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Three NBA greats who never won regular season MVP

The NBA has been around for over 70 years, with many great players and teams constructing great narratives. Every season, there’s one player who does better than all the others and is awarded the Most Valuable Player (MVP).

Who gets the MVP award?

This prestigious award helps recognize the efforts of the very best players and is an added motivation for many players, with only one team trophy to really fight for otherwise. Basketball doesn't have as many players on a team as many other major sports, so the contributions of an individual can become especially significant; however, it's a level playing field in that this is true for every team. The MVP is typically someone who goes through an entire season being superlative - which isn't an easy task considering the various factors that can derail a potential MVP campaign.

As such, betting on the MVP is one of the most fun activities during an NBA season - players could be favorites before Christmas and wilt away in the new year. The regular season MVP futures markets on NBA betting sites are among the most populated ones and the race for the award is one always heavily debated by fans.

In this piece, we'll look at some greats of the game who were capable of being superlative through most of their playing careers, but always found themselves being pipped by another player. Some of these names have MVP honors over shorter periods, like in the finals or in an All-Star game, but never over the full season.

Jerry West

He didn’t ever win the MVP award, but West has been immortalized in other ways. West is the player depicted in the NBA logo, which is one of the most identifiable sports visuals in the world. West played as a point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1960 to 1974 and won one NBA championship. He was an All-Star in every one of his 14 years for the Lakers.

He finished in second place in the MVP standings four times, but playing in eras that included other greats like Wilt Chamberlain, Willis Reed, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar meant he always fell short. West averaged 31 points per game and is still considered one of the best shooters in NBA history.

Elgin Baylor

The second man on this list also played for the Los Angeles Lakers, beginning his stint when they were still called Minneapolis Lakers. Baylor was an NBA pro from 1958-1971 and played in the small forward position.

Baylor is also widely considered one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA, but he didn’t just miss out on the MVP title - he also never got his hands on the NBA championship. Baylor played in the same era as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Oscar Robertson. That didn’t stop him from coming second in the MVP voting - players voted for the season MVP until 1980 - twice. In his best season, he averaged 34 points, 19 rebounds, and five assists per game.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Elgin Baylor saved the Lakers from bankruptcy, served his country and invented the “Euro Step” <a href="https://t.co/cU59g0FxK9">pic.twitter.com/cU59g0FxK9</a></p>&mdash; Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) <a href="https://twitter.com/KingJosiah54/status/1600919733573865472?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 8, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas was a two-time NBA champion at a time when Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan were active players. It’s not hard to explain why he might’ve missed out on an MVP trophy. He was playing and winning championships when three of the greatest NBA players of all time were around, which is a testament to how talented he was.

A highly competitive point guard, Thomas spent 13 seasons with the Detroit Pistons from 1981-1994. He averaged 19.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 9.3 assists per game.