Ranking the top 74 individual seasons in NBA history (2024)

  • ESPN.com

May 4, 2020, 07:00 AM ET

When the NBA hands out its awards, it keeps the regular season separate from the postseason, issuing one MVP for the first 82 games and a second for the final four to seven (depending on how long it takes for the champion to finish off its last opponent). There's no award at all that combines the two, nor one that accounts for outstanding performances in the early rounds of the playoffs.

So with that in mind, we asked ESPN's Kevin Pelton to use his "championships added" formula to rank the top 74 individual seasons in NBA history, inclusive of all games from opening night through the end of the playoffs.

The methodology:

To rank the best individual seasons, I started with the framework of my championships added method, which uses Basketball-Reference's win shares to estimate how much a player's production in both the regular season and the playoffs helped his team's chances of winning a title.

The championships added model also translates awards (MVP voting, All-NBA and All-Star appearances) based on the chances of a team with a player who receives them winning the title. Our season rating takes the average of a player's regular season and award championships added and combines it with playoff championships added that year.

To that, we've added a pair of bonuses: Finals MVPs get an additional .033 championships added, based on how much MVPs tend to overperform their total playoff performance in the Finals; and all players whose teams win the title get a .05 bonus.

-- Pelton

With the NBA in limbo in the midst of its 74th season, we present the 74 greatest individual seasons ever.

74. Bill Russell

  • 1963-64 Boston Celtics

  • Regular season: 15.0 PPG, 23.7 RPG | Playoffs: 13.1 PPG, 27.2 RPG

The Celtics had the league's worst offense, yet they won the title. How? Because Russell alone made the Celtics into the league's best defense by a mile. -- Tim Bontemps

73. Kobe Bryant

  • 2007-08 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Regular season: 28.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG | Playoffs: 30.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG

Bryant's lone MVP season ended on a sour note, with Kobe shooting poorly, and the team losing in the NBA Finals to the Celtics. -- Chris Herring

72. Wilt Chamberlain

  • 1965-66 Philadelphia 76ers

  • Regular season: 33.5 PPG, 24.6 RPG | Playoffs: 28.0 PPG, 30.2 RPG

In his first full season back in Philadelphia, Chamberlain led the league in scoring (33.5 points per game) for the seventh and final time. -- Bontemps

71. Paul Arizin

  • 1955-56 Philadelphia Warriors

  • Regular season: 24.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG | Playoffs: 28.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG

"Pitchin' Paul" powered the Warriors to their second Philadelphia-era title, leading all scorers with 28.9 PPG during the playoff run. -- Kevin Pelton

70. Jerry West

  • 1965-66 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Regular season: 31.3 PPG, 86.0 FT% | Playoffs: 34.2 PPG, 87.2 FT%

West's lone appearance came behind a career-high 31.3 PPG. The Lakers took the Celtics the distance with West averaging 33.9 PPG in the Finals. -- Pelton

69. Michael Jordan

  • 1989-90 Chicago Bulls

  • Regular season: 33.6 PPG, 2.8 SPG | Playoffs: 36.7 PPG, 2.8 SPG

Jordan led the league in scoring and steals in the last full season he played for the Bulls that didn't finish with a championship parade in Chicago. -- Tim MacMahon

68. Willis Reed

  • 1969-70 New York Knicks

  • Regular season: 21.7 PPG, 13.9 RPG | Playoffs: 23.7 PPG, 13.8 RPG

Reed famously played through a torn thigh muscle in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and won All-Star MVP, regular-season MVP and Finals MVP. -- Herring

67. Cliff Hagan

  • 1957-58 St. Louis Hawks

  • Regular season: 19.9 PPG, 10.1 RPG | Playoffs: 27.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG

Hagan led all players in postseason scoring (27.7 PPG) and shooting (50%) as the Hawks handed the Celtics their only Finals defeat in the Russell era. -- Pelton

66. Bill Russell

  • 1960-61 Boston Celtics

  • Regular season: 16.9 PPG, 23.9 RPG | Playoffs: 19.1 PPG, 29.9 RPG

In his fourth championship season in five years, Russell racked up 30 points and 38 boards in the clincher vs. St. Louis. -- Dave McMenamin

65. Giannis Antetokounmpo

  • 2018-19 Milwaukee Bucks

  • Regular season: 27.7 PPG, 64.4 TS% | Playoffs: 25.5 PPG, 57.0 TS%

Antetokounmpo officially broke through in 2019, winning his first MVP award after averaging 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. -- Bontemps

64. Kobe Bryant

  • 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Regular season: 28.5 PPG, 8.2 FTA | Playoffs: 29.4 PPG, 9.4 FTA

At age 22, Bryant tested his offensive freedom in the triangle, averaging 22 field goal attempts per game to Shaquille O'Neal's 19 attempts. -- McMenamin

63. Kawhi Leonard

  • 2018-19 Toronto Raptors

  • Regular season: 26.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG | Playoffs: 30.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG

Leonard led the Raptors to their first title in his only Toronto season, along the way hitting one of the most incredible shots in league history. -- Bontemps

62. Charles Barkley

  • 1992-93 Phoenix Suns

  • Regular season: 25.6 PPG, 12.2 RPG | Playoffs: 26.6 PPG, 13.6 RPG

Barkley's Suns won 62 games and went to the Finals, and he remains the only player to lead the league in techs (32) in an MVP season. -- Herring

61. James Harden

  • 2017-18 Houston Rockets

  • Regular season: 30.4 PPG, 10.1 FTA | Playoffs: 28.6 PPG, 7.8 FTA

Jordan is the only other player to average at least 30 points and eight assists per game with a true shooting percentage higher than .600. -- MacMahon

60. Michael Jordan

  • 1988-89 Chicago Bulls

  • Regular season: 32.5 PPG, 8.0 APG | Playoffs: 34.6 PPG, 7.6 APG

After hearing he might not be enough of a team player, Jordan logged the best assist average of his career while also winning the NBA scoring crown. -- Herring

59. Michael Jordan

Jordan was the first player to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. Hakeem Olajuwon became the second in 1994. -- Herring

58. Derrick Rose

  • 2010-11 Chicago Bulls

  • Regular season: 25.0 PPG, 7.7 APG | Playoffs: 27.1 PPG, 7.7 APG

"Why can't I be MVP of the league?" Rose asked. Seven months later, he hoisted the MVP trophy. He is still the youngest winner in NBA history (age 22). -- Herring

57. Kevin Durant

  • 2011-12 Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Regular season: 28.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG | Playoffs: 28.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG

At 23, Durant was already a challenger for "Best Player in the World" -- a contest he and LeBron James played out in the 2012 Finals. -- Royce Young

56. Dwyane Wade

  • 2005-06 Miami Heat

  • Regular season: 27.2. PPG, 10.7 FTA | Playoffs: 28.4 PPG, 10.9 FTA

Supplanting Shaq as Miami's go-to player, Wade won Finals MVP for what my ESPN predecessor John Hollinger once ranked as the best post-merger Finals performance. -- Pelton

55. Kevin Durant

  • 2017-18 Golden State Warriors

  • Regular season: 26.4 PPG, 88.9 FT% | Playoffs: 29.0 PPG, 90.1 FT%

Durant followed up his first championship and Finals MVP award with a brilliant encore in 2018, repeating on both counts. -- Bontemps

54. Shaquille O'Neal

  • 2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Regular season: 27.2 PPG, 57.9 FG% | Playoffs: 28.5 PPG, 52.9 FG%

O'Neal missed 15 games but still led the league in both PER and RPM while powering the Lakers to their third straight championship. -- Andre Snellings

53. Kevin Durant

  • 2016-17 Golden State Warriors

  • Regular season: 25.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG | Playoffs: 28.5 PPG, 7.9 PPG

Durant became a more complete player and won the Finals MVP trophy in his first season with the Warriors. -- Young

52. Kobe Bryant

  • 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Regular season: 26.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG | Playoffs: 30.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG

Bryant averaged a career-high 32.4 PPG in the Finals, leading the Lakers to their first title since Shaq's departure in his most complete season ever. -- Pelton

51. George Mikan

  • 1953-54 Minneapolis Lakers

  • Regular season: 18.1 PPG, 14.3 RPG | Playoffs: 19.4 PPG, 13.2 RPG

Mikan's last real dance saw him lead the NBA in playoff win shares as the Lakers won their fifth and final title in Minneapolis. -- Pelton

50. Bill Russell

  • 1959-60 Boston Celtics

  • Regular season: 18.2 PPG, 24.0 RPG | Playoffs: 18.5 PPG, 25.8 RPG

Russell posted the second-highest scoring average of his career with his best field goal percentage (.467) and most offensive win shares (4.9) en route to his third ring. -- MacMahon

49. Larry Bird

  • 1984-85 Boston Celtics

  • Regular season: 28.7 PPG, 58.5 TS% | Playoffs: 26.0 PPG, 53.0 TS%

In the second of Bird's three straight MVP seasons, he led the league in minutes and averaged 28.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists, though he couldn't lead Boston past the Lakers in the NBA Finals. -- Bontemps

48. Wilt Chamberlain

  • 1961-62 Philadelphia Warriors

  • Regular season: 50.4 PPG, 48.5 MPG | Playoffs: 35.0 PPG, 48.0 MPG

What was most impressive about Chamberlain's season? Achieving the greatest scoring season in history? His 100-point game? His sitting on the bench for a total of eight minutes that season? Yet his gaudy stats weren't enough to beat out Bill Russell, whose Celtics won 11 more games and eventually the NBA title, for MVP that season. -- Herring

47. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • 1976-77 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Regular season: 26.2 PPG, 57.9 FG% | Playoffs: 34.6 PPG, 60.7 FG%

Abdul-Jabbar led the Lakers to the league's best record, averaging 26.2 PPG on a then-career-best 57.9 FG% to earn his fifth MVP award. -- Snellings

46. Stephen Curry

  • 2016-17 Golden State Warriors

  • Regular season: 25.3 PPG, 41.1 3P% | Playoffs: 28.1 PPG, 41.9 3P%

While Durant's arrival cast a bit of a shadow over Curry, he showed during Golden State's title run that he was still a force, averaging 28.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.7 assists while shooting 41.9% from 3-point range. -- Bontemps

45. LeBron James

  • 2013-14 Miami Heat

  • Regular season: 27.1 PPG, 64.9 TS% | Playoffs: 27.4 PPG, 66.8 TS%

Coming off three straight NBA Finals appearances, James was still dominant (second in the league in win shares), as Miami made it to a fourth straight Finals before losing to the San Antonio Spurs. -- Bontemps

44. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • 1979-80 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Regular season: 24.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG | Playoffs: 31.9 PPG, 12.1 RPG

It was another MVP season for the Captain, but his most memorable moment came from his absence, when he missed Game 6 of the Finals with a sprained ankle as rookie Magic Johnson filled in at center. -- McMenamin

43. Dirk Nowitzki

  • 2005-06 Dallas Mavericks

  • Regular season: 26.6 PPG, 9.0 RPG | Playoffs: 27.0 PPG, 11.7 RPG

Nowitzki had arguably his two best playoff performances: a 37-point, 15-rebound outing in a Game 7 road win over the Spurs and a 50-point, 12-rebound night in a pivotal Game 5 win over Phoenix. -- MacMahon

42. Wilt Chamberlain

  • 1959-60 Philadelphia Warriors

  • Regular season: 37.6 PPG, 27.0 RPG | Playoffs: 33.2 PPG, 25.8 RPG

Chamberlain led the league in scoring, rebounding and minutes as a rookie. It's the highest-scoring rookie season in NBA history by six points per game. -- MacMahon

41. Bob Pettit

  • 1958-59 St. Louis Hawks

  • Regular season: 29.2 PPG, 16.4 RPG | Playoffs: 27.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG

The best season of Pettit's Hall of Fame career saw him average a league-leading 29.2 PPG, while his 44% shooting ranked third among top-10 scorers. -- Pelton

40. Wilt Chamberlain

  • 1967-68 Philadelphia 76ers

  • Regular season: 24.3 PPG, 23.8 RPG | Playoffs: 23.7 PPG, 24.7 RPG

After winning his first title the season before, Chamberlain averaged 24.3 points and 23.8 rebounds before once again losing to the Celtics in heartbreaking fashion in seven games. -- Bontemps

39. George Mikan

The league wasn't awarding MVP yet, but Mikan, the face of the NBA, certainly would have been in consideration. The 6-10 center also shot 78% from the free throw line in the regular season before being knocked out in the second round by Rochester. -- McMenamin

38. Tim Duncan

  • 1998-99 San Antonio Spurs

  • Regular season: 21.7 PPG, 11.4 RPG | Playoffs: 23.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG

Go ahead and argue that the Spurs' title deserves an asterisk due to the lockout-shortened season. It's still awfully impressive that a 23-year-old Duncan averaged 27.4 points, 14.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks as the Spurs dismissed the Knicks in five games in the Finals. -- MacMahon

37. Bill Russell

  • 1962-63 Boston Celtics

  • Regular season: 24.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG | Playoffs: 24.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG

An MVP for the third season in a row, Russell anchored a defense that led the Celtics to 58 wins with the league's worst estimated offensive rating. Boston's playoffs were atypically bumpy but resulted in a fifth consecutive title. -- Pelton

36. Stephen Curry

  • 2015-16 Golden State Warriors

  • Regular season: 30.1 PPG, 5.1 3PM | Playoffs: 25.1 PPG, 4.4 3PM

That the 72-win Warriors eventually lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals has diminished Curry's brilliance that season, the first and only time in NBA history a player has been unanimously named the league's MVP. Curry made 402 3-pointers. Until last season, no one else had ever even made 300. -- Bontemps

35. Shaquille O'Neal

  • 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Regular season: 28.7 PPG, 12.7 RPG | Playoffs: 30.4 PPG, 15.4 RPG

The Lakers cruised to the league's second-best record with O'Neal leading the NBA in PER and finishing second in RPM. He and the Lakers lost only a single game in a dominant championship run that landed O'Neal his second straight Finals MVP. -- Snellings

34. LeBron James

  • 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Regular season: 27.5 PPG, 9.1 APG | Playoffs: 34.0 PPG, 9.0 APG

Not only did James play all 82 games in his 15th NBA season, but he dragged a broken-down Cavaliers team to a fourth straight NBA Finals with a series of Herculean performances in one of the greatest accomplishments of his career. -- Bontemps

33. LeBron James

  • 2009-10 Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Regular season: 29.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG | Playoffs: 29.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG

The Cavaliers won 61 games to earn the top overall seed. James led the NBA in both box score-based PER and impact-based RPM to win his second consecutive MVP award, but the Cavs were upset in the playoffs by the Celtics. -- Snellings

32. Kevin Garnett

  • 2003-04 Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Regular season: 24.2 PPG, 13.9 RPG | Playoffs: 24.3 PPG, 14.6 RPG

Garnett led the Wolves in points, boards, steals and blocks in his 2003-04 MVP season. He also averaged five assists per game and finished second in the NBA in defensive win shares. His dominance wasn't enough to get Minnesota past Shaq and Kobe in the conference finals in 2004, but it was enough to keep the series interesting. -- Herring

31. Hakeem Olajuwon

  • 1993-94 Houston Rockets

  • Regular season: 27.3 PPG, 3.7 BPG | Playoffs: 28.9 PPG, 4.0 BPG

Olajuwon remains the only player in NBA history to sweep the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP awards in the same season. He carried the Rockets back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Suns in the West semifinals -- when the infamous "Choke City" headline ran in the Houston Chronicle -- and capped the franchise's first title run by dominating Patrick Ewing in the Finals. -- MacMahon

30. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • 1971-72 Milwaukee Bucks

  • Regular season: 34.8 PPG, 16.6 RPG | Playoffs: 28.7 PPG, 18.2 RPG

A year after leading the Bucks to the title, Abdul-Jabbar was even more spectacular during the regular season, averaging a career-high 34.8 PPG while repeating as MVP. He averaged 33.7 points in a six-game West finals loss to the Lakers but was limited to 46% shooting playing against the 35-year-old Chamberlain. -- Pelton

29. Kevin Durant

  • 2013-14 Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Regular season: 32.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG | Playoffs: 29.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG

Before the 2013-14 season, Kevin "I'm tired of being second" Durant set the goal to win the MVP. With Russell Westbrook recovering from offseason knee surgery, Durant took hold of the opportunity. It featured the "Slim Reaper" era, a two-month offensive tear that crescendoed with Durant outplaying James in a showdown in Miami. Durant won his fourth scoring title, got his MVP and capped it with an all-time speech. -- Young

28. Larry Bird

  • 1983-84 Boston Celtics

  • Regular season: 24.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG | Playoffs: 27.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG

Bird posted then-career highs with 24.2 PPG and 6.6 APG to lead the Celtics to 62 wins and earned his first MVP award. Bird then stepped up in the playoffs with career-best marks of 27.5 PPG on 52.4 FG% en route to his first Finals MVP and a Celtics championship. -- Snellings

27. LeBron James

  • 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Regular season: 25.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG | Playoffs: 26.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG

James cemented his legacy with his incredible performance against the 72-win Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. He scored more than 40 points in Games 5 and 6 before putting up a triple-double -- not to mention "The Block" -- to lead Cleveland back from a 3-1 deficit to win the city's first title in a half-century. -- Bontemps

26. Michael Jordan

  • 1992-93 Chicago Bulls

  • Regular season: 32.6 PPG, 2.8 SPG | Playoffs: 35.1 PPG, 6.0 APG

Jordan may not have won the MVP award this season, but he was still at the peak of his powers. He averaged 32.6 points -- the most he averaged in any of Chicago's six title seasons -- and led the league in steals for the third time in his career. The Bulls then survived wars with the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns in the playoffs to win their third title in a row. -- Bontemps

25. Julius Erving

  • 1975-76 New York Nets

  • Regular season: 29.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG | Playoffs: 34.7 PPG, 12.6 RPG

The only ABA season to crack this list saw Erving win MVP of both the regular season and the playoffs (the ABA's award) as his Nets claimed the final title before the league's merger with the NBA. Oh, and he also won the inaugural dunk contest during the All-Star Game. -- Pelton

24. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • 1973-74 Milwaukee Bucks

  • Regular season: 27.0 PPG, 14.5 RPG | Playoffs: 32.2 PPG, 15.8 RPG

This was the first season that Abdul-Jabbar averaged at least 27 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks per game. He remains the only player in NBA history to have done so, accomplishing it in three straight seasons. Abdul-Jabbar's averages in the seven-game Finals loss to the Celtics: 32.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.1 blocks. -- MacMahon

23. LeBron James

  • 2016-17 Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Regular season: 26.4 PPG, 8.7 APG | Playoffs: 32.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG

James led the league with 37.8 minutes per game as a 32-year-old. He lost in the Finals to the Golden State Warriors in Kevin Durant's first year with the team in a five-game series that was closer than 4-1 would suggest. -- McMenamin

22. George Mikan

  • 1949-50 Minneapolis Lakers

  • Regular season: 27.4 PPG, 10.7 FTA | Playoffs: 31.3 PPG, 14.2 FTA

Mikan's dominance is obscured by the fact that the NBA didn't have an MVP award at the beginning of his NBA career. Had there been, he likely would have won it in 1950, when he led the league in both points per game and defensive win shares and won a title. -- Herring

21. Michael Jordan

  • 1996-97 Chicago Bulls

  • Regular season: 29.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG | Playoffs: 31.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG

It didn't have the welcome-back gusto of the season that preceded it or the "last dance" drama of the season that followed it, but all Jordan did in 1996-97 was lead the Bulls to 69 wins and stake claim to his ninth scoring title on his way to his fifth ring (and accompanying fifth Finals MVP). -- McMenamin

20. Bill Russell

  • 1961-62 Boston Celtics

  • Regular season: 18.9 PPG, 23.6 RPG | Playoffs: 22.4 PPG, 26.4 RPG

The Celtics won 60 games and the top playoff seed, with Russell notching the highest-scoring season of his career. The team had the best defensive rating in the league by 6.5 points per 100 possessions over second place, larger than the margin between second and last. Russell also posted his highest postseason scoring average, necessary to lead the Celtics through two seven-game series for their fourth straight championship. -- Snellings

19. Oscar Robertson

  • 1963-64 Cincinnati Royals

  • Regular season: 31.4 PPG, 11.0 APG | Playoffs: 29.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG

During Chamberlain's best season by win shares, a season in which Russell's Celtics won 59 games, it was the Big O who won his only MVP by falling just a handful of rebounds short of averaging a triple-double for the second time. As compared to his triple-double 1961-62 campaign, Robertson was a bit more efficient and his team -- which lost to Boston in the East finals -- was more competitive. -- Pelton

18. Stephen Curry

  • 2014-15 Golden State Warriors

  • Regular season: 23.8 PPG, 44.3 3P% | Playoffs: 28.3 PPG, 42.2 3P%

The arrival of Steve Kerr coincided with Curry exploding into a human supernova in the 2014-15 season, winning the first of two straight MVP awards and leading Golden State to the first of five straight NBA Finals appearances -- and winning the first of the franchise's three titles. -- Bontemps

17. Michael Jordan

  • 1991-92 Chicago Bulls

  • Regular season: 30.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG | Playoffs: 34.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG

The Bulls had their most dominant season to that point with 67 wins, the best record in the NBA by 10 games. Jordan won his seventh straight scoring title and second straight MVP, his third overall. Jordan upped his production in the Finals, averaging 35.8 PPG on 52.6 FG% against the Trail Blazers in a series that included the famous shrug when he knocked down six 3-pointers in Game 1. -- Snellings

16. Bill Russell

  • 1964-65 Boston Celtics

  • Regular season: 18.9 PPG, 23.6 RPG | Playoffs: 22.4 PPG, 26.4 RPG

Russell and the Celtics were cruising at their peaks in 1965. The Celtics had the best record in the NBA by a whopping 13 games over the second-place Lakers, with the top defense in the league that was 7.6 points per 100 possessions better than the second best, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Russell won his fifth rebounding title and fifth MVP, and the Celtics won their seventh straight championship. -- Snellings

15. Magic Johnson

  • 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Regular season: 23.9 PPG, 12.2 APG | Playoffs: 21.8 PPG, 12.2 APG

A 27-year-old Johnson was a force, scoring a career-best 23.9 points per game, leading the league in assists with 12.2 per game and earning the fourth of his five rings. He started off the Finals with 29 points and 13 assists in Game 1, followed by 22 points and 20 dimes in Game 2 en route to the win and series MVP over Bird and the Celtics. -- McMenamin

14. Moses Malone

  • 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers

  • Regular season: 24.5 PPG, 15.3 RPG | Playoffs: 26.0 PPG, 15.8 RPG

Philadelphia's run to its last title in 1983 is most remembered for Malone's utterance that the Sixers were going to win in "Fo, Fo, Fo." They lost one game on their way to the title in one of the more dominant postseasons in history. Malone lived up to the hype after being acquired from Houston prior to the season, winning his second straight MVP award as he led the league in rebounding for a third of five straight seasons. -- Bontemps

13. Tim Duncan

  • 2002-03 San Antonio Spurs

  • Regular season: 23.9 PPG, 11.2 RPG | Playoffs: 24.7 PPG, 15.4 RPG

Duncan and David Robinson were co-stars during San Antonio's first title run four years earlier. The Spurs had clearly become Duncan's team by this championship season, the final year of Robinson's Hall of Fame career. Duncan put the finishing touches on this title run with one of the most dominant all-around performances ever in a Finals clincher, knocking out the Nets with a 21-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist, 8-block outing. -- MacMahon

12. Michael Jordan

  • 1997-98 Chicago Bulls

  • Regular season: 28.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG | Playoffs: 32.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG

Jordan played the first chunk of his final season in Chicago without Scottie Pippen, who missed the first 35 games of that campaign after having surgery on his left foot. Jordan put the team on his back, notching 40 or more points five times -- all wins -- before Pippen's return. And who could forget the storybook last shot of his Bulls career? The right-to-left crossover on Bryon Russell; the slight push-off; the rise and release; and the follow-through game winner for ring No. 6. -- Herring

11. Larry Bird

  • 1985-86 Boston Celtics

  • Regular season: 25.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG | Playoffs: 25.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG

Out of all the great Celtics teams, only one won more games than the 67 that Bird's C's did in 1985-86, and that 1972-73 team that won 68 didn't finish things off with a championship like Mr. Legend. It was the last of Bird's three straight MVP seasons, and he finished the string off in fashion with a Finals MVP, notching a triple-double in the clinching victory over Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson and the Rockets. -- McMenamin

10. Shaquille O'Neal

  • 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Regular season: 29.7 PPG, 57.4 FG% | Playoffs: 30.7 PPG, 56.6 FG%

It was the Most Dominant Ever's most dominant season. He filled up his awards shelf with the All-Star Game MVP, regular-season MVP and Finals MVP and captured the first of his four championships. He also took home the scoring title, averaging a career-best 29.7 points on 57.4% to go with 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3 blocks. He was just as effective in the postseason, averaging 30.7 points and 15.4 rebounds. Don't forget the 61 points against the Clippers in the regular season and going for 40-plus in three out of the six games against Indiana in the Finals. -- McMenamin

9. LeBron James

  • 2011-12 Miami Heat

  • Regular season: 27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG | Playoffs: 30.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG

In this lockout-shortened season, LeBron and the Heat looked to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 campaign. LeBron shouldered a heavier load for the Heat in his second season, leading the NBA in RPM and earning his third MVP award. He really stepped up in the playoffs, producing a historic Game 6 effort when down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals with 45 points on 73.1 FG%, 15 rebounds and 5 assists to lead the Cavs to the season-saving win. They would go on to win the championship, his first, with LeBron as the Finals MVP. -- Snellings

8. LeBron James

  • 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Regular season: 28.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG | Playoffs: 35.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG

Having teased his potential the previous two playoffs, James led the Cavaliers to the NBA's best record at 66-16 and won his first MVP. After sweeping the first two rounds, Cleveland was upset by Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals despite a historic series from James, who averaged 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists and hit the game-winning 3 at the buzzer of Game 2. LeBron's 37.4 PER was the highest ever in a playoff run of more than one series by nearly four points. -- Pelton

7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks

  • Regular season: 31.7 PPG, 16.0 RPG | Playoffs: 26.6 PPG, 17.0 RPG

The version of Abdul-Jabbar that most people remember is from the late stages of his career playing with Magic Johnson and the Lakers. But in his early days with the Milwaukee Bucks fresh out of UCLA, Abdul-Jabbar combined his skill and size with tremendous athleticism. Playing alongside Oscar Robertson, he and the Bucks wiped the floor with the rest of the NBA. He led the league in scoring while averaging 16 rebounds a night as he won his first of six MVP awards and led the Bucks to their first -- and only -- NBA title. -- Bontemps

6. George Mikan

  • 1948-49 Minneapolis Lakers

  • Regular season: 28.3 PPG, 41.6 FG% | Playoffs: 30.3 PPG, 45.4 FG%

This was Mikan's official rookie season -- he'd played in the NBL the previous two years -- and the final season of the Basketball Association of America, the precursor to the NBA. He instantly became the league's best player. Leading the Lakers to the first of their five championships in the six full seasons he played, Mikan led the league in scoring and his 20.9 win shares were nearly double those of Ed Sadowski (10.7) in second. He upped his scoring average to 30.3 points across 10 playoff games, as Minneapolis beat the Philadelphia Warriors, New York Knicks and Washington Capitols to win the final BAA title. -- Bontemps

5. Michael Jordan

  • 1990-91 Chicago Bulls

  • Regular season: 31.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG | Playoffs: 31.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG

During his 1991 playoff run, Michael Jordan did a sit-down interview with then-NBC analyst Pat Riley, who asked him whether he would view his career as disappointing if he never won a title. Jordan said he wouldn't. After all, he owned five scoring titles, two MVPs and a Defensive Player of the Year award by the age of 27. But he also rendered Riley's question moot shortly after, leading the Bulls to their first title. He'd proved to be the most dominant scorer in the league, but his playmaking in that Finals (11.4 assists per game) stands out even more than his 31 points per game. -- Herring

4. Wilt Chamberlain

  • 1963-64 San Francisco Warriors

  • Regular season: 36.9 PPG, 22.3 RPG | Playoffs: 34.7 PPG, 25.2 RPG

The highest-rated non-championship season saw Chamberlain post 25.6 win shares, the second most in NBA history. Chamberlain's 1963-64 season rated better than his higher-scoring 1961-62 and 1962-63 seasons due to his commitment to passing (his 5.0 assists per game were a career high at the time) and the Warriors were better at the defensive end of the court, ranking second behind the Celtics in Basketball-Reference.com's estimated defensive rating. San Francisco still lost to Boston in the Finals, but Chamberlain averaged 29.2 points and 27.6 rebounds in the series, shooting 52% from the field while his teammates shot just 35%. -- Pelton

3. LeBron James

Ranking the top 74 individual seasons in NBA history (1)play

LeBron, Heat repeat with Game 7 win over Spurs

On June 20, 2013, after a thrilling Game 6 win, the Heat finish off the Spurs with a 95-88 victory. LeBron James leads the way with 37 points and 12 rebounds in Miami's title defense.

  • 2012-13 Miami Heat

  • Regular season: 26.8 PPG, 40.6 3P% | Playoffs: 25.9 PPG, 37.5 3P%

The Heat posted their most dominant regular season during the Heatles era with 66 wins, the best record in the NBA by six games. LeBron had the most efficient shooting season of his career to that point, hitting 60.2% of his 2-point shots and 40.6% from downtown. He dominated the impact stats, lapping the league in real plus-minus (RPM), and earned a career-best 99.8% of the vote for his fourth MVP award. The Heat went on to win their second straight championship, with LeBron garnering his second consecutive Finals MVP. -- Snellings

2. Wilt Chamberlain

  • 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers

  • Regular season: 24.1 PPG, 68.3 FG% | Playoffs: 21.7 PPG, 57.9 FG%

While taking home the second of three straight MVP awards, Chamberlain averaged more rebounds (24.2) than points (24.1) in the regular season and upped his boards bounty to a wild 28.5 per game in the Sixers' six-game win over the San Francisco Warriors. The Finals MVP didn't exist yet or he probably would have taken it home. Philly won a then-record 68 games while "The Stilt" shot 68.3% from the field -- the second-best mark of his 14-year career. He also averaged 7.8 assists from the center position. -- McMenamin

1. Michael Jordan

  • 1995-96 Chicago Bulls

  • Regular season: 30.4 PPG, 42.7 3P% | Playoffs: 30.7 PPG, 40.3 3P%

The 1995-96 Bulls set an NBA record with 72 wins, still the most for a champion, so it's no surprise there were plenty of win shares for Jordan -- who received the highest vote share for MVP of anyone to that point. That award value puts Jordan's 1995-96 atop his many great seasons in these rankings even though the 1990-91 season rates as his best playoff run. It was an emotional season for Jordan, who proved he could still be the league's best player post-retirement and capped it by winning his first championship since the death of his father on Father's Day. -- Pelton

Ranking the top 74 individual seasons in NBA history (2024)
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