When it comes to team sports, there are plenty of things way out of your control. Winning an NBA Championship is not entirely up to one player, regardless of his greatness. Winning an MVP, however, is a whole different story.
The NBA season - and especially the playoffs - have a bunch of ebbs, flows, and intangibles that may not go your way. Injuries, poor officiating, bad luck or just playing the better team can put an end to your stellar campaign.
That's why all the great players in the world have been swept at least once in their careers, including the MVPs, as it just happened to Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. In the following paragraphs, we're going to let you know why it isn't such a big deal, as it has happened multiple times before.
Every NBA MVP That Was Swept In The Playoffs
Wes Unseld - 1969
MVP Stats: 13.8 PPG, 18.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 47.6% FG
Stage: Divisional Semifinals
Rival: New York Knicks
Wes Unseld is, besides Wilt Chamberlain, the only player in NBA history to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the very same season. Nonetheless, his first year with the Washington Bullets didn't exactly end as planned.
Despite his top-notch defense, never-ending energy, and ability to dominate both sides of the glass, Unseld couldn't prevent his team from being swept by the unstoppable Willis Reed-Walt Frazier tandem.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 1977
MVP Stats: 26.2 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 3.2 BPG, 57.9% FG
Stage: Conference Finals
Rival: Portland Trail Blazers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer and one of the most influential players on and off the court. But even he and his overpowered Los Angeles Lakers were swept in the playoffs once.
Kareem was coming off an MVP and potentially DPOY campaign with the purple-and-gold, and he was the leading scorer in 3 out of the 4 games of the series, yet his team couldn't overcome Bill Walton.
Moses Malone - 1979
MVP Stats: 24.8 PPG, 17.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 54.0% FG
Stage: First Round
Rival: Atlanta Hawks
Yeah, this is not a typo. Believe it or not, the Houston Rockets actually played in the Eastern Conference back in 1979. Back then, the first-round was just a best-of-five instead of best-of-seven, so it didn't take long before the Atlanta Hawks got the best of them.
Moses Malone was the NBA's leader in rebounds per game that season and it wasn't even close. He was a dominant force in the paint and an unstoppable scorer above and below the rim, but there wasn't much room for error in those kinds of series.
Magic Johnson - 1989
MVP Stats: 22.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 12.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 50.9% FG
Stage: NBA Finals
Rival: Detroit Pistons
Magic Johnson is considered by most as the greatest point guard of all time. He holds the highest assists-per-game average and was the league's finest entertainer, a guy that could play all five spots on the floor thanks to his height and court vision.
Nonetheless, the 1989 Detroit Pistons were just too strong, too physical, and too tough to be stopped. They annihilated Magic's Lakers, with Isiah Thomas running the point, Dennis Rodman anchoring the defense, and Joe Dumars torching their defense.
Nikola Jokic - 2021
MVP Stats: 26.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 8.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.3 3PG, 56.6% FG
Stage: Western Conference Semifinals
Rival: Phoenix Suns
Nikola Jokic was a top-3 MVP candidate since the start of the season and he never took his foot off the gas. He played all 72 games, was an aggressive scorer, improved as a defender, and proved to be the greatest passing big of all time.
Sadly, the Denver Nuggets couldn't overcome Jamal Murray's injury, and Jokic's supporting cast underperformed when it mattered the most. The Phoenix Suns were the better team from start to finish, and his MVP campaign ended with an ejection after a flagrant-two foul.