total) 151* 31* (20.52%) 94* (62.91%) 57 (37.7%) 29 (19.20%)
MLB (NL) 77* 12 49 28 13
MLB (AL) 75 18 46 29 16

*In 1997 (Brett Farve and Barry Sanders) and 2003 (Peyton Manning and Steve McNair) both won that year’s MVP award as they finished in a tie.

*In 1979 the NL MVP race ended in a tie with Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell sharing the award.

*Frank Robinson counted once towards number of players to win MVP for NL and AL. Only counted once for MLB total, hence the one player difference. Same for MVPs who won a championship. Also counted for multi-MVP total since he has one from both leagues.

C MVP 4 Sports

MVP Winners with 7+ Championships, plus top two for the NFL

Player Sport Career Span # of MVPs # of Championships
Bill Russell NBA 1956-1969 5 11
Yogi Berra MLB (AL) 1946-63, 1965 3 10
Jean Beliveau NHL 1950-1971 2 10
Joe DiMaggio MLB (AL) 1936-42, 1946-51 3 9
Maurice Richard NHL 1942-1960 1 8
Mickey Mantle MLB (AL) 1951-1968 3 7
Babe Ruth MLB (AL) 1914-1935 1 7
Phil Rizzuto MLB (AL) 1941-42, 1946-56 1 7
Tom Brady NFL 2000- 3 5
Bart Starr NFL 1956-1971 1 5

Russell spent his entire career with the Boston Celtics. Beliveau and Richard both spent their entire careers with the Montreal Canadiens. Berra, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Rizzuto spent their entire career playing for the Yankees.

Ruth is the only one who played for different teams. He played for the Boston Red Sox (1914-19), then the New York Yankees (1920-34) before spending his final season with the Boston (now Atlanta) Braves.

The two NFL players with the most are Tom Brady (5 Super Bowls) and Bart Starr (2 Super Bowls, 3 NFL Championships), who both have five championships. Like the other players in the table, Starr played his entire career with the Green Bay Packers while Brady has done the same so far with the New England Patriots.

*I did not count Starr’s (or anyone else’s) NFL Championships during the four-year span it overlapped with the Super Bowl.

Amount of MVPs won by MVP winners in the four major sports (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB)

The players with 4+ MVPs

Player Sport Career Span # of MVPs # of Championships
Wayne Gretzky NHL 1978-1999 9 4
Barry Bonds MLB (NL) 1986-2007 7 0
Kareem Abdul Jabbar NBA 1969-1989 6 6
Gordie Howe NHL 1946-1980 6 4
Bill Russell NBA 1956-1969 5 11
Michael Jordan NBA 1984-93, 1994-1998, 2001-2003 5 6
Peyton Manning NFL 1998-2015 5 2
LeBron James NBA 2003- 4 3
Wilt Chamberlain NBA 1959-1973 4 2
Eddie Shore NHL 1926-1940 4 2

Out of the players to have not won a championship in each sport, a total of 19/98 of them are currently playing. Broken down for each sport it is 3/7 for the NBA, 3/22 (NFL), 4/10 (NHL) and 9/57 (MLB).

Only 10 players have won multiple MVPs and never won a championship, with eight of them being from MLB and two from the NBA. Mike Trout is the only one of these players currently playing. Barry Bonds is the only player in the four major sports to have 3 or more MVPs and never won a championship.

Only eleven players across the four major sports have won multiple championships and MVPs but ended up with more MVPs. It has happened six times in the NHL but only five times (Peyton Manning, LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain, Albert Pujols, Jimmie Foxx) in the other three sports.


Out of the 98 MVPs who never won a championship, 48 of them never played in one. 37 of them only made it there once and lost. That means only 13 (13.26%) got at least a second crack at winning a championship and failed. 12 of these times happened in the NFL or MLB, with it only happening once in the NBA and never in the NHL.

Player Sport Career # of MVPs Championship Record
Terry Pendleton MLB 1984-1998 1 0-5 (13-20)
Gabby Hartnett MLB 1922-1941 1 0-4 (3-16)
Thurman Thomas NFL 1988-2000 1 0-4
Ty Cobb MLB 1905-1928 1 0-3 (4-12-1)
Larry Doyle MLB 1907-1920 1 0-3 (6-12-1)
Phil Cavarretta MLB 1934-1955 1 0-3 (5-12)
Y.A. Tittle NFL 1948-1964 1 0-3
Fran Tarkenton NFL 1961-1978 1 0-3
Alan Page NFL 1967-1981 1 0-3
Karl Malone NBA 1985-2004 2 0-3 (5-12)
Bobby Shantz MLB 1949-1964 1 0-2 (6-8)
Carl Yastrzemski MLB 1961-1983 1 0-2 (6-8)
Josh Hamilton MLB 2007-2015 1 0-2 (4-8)

Karl Malone is the only player in the four major sports to win multiple MVPs, play in multiple championships and never win one. This included losing consecutive NBA Finals with the Jazz in 1997 and 1998.

Terry Pendelton lost five championships, with three of those World Series loses coming in game seven. Two of those were with the St. Louis Cardinals and three with the Atlanta Braves, including back-to-back losses in 1991 and 1992. He was on the Braves from 1991-94 and traded back to them in 1996. The one year he was not on the team in 1995, they won the World Series.

Thurman Thomas made it to four consecutive Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills (1990-93) and lost all of them.

Ty Cobb lost three straight World Series (1907-09) with the Detroit Tigers and Larry Doyle lost three straight with the New York (now San Francisco) Giants (1911-13). Y.A. Tittle lost three straight NFL Championship games with the New York Giants (1961-63).

Frank Tarkenton and Alan Page both lost three Super Bowls in four years with the Minnesota Vikings in 1973, 1974 and 1976.

Josh Hamilton lost back-to-back World Series with the Rangers in 2010 and 2011.

Sources and Info:

Featured Image: “Bill Russell” by Kip-koech is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Used Google Spreadsheet to make all charts and tables


NBA Draft: Comparing the careers of each No. 1 pick

The 72nd NBA Draft takes place tomorrow and the Phoenix Suns have the top pick for the first time in franchise history. With the draft having always been an important time for teams to hopefully revitalize their franchises, let’s take a look back at the past careers that former No. 1 overall picks have had.

The two who never played in the NBA

Clifton McNeeley was the first player ever selected in the NBA (then known as the BAA) Draft by the Pittsburgh Ironmen in 1947. Just like his NFL counterpart, McNeeley never played in the NBA. He had no interest in playing for the team and Pittsburgh ended up folding before the season started.

In the 1951 NBA Draft, the Baltimore Bullets selected Gene Melchiorre with the No. 1 pick. However, he never played in the league as Melchiorre was barred for life from the league due to a point-shaving scandal he admitted to being involved in during his college years at Bradley.



All-Star Appearances

The 71 players to have been selected with the 1st pick have made a combined 257 All-Star appearances between them. Out of the 71 No. 1 picks, 27 were never All-Stars, while 44 were at least once. Below is a pie chart showing how many times each of those 44 was an All-Star.


The first player taken with the top pick to be an All-Star was Ray Felix, who did so his rookie season in 1953-54.

David Thompson is the only No. 1 pick to be an NBA All-Star (x4) and an ABA All-Star (x1). For the above pie chart, I did not count his ABA All-Star appearance.

Players selected 1st overall with the at least 10 All-Star appearances

Player All-Star App Career Length
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 19 1969-89
Shaquille O’Neal 15 1992-2011
Tim Duncan 15 1997-2016
LeBron James 14 2003-present
Oscar Robertson 12 1960-74
Elvin Hayes 12 1968-84
Magic Johnson 12 1979-91, 95-96
Hakeem Olajuwon 12 1984-2002
Elgin Baylor 11 1958-72
Patrick Ewing 11 1985-2002
Allen Iverson 11 1996-2010
David Robinson 10 1987-2003

All-NBA teams

Out of the 71 players taken with the top pick, 30 made at least one of the NBA’s three All-NBA teams. It is important to note that the All-NBA Third Team was not added until the 1988-89 season.


Elgin Baylor was the first No. 1 pick to make an All-NBA Team (and All-NBA First Team) in 1958-59, his rookie season. Oscar Robertson was the first to make the All-NBA Second Team in 1969-70. James Worthy and David Robinson were the first to make the All-NBA Third Team in 1989-90.

David Thompson is the only No. 1 pick to make an All-NBA Team (x2) and an All-ABA Team (x1). For the above pie chart, I did not count his All-ABA Team appearance.

Andrew Bogut is the only No. 1 overall pick to make an All-NBA Team but never be an All-Star.

Most All-NBA appearances by 1st overall picks 

Player All-NBA Teams First Team Second Team Third Team
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 15 10 5 Started his last season
Tim Duncan 15 10 3 2
Shaquille O’Neal 14 8 2 4
LeBron James 14 12 2 0
Hakeem Olajuwon 12 6 3 3
Oscar Robertson 11 9 2 Did not exist
Elgin Baylor 10 10 0 Did not exist
Magic Johnson 10 9 1 0
David Robinson 10 4 2 4

LeBron James has the most All-NBA First Teams by a No. 1 pick. Patrick Ewing (6) has the most All-NBA Second Team appearances. Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson have the most All-NBA Third Teams.

ROY, DPOY, Sixth Man and MIP

Since the 1952-53 season, the NBA has given out the Rookie of the Year (ROY) to the player deemed the best rookie. Out of the 65* players drafted No. 1 overall, 22 (33.84%) have won the ROY award.

*Does not the first five No. 1 overall picks who played before the award started, as well as Ben Simmons since he is a finalist for the 2017-18 ROY Award.

Player ROY Year
Ray Felix 1953-54
Elgin Baylor 1958-59
Oscar Robertson 1960-61
Walt Bellamy 1961-62
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1969-70
David Thompson 1975-76 (ABA)
Ralph Sampson 1983-84
Patrick Ewing 1985-86
David Robinson 1989-90
Derrick Coleman 1990-91
Larry Johnson 1991-92
Shaquille O’Neal 1992-93
Chris Webber 1993-94
Allen Iverson 1996-97
Tim Duncan 1997-98
Elton Brand 1999-00
LeBron James 2003-04
Derrick Rose 2008-09
Blake Griffin 2010-11
Kyrie Irving 2011-12
Andrew Wiggins 2014-15
Karl-Anthony Towns 2015-16

Starting in the 1982-83 season, the NBA has given out the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) and the Sixth Man of the Year Awards. In 1985-86, they started giving out the award for Most Improved Player (MIP). Since the inception of these three awards, only six No. 1 overall picks have won one of them.

 Player Sixth Man MIP DPOY
Bill Walton 1 0 0
Danny Manning 1 0 0
Pervis Ellison 0 1 0
Hakeem Olajuwon 0 0 2
David Robinson 0 0 1
Dwight Howard 0 0 3


The NBA MVP award was first given out in the 1955-56 season. Oscar Robertson was the first No. 1 overall pick to win the award in 1963-64. In total, only 10 top picks have won the award.

*LeBron is one of three finalists for MVP this year and has a chance to win his fifth.

Player MVP (Years Won)
Kareem Abdul Jabbar 6 (1970-71, 1971-72, 1973-74, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1979-80)
LeBron James* 4 (2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13)
Magic Johnson 3 (1986-87, 1988-89, 1989-90)
Tim Duncan 2 (2001-02, 2002-03)
Oscar Robertson 1 (1963-64)
Bill Walton 1 (1977-78)
Hakeem Olajuwon 1 (1993-94)
Shaquille O’Neal 1 (1999-00)
Allen Iverson 1 (2000-01)
Derrick Rose 1 (2010-11)

Championships and Finals MVP

Out of the 71 players taken with the first pick in the NBA draft, 21* (29.57%) of them have won wither an NBA Championship or an ABA Championship*.

*Elgin Baylor played nine games in the 1971-72 season before retiring due to nagging knee problems which had limited him to only two games the prior season. That year the Lakers finally broke through and won the NBA championship, but Baylor was not an active player on the roster. The team did give him a ring but he is not listed as an NBA Champion on Pro-Basketball Reference so I did not count him.

*Art Heyman won an ABA Championship in 1967-68 with the Pittsburgh Pipers

No. 1 overall picks with multiple NBA Championships

Player Championships Teams
Kareem Abdul Jabbar 6 Lakers (5), Bucks (1)
Magic Johnson 5 Lakers (5)
Tim Duncan 5 Spurs (5)
Shaquille O’Neal 4 Lakers (3), Heat (1)
James Worthy 3 Lakers (3)
LeBron James 3 Heat (2), Cavs (1)
Bill Walton 2 Trail Blazers (1), Celtics (1)
Mychal Thompson 2 Lakers (2)
Mark Aguirre 2 Pistons (2)
Hakeem Olajuwon 2 Rockets (2)
David Robinson 2 Spurs (2)

Of course, the group of players gets even smaller when just looking who has won an NBA Finals MVP. Only eight players taken with the first overall pick have won the award.

Player Number of Finals MVPs
Magic Johnson 3
Shaquille O’Neal 3
Tim Duncan 3
LeBron James 3
Kareem Abdul Jabbar 2
Hakeem Olajuwon 2
Bill Walton 1
James Worthy 1

Hall of Fame

17 of the players who have been selected with the first pick in the NBA Draft have been enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Player Year Drafted Year Inducted
Elgin Baylor 1958 1977
Oscar Robertson 1960 1980
Walt Bellamy 1961 1993
Elvin Hayes 1968 1990
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1969 1995
Bob Lanier 1970 1992
Bill Walton 1974 1993
David Thompson 1975 1996
Magic Johnson 1979 2002
James Worthy 1982 2003
Ralph Sampson 1983 2012
Hakeem Olajuwon 1984 2008
Patrick Ewing 1985 2008
David Robinson 1987 2009
Shaquille O’Neal 1992 2016
Allen Iverson 1996 2016
Yao Ming 2002 2016

*Retired No. 1 picks not yet eligible for HOF: Tim Duncan, Elton Brand, Kenyon Martin, Andrea Bargnani, Greg Oden

*No. 1 picks still playing in NBA: LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Anthony Bennet (G-League),  Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz

*No. 1 picks playing overseas: Andrew Bogut


Info and Notes:

Featured Image: “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1974” by Frank Bryan is a public domain image (used to take note of honors for each player taken with the 1st pick) (Find when players were inducted into Hall of Fame)

All charts and tables made using Google Spreadsheet

LeBron James: An NBA Finals history

The 2017-18 NBA Finals ended a few days ago with the Golden State Warriors sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers. While this Finals saw a lot of historical notes, it was the eighth consecutive one that LeBron James played in, an accomplishment only matched by several 1960s Boston Celtics players. With that in mind, let’s take a look back at how LeBron has performed over the 49 Finals games he has played in across nine series.

Minutes played

LeBron James has played at least 40 minutes in 40/49 (81.63%) of NBA Finals games that he has played in. His most minutes played in a Finals games was when he logged 50:20 in the Cavs game two win in 2015.



LeBron has scored at least 30 points in 21 (42.85%) Finals games and at least 20 points in 41 (83.67%) of them. His best performance came this past Finals, where he dropped 51 points in game one, while his worst showing was in game four back in 2011 when he only managed 8 points.


Rebounds and Assists

LeBron has nabbed at least 10 rebounds in 26 (53.06%) Finals games. He has gotten 18 rebounds twice, in game one in 2013 and game six of the 2015 Finals. The only times he managed less then five rebounds was in game three and game six of the 2011 Finals.


LeBron has dished out at least 10 assists in 14 (28.57%) Finals games. His best dime dropping was in game two of the 2017 Finals when he had 14, while his worst performance was in game four of the 2014 Finals when he only managed two.


Steals, Blocks, and Turnovers

LeBron has had at least one steal in 37 (75.51%) of the Finals games he’s played in. His best performance was when he had five against the Spurs in the Heat’s game three loss in 2014.


LeBron has swatted at least one shot in 26 (53.06%) of NBA Finals games he has played in. From game seven in 2013 to game four in 2014 he had a five-game drought in the Finals without a block. LeBron recorded three blocks in game two in 2013 and four straight games to close out the 2016 series against the Warriors.


LeBron has had 15 (30.61%) Finals games with two or fewer turnovers. He has had five games with only one, while his worst showing was the eight he had in game one of the 2017 Finals.


Shots taken and shooting percentages

LeBron has taken at least 30 shots in a Finals game nine times, five of which came in the 2015 Finals against the Warriors. The 19 shots he made in game one of this year’s Finals tied 2017’s game five for the most he has made. He has shot at least 50% from the field 21 times in the Finals and shot under 40% 10 times.

Field Goals

Field Goal %

LeBron made a Finals high five three-pointers in game seven of the 2013 Finals. He has also had seven games where he did not make a single one. The only time he has shot 100% from three was in game two of the 2014 Finals when he went 3-3.

3 Pointers


LeBron’s high in free throws made and attempted came in game two of the 2015 Finals when he went 14-18 from the line. His best showing was in game two of the 2012 Finals when he went a perfect 12-12. In game three of the 2013 Finals, he did not attempt a single free-throw.

Free Throws

Free Throw %


In LeBron’s 49 NBA Finals games, he has had a positive plus/minus in 19 (38.77%) of them and a negative plus/minus in 28 (57.14%) of them. He has also had a plus/minus of zero twice. His best plus/minus was +32 in game four of the 2017 Finals, while his worst was -32 in game three of the 2013 Finals.

Plus Minus

Total averages for each series

Below are LeBron’s per game averages for each NBA Finals series that he has played in. The table after that show how many double-doubles and triple-doubles he recorded in each series.

07 Spurs 0-4 42.5 22.0 7.0 6.8 1.0 0.5 5.8
11 Mavs 2-4 43.7 17.8 7.2 6.8 1.7 0.5 4.0
12 OKC 4-1 44.0 28.6 10.2 7.4 1.6 0.4 3.8
13 Spurs 4-3 43.1 25.3 10.9 7.0 2.3 0.9 2.6
14 Spurs 1-4 38.0 28.2 7.8 4.0 2.0 0.4 3.8
15 GSW 2-4 45.8 35.8 13.3 8.8 1.3 0.5 3.5
16 GSW 4-3 42.0 29.7 11.3 8.9 2.6 2.3 4.4
17 GSW 1-4 42.4 33.6 12.0 10 1.4 1.0 4.2
18 GSW 0-4 45.0 34.0 8.5 10 1.3 1.0 5.0
Series Field Goals (%) Three-Pointers (%) Free Throws (%)
07 Spurs 8.0-22.5 (35.6%) 1.0-5.0 (20.0%) 5.0-7.3 (69.0%)
11 Mavs 7.2-15 (47.8%) 1.5-4.7 (32.1%) 2.0-3.3 (60.0%)
12 OKC 10.2-21.6 (47.2%) 0.6-3.2 (18.8%) 7.6-9.2 (82.6%)
13 Spurs 9.6-21.4 (44.7%) 1.7-4.9 (35.3%) 4.4-5.6 (79.5%)
14 Spurs 10.4-18.2 (57.1%) 2.8-5.4 (51.9%) 4.6-5.8 (79.3%)
15 GSW 13.0-32.7 (39.8%) 2.2-7.0 (31.0%) 7.7-11.2 (68.7%)
16 GSW 11.7-23.7 (49.4%) 1.9-5.0 (37.1%) 4.4-6.1 (72.1%)
17 GSW 13.2-23.4 (56.4%) 2.4-6.2 (38.7%) 4.8-7.4 (64.9%)
18 GSW 12.3-23.3 (52.7%) 1.5-4.5 (33.3%) 8.0-9.5 (84.2%)
NBA Finals Series Double-Double Triple-Double
07 Spurs 1 0
11 Mavs 0 1
12 OKC 2 1
13 Spurs 3 2
14 Spurs 2 0
15 GSW 3 2
16 GSW 5 1
17 GSW 3 2
18 GSW 1 1

As I mentioned in my article looking back on the 2017-18 NBA Finals, LeBron’s 51-point performance was only the sixth in history during the Finals. This performance gave LeBron his seventh 40 plus point game in the Finals, only behind Jerry West who has ten.

In the 49 NBA Finals games, Lebron James has played in his teams have an 18-32 record and a 3-6 series record. He has recorded 21 double-doubles and an NBA Finals record 10 triple-doubles.

Sources and Info: (All sources not listed here linked/mentioned in the article)

Featured Image: “LeBron James” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Used game log to note stats from each Finals game he played in) (Used to get LeBron’s averages for each Finals series)

All table and graphs made using Google Spreadsheet

Looking back at the 2017-18 NBA Finals

Last night the Golden State Warriors easily defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to pull off the NBA’s first Finals sweep in over a decade. It also gave the Warriors their third championship in four years, as they managed to once again overwhelm LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

What this means historically for the Warriors and Cavs

This win gives the Warriors their third championship in four years. This puts them in elite company in the history of the NBA in terms of teams who won three titles in four years or less. They are also only the third team to win back-to-back championships while only losing one game in the Finals.

*The early 1950s Lakers and 1960s Celtics ended up overlapping each other by definition.

Team Years (Span) Finals made in span Record in Finals
Minneapolis Lakers *Four Years (1949-52) 3 3-0
Minneapolis Lakers *Three Years (1952-54) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Four Years (1957-60) 4 3-1
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1960-62) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1961-63) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1962-64) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1963-65) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1964-66) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Four Years (1965-68) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Four Years (1966-69) 3 3-0
Los Angeles Lakers Four Years (1985-88) 4 3-1
Chicago Bulls Three Years (1991-93) 3 3-0
Chicago Bulls Three Years (1996-98) 3 3-0
Los Angeles Lakers Three Years (2000-02) 3 3-0
Golden State Warriors Four Years (2015-18) 4 3-1
Team Span Finals Record
Detriot Pistons 1988-1990 8-1
Los Angeles Lakers 2000-2002 8-1
Golden State Warriors 2016-2018 8-1

In getting swept by the Warriors, the Cavaliers became only the ninth team to get swept in the NBA Finals. Ironically, the last team to get swept in the Finals was also the LeBron led Cavs back in 2007.

Team that got swept Opponent Year
Minneapolis Lakers Boston Celtics 1959
Baltimore Bullets Milwaukee Bucks 1971
Washington Bullets Golden State Warriors 1975
Los Angeles Lakers Philadelphia 76ers 1983
Los Angeles Lakers Detroit Pistons 1989
Orlando Magic Houston Rockets 1995
New Jersey Nets Los Angeles Lakers 2002
Cleveland Cavaliers San Antonio Spurs 2007
Cleveland Cavaliers Golden State Warriors 2018

The Cavaliers also joined the small list of NBA teams who lost three Finals in a four-year span or less.

*The 1960s Lakers spans all ended up overlapping with each other.

Team Span (Years) Finals Record
New York Knicks Three Years (1951-53) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1962-65) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1963-66) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1965-68) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1966-69) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Three Years (1968-70) 0-3
Cleveland Cavaliers Four Years (2015-18) 1-3


The Ying and Yang of Steph Curry

In their game two victory, Steph Curry set the NBA playoffs and Finals record by making nine three-pointers. Since the NBA added the three-point line in 1979-80, there have only been 13 occasions where a player has made at least seven three-pointers in a playoff game. Curry is now responsible for five of those after making seven in game four on top of his game two performance.

However, he followed that up with a disastrous performance in game three. Curry was 3-16 from the field, making it only the 79th playoff game (since 1963-64) in which a player took at least that many shots and made three or fewer.

He was also 1-10 from beyond the arc. This made him only the ninth person to take at least ten three-pointers in a playoff game and make one or fewer. This game is also what likely cost him the Finals MVP.

With the Warriors third championship, Steph Curry joins a small group of eight players in the four major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) to win at least two MVPs and three championships in a four-year span.

*All of Russell’s years overlap with each other by definition of this, as does Gretzky’s 1987 season.

Players Sport Span MVPs Championships
Joe DiMaggio MLB 1938-41 2 3
Yogi Berra MLB 1951-54 2 3
Gordie Howe NHL 1952-55 2 3
Bill Russell NBA *1958-61 2 3
Bill Russell NBA *1961-64 3 4
Bill Russell NBA *1962-65 3 4
Bill Russell NBA *1963-66 2 4
Guy Lafleur NHL 1977-80 2 3
Wayne Gretzky NHL *1984-87 4 3
Wayne Gretzky NHL *1987-90 2 3
Michael Jordan NBA 1990-93 2 3
Michael Jordan NBA 1995-98 2 3
Steph Curry NBA 2015-18 2 3

*While this has never happened in the NFL and never took place in the AFL, it did happen in the AAFC (merged with NFL in 1949). In four years (1946-49), Otto Graham won 2 MVPs and 4 championships.


Durant and LeBron’s historic performances

In game three of the NBA Finals, Kevin Durant dropped 43 points to give the Warriors an insurmountable 3-0 led over the Cavaliers. This game was the catalyst to him earning his second Finals MVP and a playoff career high for him.

His 43 points were the most by a Warriors player in the playoffs since Curry’s 44 point performance against the San Antonio Spurs in 2013. It was the most by a Warriors player in the Finals since 1967, when Rick Barry scored 44 in game six.

In game one of the NBA Finals, LeBron James dropped 51 points. This made LeBron only the 12th player (20th occurrence) since 1963-64 to score at 50 points in a playoff game. However, the Cavaliers lost the game in heartbreaking fashion due to some slight time mismanagement at the end of regulation before losing in overtime.

*Bob Pettit’s game log on Basketball-Reference has no assists tally for that game

Players Year (Game, Result) Series Result Points Rebounds Assists FG%
Elgin Baylor 1962 (Game 5, Win) Lost 4-3 61 22 1 47.80%
Michael Jordan 1993 (Game 4, Win) Won 4-2 55 8 4 56.80%
Rick Barry 1967 (Game 3, Win) Lost 4-2 55 12 5 45.80%
Jerry West 1969 (Game 1, Win) Lost 4-3 53 3 10 51.20%
LeBron James 2018 (Game 1, OT Loss) Lost 4-0 51 8 8 59.40%
Bob Pettit 1958 (Game 6, Win) Won 4-2 50 19 N/A* 55.90%

Sources and Info: (All sources not listed here linked/mentioned in the article)

Featured Image: “2014 NBA Finals logo” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Used to find the box score for players with over 50 points in NBA Finals)

A look back at the NBA Playoffs heading into the Finals

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors both overcame 3-2 series deficits to advance to the NBA Finals. This will mark the fourth consecutive season these two teams will have played for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Never before in the history of the four major North American sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) have the same two teams played each other in four straight championships.

Teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearances

Golden State and Cleveland now join a small group of 17 other teams across the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL to make 4 consecutive championship appearances. This is the sixth time that an NBA team has made it to the Finals four years in a row.

Besides the Cavaliers and Warriors, the only other of these spans to overlap within a sport were the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers during the 1984 and 1985 NBA playoffs.

Team (Sport) Years (Span) Champ. Record
Giants (MLB) 4 (1921-24) 2-2
Yankees (MLB) 4 (1936-39) 4-0
Bears (NFL) 4 (1940-43) 3-1
Yankees (MLB) 5 (1949-53) 5-0
Browns (NFL) 6 (1950-55) 3-3
Canadiens (NHL) 10 (1951-60) 6-4
Yankees (MLB) 4 (1955-58) 2-2
Celtics (NBA) 10 (1957-66) 9-1
Yankees (MLB) 5 (1960-64) 2-3
Canadiens (NHL) 5 (1965-69) 4-1
Canadiens (NHL) 4 (1976-79) 4-0
Islanders (NHL) 5 (1980-84) 4-1
Lakers (NBA) 4 (1982-85) 2-2
Celtics (NBA) 4 (1984-87) 2-2
Bills (NFL) 4 (1990-93) 0-4
Yankees (MLB) 4 (1998-01) 3-1
Heat (NBA) 4 (2011-14) 2-2
Cavs (NBA) 4 (2015-18) 1-2
Warriors (NBA) 4 (2015-18) 2-1

2018 seeding vs historical context

The No. 6 seeded New Orleans Pelicans swept the No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers in the first-round. This made then only the 18th No. 6 seed to win their first-round series since the NBA switched to its current playoff format of 16 teams for the 1984 playoffs.

With the Cleveland Cavaliers having marched to the NBA Finals as the No. 4 seed they have also bucked historical trends. Starting with the 1984 playoffs, Cleveland became only the sixth No. 4 seed to win a second-round series and the third to win in the conference championship round.

With both No. 1 seeds being eliminated this will be the seventh NBA Finals (2004, 05, 06, 07, 11, 12) since the NBA expanded to the 16 team playoff format to not feature a top-seeded team.

Teams seeded No. 4 or lower to reach NBA Finals

The Cavaliers are only the fifth team to be seeded No. 4 or lower to reach the NBA Finals since it expanded to 16 teams in the 1983-84 season.

Team (Seed) Year Finals result
Rockets (6) 1994-95 Won 4-0
Knicks (8) 1998-99 Lost 4-1
Mavericks (4) 2005-06 Lost 4-2
Celtics (4) 2009-10 Lost 4-3
Cavaliers (4) 2017-18 TBD


Point differential after each game for Cavs and Warriors during their path to the Finals

The Cavaliers point differential was at its lowest following their game six loss to the Pacers (-45) and is currently at its highest going into the Finals (+21).

Cavs PD

The Warriors point differential was at its lowest following their first game against the Spurs (+21) and is currently at its highest going into the Finals (+150).

War PD.png

LeBron and the Cavs

While LeBron James won the Eastern Conference for the eighth year in a row, this season provided the toughest road to the Finals in that span.

Playoff Rec. # of game 7s # of sweeps
LeBron vs East (2011-17) 84-21 (80%) 2 in 21 series (9.52%) 8 in 21 series (38.09%)
LeBron vs East (2018) 12-6 (66.66%) 2 in 3 series (66.66%) 1 in 3 series (33.33%)

Following the Cavaliers first-round series win over the Indiana Pacers, I wrote about LeBron James’ historic performance in that series. After three series he is still on pace to have the sixth occurrence of a player averaging 30, 9 and 7 in the playoffs.

Player Year Games MP Points TRB AST FG% 2P% 3P%
Oscar Robertson 1962-63 12 47.5 31.8 13 9 47.00% 47.00% N/A
LeBron James 2008-09 14 41.4 35.3 9.1 7.3 51.00% 57.10% 33.30%
LeBron James 2014-15 20 42.2 30.1 11.6 8.5 41.70% 46.50% 22.70%
Russell Westbrook 2016-17 5 38.8 37.4 11.3 10.8 38.80% 44.70% 26.50%
LeBron James 2016-17 18 41.3 32.9 9.1 7.8 56.50% 62.50% 41.10%
LeBron James 2017-18 18 41.3 34 9.2 8.8 54.20% 60.1% 34.40%

LeBron is also on pace to have his fourth occurrence of having a usage percentage of at least 34% in the playoffs (minimum 7 playoff games). Only 15 different players (33 total times) have had a usage percentage that high in the playoffs.

Michael Jordan (8 times) is that only player with more than LeBron. Jordan is also the only player who was older than Lebron with a higher usage percentage (Age 34 in 1997-98, 36.6 USG%).

Year (LeBron age) LeBron usage % Rank among 33
2014-15 (30) 37.6 3
2008-09 (24) 36.4 10
2017-18 (33) 35.9 12
2007-08 (23) 34.7 27

Lastly, let’s take a look at how LeBron and the rest of the Cavs compare to each other these playoffs playing at home (8-1 record) compared to on the road (4-5 record).

I found LeBron’s home/road splits for these playoffs using Then I found the Cavs splits as a team for these playoffs at home and on the road. I subtracted LeBron splits from the Cavs team ones to get the numbers for the rest of the players on the Cavs.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers FG% 3P% FT%
Lebron stats (at home) 38.1 8.3 8.2 2.2 0.8 3.8 58.70% 40.50% 76.40%
LeBron stats (on road) 29.9 10.1 9.3 0.6 1.3 4.4 49.80% 30.50% 66.20%
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers FG% 3P% FT%
Rest of Cavs (at home) 67.7 32.4 10.8 5.1 3.9 10.2 42.88% 36.09% 79.85%
Rest of Cavs (on road) 66.7 29.7 9.4 3.8 3 7.3 42.26% 31.51% 75.57%

Interestingly enough, the rest of the Cavaliers have been remarkably similar playing at home and on the road. The only notable difference is they average almost three most turnovers at home while shooting about 5% worse on three-pointers and free throws on the road.

Three-point shooting costs Celtics, Rockets in game 7

The Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets both had their chances to win in game 7 but ended up shooting themselves out of it by putting on two of the worst three-point shooting performances in playoff history.

*Minimum 30 three-pointers taken, five worst games listed below.

Date Team Opponent 3’s (PCT) Result
5-25-15 Hawks Cavaliers 5-32 (.156) Loss 118-88
5-28-18 Rockets Warriors 7-44 (.159) Loss 101-92
4-25-17 Rockets Thunder 6-37 (.162) Won 105-99
5-27-18 Celtics Cavaliers 7-39 (.179) Loss 87-79
4-27-16 Rockets Warriors 6-32 (.188) Loss 114-81

Not only was the team performance bad, but Terry Rozier and Trevor Ariza managed to have two of the worst three-point shooting playoff games in NBA history.

Player Date 3’s taken Total FGs Points Result
John Starks 6-22-94 0-11 2-18 8 Loss 90-84
James Harden 5-24-18 0-11 5-21 19 Won 98-94
Terry Rozier 5-27-18 0-10 2-14 4 Loss 87-79
Trevor Ariza 5-28-18 0-9 0-12 0 Loss 101-92
Joe Johnson 4-29-12 0-9 3-15 11 Won 83-74
Rashard Lewis 4-22-08 0-9 7-21 18 Won 104-103
Derrick Rose 4-16-11 0-9 10-23 39 Won 104-91

Other notable stats from the 2018 NBA Playoffs

It was the first time Boston lost a series after going up 2-0 in franchise history.

Game 6 of the Rockets-Warriors series saw the largest second-half point differential in an NBA playoff game.

Trevor Ariza joined Nate Robinson and Marvin Williams as the only players to take at least 10 shots in a playoff game and score zero points.

The Rockets also recorded the largest point deficit of any Conference Finals series that went to seven games.

Sources and Info: (*Any sources not listed here are linked in article above)

Featured Image: “LeBron James” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY-2.0

NFL teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearances

NBA teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearances

NHL teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearances

MLB teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearancesMLB teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearances (Used scores on here to calculate point differential per game for Cavs and Warriors)

All tables and graphs make using Google Spreadsheet

Are the Raptors the worst No. 1 seed to ever be swept in NBA history?

The Toronto Raptors were swept out of the 2018 NBA playoffs with a whimper last night, as they were crushed by the Cleveland Cavaliers 128-93. This made it the third consecutive season the LeBron-led Cavs knocked the Raptors out of the playoffs, including back-to-back sweeps in the Eastern Conference Semis.

However, this season was supposed to be different for the Raptors. Finishing off their best season in franchise history with 59 wins, they were the second-best team in the NBA.

With home-court advantage against a Cavs team that had just been pushed to seven games, it seemed like this year was Toronto’s best chance to finally defeat LeBron. Instead, Toronto may have just become the worst No. 1 seed in NBA history.

No. 1 seeds to be swept in the NBA playoffs

Starting with the league’s first season back in 1948, back when it was known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA), there have been 142 No. 1 seeded teams. Only 13 (9.15%) of these No. 1 seeds have ever been swept in the playoffs.

The Raptors are only the third No. 1 seed (first since the 1969 Washington Bullets) to be swept without reaching at least the Conference Finals. The other No. 1 seed to do this was the 1951 Philadelphia Warriors, who played best-of-three back then.

Team Playoff Year Round swept in Defeated by (seed) Point Diff. Defeated in # of OT games
Rochester 1949 W. Conf Finals Lakers (2) -13 2-0 0
Warriors 1951 E. Conf Semis Syracuse (4) -14 2-0 1
Bullets 1969 E. Conf Semis New York (3) -38 4-0 0
Hawks 1970 W. Conf Finals Lakers (2) -35 4-0 1
Lakers 1977 W. Conf Finals Trail Blazers (3) -23 4-0 0
Lakers 1983 NBA Finals 76ers (1) -40 4-0 0
Lakers 1989 NBA Finals Pistons (1) -27 4-0 0
Magic 1995 NBA Finals Rockets (6) -28 4-0 1
Spurs 2001 W. Conf Finals Lakers (2) -89 4-0 0
Nets 2002 NBA Finals Lakers (3) -37 4-0 0
Pistons 2003 E. Conf Finals Nets (2) -36 4-0 0
Hawks 2015 E. Conf Finals Cavaliers (2) -53 4-0 1
Raptors 2018 E. Conf Semis Cavaliers (4) -56 4-0 1

*The NBA did not have a first-round for the playoffs until the 1974-75 season and did not expand to 16 teams in the playoffs until 1983-84.


Toronto also lost to a Cavaliers team that was only a four seed, joining the aforementioned ’51 Warriors as the only team to do so. In both cases, the ’51 Syracuse Nationals and 2018 Cavaliers had both lost in the NBA Finals the previous year.

Only the 1995 Orlando Magic lost to a lower seed team, as the Houston Rockets were the six seed that year. Of course, that Rockets team were at least the defending champions from the previous season.

Then there is the fact that the Raptors have the second-worst point differential (-56) among any No. 1 seed to be swept, despite the fact that one of their games went into overtime. Only the ’01 Spurs have a worse point-differential (-89), as they just got crushed by the Shaq-Kobe Lakers in games three and four.


While the Toronto Raptors are not the worst No. 1 seed to be swept in any category, their combination of factors makes them arguably the worst. Being the first No. 1 seed to get swept outside the Conference Finals in 49 years is never a good look.

Add on to that the fact that they were swept by a four seed. Even though it was a LeBron James led-team, the Cavs defense had been awful the entire season and they revamped most of their team during the trade deadline. The only team to be swept by a lower-seeded team had it happen to them from a Rockets team that won back-to-back NBA Championships.

While the ’01 Spurs point differential is much worse then the Raptors, they were playing a team that was in the middle of what would be a three-peat. While Cleveland has made the Finals three-straight years, they have only one once.

Also, that Lakers team had two prime Hall of Fames in Shaq and Kobe to deal with. Before this series against the Raptors, the Cavs looked like they were relying solely on LeBron for the most part to win games against the Indiana Pacers.

Sources and Info:

Featured Image: “DeMar DeRozan” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (went forward until present day noting which No. 1 seed was swept and by who) (searched for each of the swept series and took note of the overall point differential)

Used Google Spreadsheets to make all the table in this article

The Raptors, LeBron, and the Eastern Conference

The 4-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers have swept the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors. Despite LeBron James’ past success against Toronto, I do not think anyone saw a sweep taking place.

The Cavs had just been pushed to seven games against the Indiana Pacers, winning the series despite a -40 point differential. Meanwhile, the Raptors finished the season with 59 wins, making them the second-best team in the NBA record-wise. Despite this, they were swept with LeBron personally supplying a buzzer-beater to win game three.

Raptors playoffs struggles continue

Over the last five seasons, the Raptors have put together their five best individual seasons in franchise history behind All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. However, this has not resulted in playoff success as they have been swept three times in the last five seasons, twice to lower-seeded teams.

Toronto has now been swept in two of their last four playoff series. Prior to this, they had only been swept twice in their first 11 playoff series. One of those series was their first ever playoff appearance back in the 1999-00 season when the first-round was only best-of-five.

Year Reg. Record Playoff Seed Playoff Rec. Round Eliminated by (seed) Swept?
2013-14 48-34 (.585) 3 3-4 1st Nets (6) No
2014-15 49-33 (.598) 4 0-4 1st Wizards (5) Yes
2015-16 56-26 (.683) 2 10-10 Conf. Finals Cavs (1) No
2016-17 51-31 (.622) 3 4-6 Conf. Semis Cavs (2) Yes
2017-18 59-23 (.720) 1 4-6 Conf. Semis Cavs (4) Yes
Totals 263-147 (.643) Avg. seed: 2.6 21-30 (41.48%) Avg. seed: 3.6 3/5 (60%)


LeBron dominates the Raptors (and the rest of the East)

Since LeBron made his decision to take his talents to South Beach for the 2010-11 season, his teams have utterly dominated the rest of the Eastern Conference. Having been to seven straight NBA Finals during this period it is no surprise that LeBron’s teams have won nearly 80% of their playoff games against the East.

Year Team Playoff Rec. Playoff Seed # of game 7s # of sweeps
2010-11 Heat 12-3 2 0 0
2011-12 Heat 12-6 2 1 0
2012-13 Heat 12-4 1 1 1
2013-14 Heat 12-3 2 0 1
2014-15 Cavs 12-2 2 0 2
2015-16 Cavs 12-2 1 0 2
2016-17 Cavs 12-1 2 0 2
2017-18 Cavs 8-3 4 1 1
Totals 92-24 (79.31%) Avg. Seed: 2 3-23 (11.53%) 9/23 (28.12%)

LeBron has played 11 of the 16 teams in the East the over the last eight years in the playoffs. Ironically enough, he never played the Cavaliers when in Miami and has yet to play the Heat in Cleveland.

Teams # of series Playoff record Game 7s forced Times swept
Pacers 5 10-21 2 1
Celtics 4 5-16 1 1
Bulls 3 4-12 0 0
Raptors 3 2-12 0 2
Hawks 2 0-8 0 2
76ers 1 1-4 0 0
Knicks 1 1-4 0 0
Nets 1 1-4 0 0
Bucks 1 0-4 0 1
*Hornets 1 0-4 0 1
Pistons 1 0-4 0 1

*The Hornets were called the Bobcats when LeBron played them in the playoffs.

Can the Celtics break the cycle?

The Boston Celtics are up 3-1 over the Philadelphia 76ers and seem destined to play the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, barring them becoming the first team to blow a 3-0 lead in the playoffs.

Despite missing stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, as well as backup big-man Daniel Theis, Boston has exceeded expectations during the playoffs. This is in no small part due to the coaching genius of Brad Stevens, the veteran presence of Al Horford and they way the young trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have stepped up.

The last time a LeBron team lost in the Eastern Conference playoffs was back in the 2009-10 season in the Conference Semifinals to the Boston Celtics. This completely different Celtics team will face a tall task in trying to beat LeBron and the Cavs to end his run of winning the East.

Sources and info:

Featured Image: “LeBron James” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

All tables and graphs made using Google Spreadsheets