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League MVP’s Without Championship Rings

Posted by Andrew McKillop on June 5, 2011

One of the storylines in this year’s NBA Finals, is Dirk Nowitzki’s quest for a championship ring.  Making it to the NBA Finals is no easy task, and with Nowitzki in his 13th season, this might be his last chance for a championship.  Nowitzki is one of 56 former MVP’s in the “big four” professional sports leagues to not have won a league championship.  LeBron James, another former NBA MVP is also going for his first title in this year’s NBA Finals.  Charles Barkley and Karl Malone are the only officially retired NBA MVP’s to never win a title.

Note: Major League Baseball doesn’t give out a singular MVP award, instead giving the award to a player in both the AL and NL.  Thus I broke down the award by league.  Meaning the baseball MVP’s listed below, never won a league pennant, and championship appearances constituted appearances in the League Championship Series round.

Legend: Primary (team that the player is most closely associated with), MVP (# of MVP awards won), Yrs (career length), CA (championship game appearances), CA & Exp (career year in which championship game appearance occurred).

Award Selectors: NBA (Recipient of the Podoloff Trophy), NFL (Associated Press), NHL (Recipient of the Hart Trophy), AL/NL (Chalmers Award: 1911-14, League Awards: 1922-29, BBWAA: 1931-)

Player Lge Primary MVP Yrs CA CA & Exp
Allen Iverson NBA 76ers 1 14 1 5 (PHI)
Charles Barkley NBA 76ers 1 16 1 9 (PHO)
Derrick Rose * NBA Bulls 1 3 0
Dirk Nowitzki * NBA Mavericks 1 13 2 8,13 (DAL)
Karl Malone NBA Jazz 2 19 3 12,13 (UTA), 19 (LAL)
LeBron James * NBA Cavaliers 2 8 2 4 (CLE), 8 (MIA)
Steve Nash * NBA Suns 2 15 0
Player Lge Primary MVP Yrs CA CA & Exp
Alan Page NFL Vikings 1 15 3 7,8,10 (MIN)
Barry Sanders NFL Lions 1 10 0
Bert Jones NFL Colts 1 10 0
Boomer Esiason NFL Bengals 1 14 1 5 (CIN)
Brian Sipe NFL Browns 1 10 0
Dan Marino NFL Dolphins 1 17 1 2 (MIA)
Earl Campbell NFL Oilers 1 8 0
Fran Tarkenton NFL Vikings 1 18 3 13,14,16 (MIN)
John Brodie NFL 49ers 1 17 0
Ken Anderson NFL Bengals 1 16 1 11 (CIN)
LaDainian Tomlinson * NFL Chargers 1 10 0
Larry Brown NFL Redskins 1 8 1 4 (WAS)
O.J. Simpson NFL Bills 1 10 0
Rich Gannon NFL Raiders 1 17 1 15 (OAK)
Roman Gabriel NFL Rams 1 16 0
Shaun Alexander NFL Seahawks 1 9 1 6 (SEA)
Steve McNair NFL Titans 1 13 1 5 (TEN)
Thurman Thomas NFL Bills 1 13 4 3,4,5,6 (BUF)
Y.A. Tittle NFL Giants 1 15 3 12,13,14 (NYG)
Player Lge Primary MVP Yrs CA CA & Exp
Alex Ovechkin * NHL Capitals 2 6 0
Billy Burch NHL Americans 1 11 0
Chuck Rayner NHL Rangers 1 10 1 7 (NYR)
Eric Lindros NHL Flyers 1 13 1 5 (PHI)
Henrik Sedin * NHL Canucks 1 10 1 10 (VAN)
Herb Gardiner NHL Canadiens 1 3 0
Joe Thornton * NHL Bruins 1 13 0
Jose Theodore * NHL Canadiens 1 14 0
Tom Anderson NHL Americans 1 8 0
Player Lge Primary MVP Yrs CA CA & Exp
Dick Allen AL Phillies ¹ 1 15 1 14 (PHI)
Don Mattingly AL Yankees 1 14 0
George Bell AL Blue Jays 1 12 2 4,8 (TOR)
George Sisler AL Browns 1 15 0
Ichiro Suzuki * AL Mariners 1 11 1 R (SEA)
Jeff Burroughs AL Rangers 1 16 1 16 (TOR)
Joe Mauer * AL Twins 1 8 0
Juan Gonzalez AL Rangers 2 17 0
Justin Morneau * AL Twins 1 9 0
Ken Griffey Jr. AL Mariners 1 22 1 7 (SEA)
Miguel Tejada * AL Athletics 1 15 0
Mo Vaughn AL Red Sox 1 12 0
Rod Carew AL Twins 1 19 4 3,4,13,16 (MIN)
Player Lge Primary MVP Yrs CA CA & Exp
Andre Dawson NL Expos 1 21 2 6 (MON), 14 (CHC)
Dale Murphy NL Braves 2 18 1 7 (ATL)
Ernie Banks NL Cubs 2 19 0
Hank Sauer NL Cubs 1 15 0
Joe Torre NL Cardinals 1 18 0
Joey Votto * NL Reds 1 5 0
Ryne Sandberg NL Cubs 1 16 2 4,9 (CHC)
Sammy Sosa NL Cubs 1 18 1 15 (CHC)

* Still Active
¹ Dick Allen won the AL MVP with the White Sox in 1972, but spent most of his career with the NL Philadelphia Phillies.

Over 16% of the MVP selections in the “big four” sports have never won a league championship.  Checkout the chart below for a more in-depth look.

Of the 56 MVP selections that have never won a league championship, a little under half of them (48%) never even made a championship game appearance.  Former MVP’s Rod Carew and Thurman Thomas made the most championship appearances (4) without winning a title.

Some interesting notes on individual players:

  • Alan Page and O.J. Simpson may not have won a championship in the NFL, but they at least won a national championship while attending Notre Dame and USC respectively.
  • Both Earl Campbell and Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy and the NFL MVP award, however never won a national championship or an NFL title.
  • Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and LeBron James can at least claim an Olympic gold medal, even if they can’t claim an NBA championship.
  • Eric Lindros, Henrik Sedin, and Joe Thorton can’t claim a Stanley Cup championship, but they have won gold medals at the Olympics.
  • Ichiro Suzuki hasn’t been part of a pennant winning team, but he did win the World Baseball Classic with Team Japan in 2006, and 2009.
  • Former NL MVP Joe Torre may have never won a pennant as a player, but as a manager he won six of them with the New York Yankees.
  • Surprisingly former AL MVP Don Mattingly never won a pennant.  It’s surprising because he played for the New York Yankees.  One of the most successful sports franchises ever.  The year after Mattingly retired (1995) the Yankees won the World Series.

Reference: (BB, BK, FB, HK), (BB, BK, HK)


4 Responses to “League MVP’s Without Championship Rings”

  1. Tex Noel said

    FYI>>>Dick Allen, AL, Phillies…(PHI); Phillies are a national league team.

    Good work as always; interesting to see a player as an indvidual was aclaimed the best–for a resepective year–but his teammates never produced a winner.

    • Andrew McKillop said

      Thanks Tex for the FYI. Dick Allen spent most of his career with the Phillies, but won the AL MVP with the White Sox in 1972. That is why he is listed with the AL, despite being primarily associated with a NL team.

      I made a notation in the article better explaining the listing.

  2. Matt Seale said

    Why is Joey Votto on this list but not Josh Hamilton? They won the MVP in the same year. Please give Josh his credit.

    Other than that this is a very interesting list.

    • Andrew McKillop said

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article.


      Because pro baseball is technically a two league system, a league pennant was considered a “league championship” for the purpose of this article. Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers won the ALCS last year, so it’s why he is off the list.

      Major League Baseball as a whole has twice as many MVP’s as the other professional leagues, which is the main reason why I broke it down by actual league.

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