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


A history of NBA scoring trends

With the 72nd regular season of the NBA having wrapped up last week, let’s take a look at how scoring trends have changed over the course of the sport’s history. From the sport slowing down in terms of points scored to the impact the addition of the three-point line has had, the NBA has changed a lot over half a century.

NBA scoring over time

The highest scoring season in NBA history was the 1961-62 season, in which the league averaged 118.8 points. Unsurprisingly, the lowest scoring year was the first season (1946-47), with an average of 67.8 points.

Points per game

The 13 season stretch from 1995-96 through 2007-08 is the longest stretch in NBA history in which the league averaged under 100 points. However, scoring has been up in recent years. This past season (2017-18) saw an average of 106.3 points, the most since the 1990-91 season (106.3 points).

The NBA seasons that have seen the most field goal attempts are also some of the highest scoring years in league history, which all came before the advent of the three-point line.

1960-61: 109.4 shots, 118.1 points (2nd all time)

1959-60: 108.7 shots, 115.3 points (T-7th all time)

1961-62: 107.7 shots, 118.8 points (1st all time)

1966-67: 103.1 shots, 117.4 points (3rd all time)

1965-66: 102.4 shots, 115.5 points (6th all time)

Points vs Shots

The NBA has not seen a season with over 100 shots attempted since 1967-68 (100.8). The league has not seen a year with over 90 shots attempted since 1979-80 (90.6), which was the first season the three-point line was introduced. In fact, from 1983-84 until 2015-16, the NBA averaged under 85 shots attempts per season until the past two years (2016-17, 85.4 and 2017-18, 86.1).

PPG vs leading scorer

From 1959-60 until 1971-72 every season in the NBA saw at least 110 points be averaged per season. This span was also when the 9 of the top 12 top scoring seasons by a player in NBA history happened.

Player Year PPG Scoring Avg. Shots per game
Wilt Chamberlain 1961-62 50.36 118.8 (1st) 107.7 (3rd)
Wilt Chamberlain 1962-63 44.83 115.3 (T-7th) 101.2 (8th)
Wilt Chamberlain 1960-61 38.39 118.1 (2nd) 109.4 (1st)
Wilt Chamberlain 1959-60 37.60 115.3 (T-7th) 108.7 (2nd)
Michael Jordan 1986-87 37.09  109.9 (17th)  88.8 (29th)
Wilt Chamberlain 1963-64 36.85 111 (11th) 99.1 (12th)
Rick Barry 1966-67 35.58 117.4 (3rd) 103.1 (4th)
Kobe Bryant 2005-06 35.40  97 (49th)  79 (62nd)*
Michael Jordan 1987-88 34.98  108.2 (T-23rd)  87.8 (34)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1971-72 34.84 110.2 (T-15th) 95.5 (17th)
Elgin Baylor 1960-61 34.77 118.1 (2nd) 109.4 (1st)
Wilt Chamberlain 1964-65 34.71 110.6 (13th) 99.8 (10th)

*Only seasons with less shot attempts were 1998-99 (78.2), 1952-53 (77.1) and 1953-54 (75.4).


The battle of two-pointers vs. three-pointers 

In the 1979-80 season, the NBA introduced the three-point line, which has had a profound impact on the league in recent years. While it took over a decade, the three-pointer really exploded in the middle of the 1990s and has risen across the league ever since. The 2017-18 season almost saw more three-pointers attempted (29), then two-point field goals made (29.1).

Shots taken and attempted

shot percentage

Although fewer two-pointers are being taken since the three-point line was introduced, the rise of the three has seen an increase in the percentage of two-point shots made. The last two seasons, 2016-17 (50.30%) and 2017-18 (51%), saw the first time over half of two-point attempts had been made.

Meanwhile, the NBA’s overall field goal has suffered as more three-pointers are being attempted. Despite the increased significance of the three, the NBA as a whole has not gotten better at making them. Since the 1991-92 season, the three-point percentage for each season has been between 33.10% and 36.70%.

The NBA’s embrace of the three-point shot

The most successful teams over the past few seasons have embraced an increase in three-point attempts, in no small part due to data analytics which has taken over much of the league.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and the Golden State Warriors often get credit for ushering in this three-point revolution, In the last six seasons, Curry and Thompson have accounted for six of the top seven seasons in NBA history in terms of made threes.

However, it appears as if the Houston Rockets are taking it to the next level, led by GM Daryl Morey, head coach Mike D’Antoni, and All-Star James Harden. In the last two seasons, Houston has averaged 41.3 three-point attempts per game, 6.5 more on average than the next closest team.

To see the full extent of the change lets look at the Minnesota Timberwolves, who attempted the least threes per game (22.5) this year. Even the team taking the least threes is shooting more then what the league average was in 2014-15 (22.4), only three years ago.

It will remain to be seen how much higher this three-point revolution could go. Next season could possibly be the first to see more three-pointers attempted per game then two-point field goals made.

The rise of the three-pointer has revitalized scoring in the NBA to levels it has not seen in over two decades. If this rise in three-pointers continues at its current pace, it is possible the NBA could see 1960s levels of scoring.

Info and sources:

Featured Image: “Wilt ‘The Stilt” Chamberlain, 1967, Philadelphia, PA., 1967” by Cliff is licensed under CC BY-2.0 (analyzed league stats for average points, two-pointers, three-pointers, shooting percentage and the league leader in points for each season up until 2017-18)

Charts and graphs made using Google Spreadsheet in Google Docs

How common is a 30 PPG season in the NBA?

MVP favorite James Harden finished the 2017-18 season averaging over 30 points-per-game (PPG). This poses the question, how common a feat has this been throughout NBA history? The information in this article was all compiled using Pro Basketball Reference’s player season finder and only counts qualified players (those who played a minimum number of games).

The first season where a player averaged at least 30 PPG in a season took place in 1959-60. That year saw Wilt Chamberlain (37.6) and Jack Twyman (31.2) be the first to accomplish the milestone. Since then it has happened 65 more times, with Harden being the latest.

A history of 30 PPG seasons 

Below is a timeline of how many players have averaged at least 30 PPG in a season since the first occurrence back in the 1959-60 season.

Seasons with 30 PPG

Below is a chart of the players with the most 30 PPG seasons. As you can see, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Oscar Robertson combined have accounted for 21 of the 67 times a player has averaged at least 30 PPG in a season.

Players 30 PPG

*Dominique is Dominique Wilkens.

The average age of a player when they have reached the 30 PPG milestone is 25.88. The two youngest players to average 30 PPG are LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The only players to average 30 PPG being 30 or older are Rick Barry (30), Allen Iverson (30), Jerry West (31) and Michael Jordan (32).

30 PPG age

Best statistical numbers for 30 PPG seasons

Finally, let’s take a look at the best statistical numbers put up in a season where a player has averaged at least 30 PPG.

Most points per game Wilt Chamberlain: 50.4 1961-62
Most made 2pt field goals per game Wilt Chamberlain: 20.0 1961-62
Most made 3pt field goals Stephen Curry: 5.1 2015-16
Most made free throws per game Jerry West: 10.6 1965-66
Most rebounds per game Wilt Chamberlian: 27.2 1960-61
Most assists per game Oscar Robertson: 11.5 1964-65
Most steals per game Michael Jordan: 3.2 1987-88
Most blocks per game Bob McAdoo: 3.3 1973-74
Least turnovers per game Michael Jordan: 3.0 1989-90
Least personal fouls per game Wilt Chamberlian: 1.5 1961-62
Highest field goal percentage Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 57.7% 1970-71
Highest three-point percentage Stephen Curry: 45.4% 2015-16
Highest free throw percentage Stephen Curry: 90.8% 2015-16
Highest effective field-goal percentage Stephen Curry: 63.0% 2015-16
Highest true shooting percentage Stephen Curry: 66.9% 2015-16

*Three-pointers were not implemented in the NBA until the 1979-80 season
*Blocks and steals were not kept track of until the 1973-74 season
Notes and Info:

Featured Image: “Michael Jordan” by Kip-koech is licensed under CC BY-2.0

All info is from Pro Basketball Reference

Charts and graphs made using Google Spreadsheet on Google Docs