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Youngest NBA Finals MVPs of All-Time | 2024 NBA Finals MVP Odds

Michael Jordan won his first NBA Finals MVP at 28. LeBron James won for the first time at 27. Kobe Bryant was 30, Shaquille O’Neal 28, Larry Bird 27. The point is that even the greatest of the great NBA players in history have had to wait a bit to be named NBA Finals MVP — even in situations where they won their first titles early in their careers (like Bird and Kobe). Only a select few have been able to win NBA Finals MVP in their early 20s, and we’re going to cover them here — and also look at some 2024 NBA Finals MVP odds to see where Anthony Edwards and Luka Doncic stack up on this list. Let’s get into the youngest NBA Finals MVPs of all-time.

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Youngest NBA Finals MVPs | 2024 NBA Finals MVP Odds

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24 Years Old: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks (1971)

This was foretold by the prophets in the autumn days of 1966 as a 19-year-old Lew Alcindor dominated seniors on the UCLA practice courts. Before long Alcindor became the greatest college basketball player ever, and his destiny of achieving NBA greatness was inevitable.

Alcindor gave the NBA a one-year grace period after going first overall in the 1969 draft, and then in his second year with Milwaukee he won league MVP and a scoring title while leading the Bucks to the NBA’s best record alongside Oscar Robertson.

The Bucks lost two games in three postseason rounds and swept the Bullets in the Finals to take home the title in 1971, and Alcindor cruised to Finals MVP at age 24 with a cool 27 points and 18.5 rebounds per game. A little over a month later, Alcindor announced that he wished to be called by his Muslim name, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Now, Kareem seemed inevitable after that first title, and he ended up winning five MVPs in the 1970s. But he didn’t win another title until joining forces with Magic Johnson in the 1979-80 season, nor did he win another Finals MVP until 1985, when he was 38. So Kareem is both the fifth-youngest Finals MVP and the oldest Finals MVP ever, and he has no such wins in between.

23 Years Old: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (1999)

Duncan wasn’t prophesized to dominate the league quite like Kareem was, but he was still a highly sought-after No. 1 pick in 1997 who seemed about as NBA ready as it got. Averages of 21 and 12 plus a fifth-place MVP finish as a rookie lent credence to that, and the Spurs made it to the second round of the playoffs with Duncan as the centerpiece.

The next year was shortened by the lockout, so feel free to drop your asterisks here, Lakers fans, and pay no mind to the Bubble Title comments with which I’m about to spam you.

The 50-game season was weird, but San Antonio won 37 of those and had the league’s best record. This time Duncan placed third in MVP voting, somehow losing to a 90-year-old Karl Malone. He stuck it to Malone by not having to play the Jazz in the playoffs and sweeping the Lakers and Trail Blazers to make the Finals, where the Spurs faced the Cinderella eighth-seed Knicks.

Needless to say, San Antonio rolled in five games, and Duncan joined Kareem by winning Finals MVP in Year 2 behind 27 and 14. I swear, people sleep on how goldang great Duncan was for, like, 20 years.

22 Years Old: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs (2014)

This is the black sheep of the list. Don’t get me wrong; Leonard is a Hall of Famer and has one of the unique accomplishments of winning Finals MVP in both conferences. But these other guys are, you know, Mount Rushmore eligible. Hey — young role players stepping up deserve the gold too.

This wasn’t a fluke or consolation trophy. The fact is the Spurs were a team with a capital T, and everything was beautiful and balanced and no one took center stage. Their best player at this point was probably Tony Parker, and he did lead the Spurs in scoring. That leading scoring average was only 18 a game, though, and Leonard averaged 17.8. Plus, he was asked to do much more defensively against the LeBron James/Dwyane Wade Heat.

Truly, Leonard, Parker or Duncan would have been reasonable choices for MVP.

Leonard seemed like an up-and-comer, however, and also kind of carried the largest load of the three. And then when he became genuine superstar Kawhi Leonard who can lead the Raptors to a title, well, this award was uber-vindicated.

22 Years Old: Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers (1982)

Yep, Magic has the top 2 spots. It’s the main reason he is one of the, what, three coolest guys in NBA history? The man managed to be the MVP on two Finals teams — TWO FINALS TEAMS — before his 23rd birthday.

This one isn’t nearly as interesting as the 1980 title, but suffice it to say, Magic took Larry Bird and the Celtics winning the year before personally. His stats were good — 16.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.0 assists — but not exceptional for his standards: This was a vibes MVP, and by this time the Lakers were all Showtime Magic vibes.

20 Years Old: Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers (1980)

You’ve seen Winning Time on Max; you know what’s up. Johnson was the hotshot rookie who stumbled into a Kareem-led team, and he was flashy and gregarious and fun to watch. Meanwhile, Kareem was, “catch, sky hook, move along.” That dichotomy worked somehow, and the 1980 Lakers made the Finals.

Truth be told, Kareem probably should have won Finals MVP. But he got hurt, and Magic took the role of team everything to close out the 76ers in Game 6. He was a point guard — a 6-foot-9 point guard, but a point guard nonetheless — and he jumped center in the closeout game. It led to 42, 15 and seven, and the Lakers won the title in his rookie year.

That game is iconic, so it’s hard to be mad about Johnson getting Finals MVP at age 20. No one really ever has taken advantage of opportunity at such a young age, and even in our current era of one-and-dones, no one has come close to this accomplishment.

Bottom line, three of the four youngest players to win Finals MVP are by any measure top-10 players ever, and then a historical anomaly in Leonard. So as great as today’s players are from an early age, it takes a crazily fortuitous set of circumstances and a generationally transcendent talent for a team to win a title led by a guy in his early 20s.

2024 NBA Finals MVP Odds for Anthony Edwards, Luka Doncic & More

PlayerFinals MVP OddsAge
Jayson Tatum-12526
Luka Doncic+20025
Jaylen Brown+60027
Kyrie Irving+200032
Derrick White+400029
Odds From BetMGM

What’s interesting about these odds is that the top 2 guys are all considered to be pretty young — to varying degrees. But Doncic and Tatum would not even sniff the top of the list of youngest Finals MVPs ever, so let that be a reminder that those two have been in the NBA for six and seven years, respectively, and that time goes by too fast and we’re all motoring at 100 mph towards a steep decline that is only made slightly better knowing that Nikola Jokic and Anthony Edwards will be a part of our lives for at least 10 more years.

Sorry, I’m going through some things, but at least I’m still younger than Kyrie Irving.

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