Could Derrick White or Jrue Holiday be the next unexpected Finals MVP?


Sometimes unlikely prospects rise to the occasion in the biggest moments. The 2024 NBA Finals have been no different.

There’s little question the Boston Celtics are led by their star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. But the Celtics — currently leading the series 3-0 — have also seen crucial contributions on both ends of the floor from Derrick White, Kristaps Porzingis, Jrue Holiday and more.

Between Holiday and White’s late Game 3 dish-and-swish, and White’s pivotal Game 2 block against P.J. Washington, it feels possible that this year could be the first NBA Finals since 2015 where the Finals MVP entered the series as an underdog to win the award.

Here are some of the unexpected MVPs:

Andre Iguodala

Team: Golden State Warriors

Year: 2015

The fate of the universe might not have been on the line, but Andre Iguodala came through in a big way for the Warriors in the 2015 Finals.

After not starting a game all season, Iguodala entered the starting lineup midway through the championship series to help turn the tide for Golden State. Before the veteran forward joined the Warriors’ first five, the Cleveland Cavaliers led the Finals 2-1. Golden State clinched three consecutive victories after Iguodala’s insertion, taking the series in six games.

The one-time All-Star didn’t stuff the stat sheet after joining the starting ranks, but his defensive presence was critical in shutting down the Cavaliers.

Team: San Antonio Spurs

Year: 2014

Leonard is best known as a six-time All-NBA and seven-time All-Defensive team honoree, but entering San Antonio’s 2014 campaign he was simply a solid rookie starter who averaged 7.9 points and 5.1 rebounds.

Leonard’s numbers ticked up throughout his sophomore season, but that improvement would pale in comparison to his NBA Finals showing. He averaged 17.8 points across the five-game series, shooting a torrid 61.2% from the field. The second-year player out of San Diego State also served as a defensive anchor for the Spurs, notching eight steals and leading the series with six blocks.

Cedric Maxwell

Team: Boston Celtics

Year: 1981

Alongside Iguodala, Maxwell is the only nonactive NBA Finals MVP to not also be in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. He averaged 15 points during the 1981 regular season for the Larry Bird-led Celtics, but performed to a higher caliber in the Finals to help Boston to its first of three titles during the decade.

Maxwell upped his statistical output across the six-game series, most notably leading all Celtics players in scoring, averaging 17.7 points. The forward was instrumental in helping Boston close out the series, scoring 28 points in the tiebreaking Game 5 as well as chipping in 19 points in the decisive Game 6.

Magic Johnson

Team: Los Angeles Lakers

Year: 1980

It might seem ridiculous to put Johnson, one of the best point guards to play the game, on a list of unexpected Finals MVPs, but he was only a rookie entering the Lakers 1980 title run.

Perennial All-NBA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had been a dominant force for Los Angeles throughout the regular season, with Jamaal Wilkes adding 20 points per game as well. While Abdul-Jabbar was excellent throughout the Lakers’ championship series win over the Philadelphia 76ers, it was the rookie who stole the show. Johnson averaged 8.7 assists across the six-game series and dropped 42 points to clinch the title for Los Angeles in Game 6.

Wes Unseld

Team: Washington Bullets

Year: 1978

A five-time All-Star and 1969 MVP winner, Unseld’s most dominant years were behind him entering his 10th NBA season. The veteran center was a reliable presence for the Bullets throughout the campaign though, averaging 7.6 points and nearly 12 rebounds per game.

Unseld didn’t slow down on the biggest stage either — he averaged 9 points and 11.7 rebounds over the course of a back-and-forth seven-game series, helping to lead Washington to the franchise’s only title.

Source : ESPN