NBA Players With The Least Amount Of Games Played To Win The MVP Award: Karl Malone Won The 1999 MVP With Only 49 Games

The NBA MVP has been awarded to the best player in the league since its inception. Karl Malone won it with 49 games, while LeBron James took home this award five times by playing 82 games or more on his way to six MVPs overall.

Karl Malone won the NBA MVP in 1999, with only 49 games played. The “oldest mvp nba” is a list of players who have won the MVP award for their respective league before playing 50 games.


The Most Valuable Player Award is one of the most prestigious awards a player can get. Because only one player is picked for this honor each season, becoming the MVP of an NBA team entire season is a tough task. Individual performance, productivity, and victory are all necessary to bring a player over the hump and win the coveted honor. Of course, superstar players must play for the most of the season and perform at an exceptional level in order to be eligible for the most prestigious individual award.

Every year since 1955, the MVP Award has been given to the finest single-player throughout the regular season. Although there are occasional disagreements, the MVP award is usually given to both the greatest player in the league and the player who contributed the most to his club that year. However, it is unusual for an MVP award winner to not participate in a large number of games in order to earn the award, with the most recent MVP winners playing in approximately 70 games. However, there have been some outliers, and playing in lockout-shortened seasons may have had something to do with it. The 13 MVP award winners with the fewest number of games played in NBA history are listed below.

T10 – 72 Games – James Harden (2017-18)


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That Season’s Total Games: 82

Three years ago, the Beard was MVP, and he could have earned it again a year later. He has a legitimate argument based on his influence, productivity, and stats with the Houston Rockets. Harden totally dominated the NBA in 2018, and no one could stop him no matter who was guarding him. Harden was the league’s most dominating player, averaging 30.4 points per game (league-leading), 5.4 rebounds per game, and 8.8 assists per game.

It was no easy assignment for The Beard, who helped the Rockets win the West’s top seed ahead of the powerhouse Golden State Warriors, to play 72 games at this high level. Despite the fact that Harden got aid from Chris Paul and Clint Capela, it was the shooting guard’s performance that helped Houston to a 65-17 record.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (T10) – 72 Games (2018-19)


That Season’s Total Games: 82

Giannis has been on a collision course with becoming the greatest player in the world since his successful 2019 NBA season. He probably utilized this prize to establish himself as the league’s most dominating player, as he went on to win his second consecutive MVP title the following season. To earn the prize, the Greek Freak did not need to play 80 games since he was so dominating in 2019.

For the Milwaukee Bucks, he averaged 27.7 points per game, 12.5 rebounds per game, and 5.9 assists per game. The Bucks ended with the best record in the league and had a good postseason run thanks to Giannis’ efforts. Luckily for Giannis, a number of other MVP winners also had to play 72 games to win the honor.

Wilt Chamberlain (T10) – 72 Games (1959-60)



That Season’s Total Games: 75 (Standard games played during the season)

Wilt Chamberlain, the greatest stat-sheet stuffer in NBA history, averaged 37.6 points per game and 27.0 rebounds per game in his debut season, winning Rookie of the Year and MVP. Wilt just controlled the game, destroying opponents with his amazing strength.

His statistical averages, of course, were monstrous, and he would go on to have the best career ever on paper. Wilt will never be replaced, and because to his domination on both ends of the court, he was able to win three more MVP honors. We haven’t seen a player like him since, despite the fact that he only played 72 games out of 79 in 1960.

Bob Pettit (T10) – 72 Games (1955-56)


That Season’s Total Games: 72 (Standard games played during the season)

As a member of the St. Louis Hawks, Pettit earned the first-ever MVP Award. Pettit was a beast, scoring 25.7 points per game and 16.2 rebounds per game while shooting 42.9 percent from the floor. The renowned power forward was the rightful MVP, and his statistics indicate that he had little competition.

There were only 72 games in the season, and Pettit was good enough to lead the Hawks to the Western Conference Division title, but they were unable to advance to the NBA Finals due to the Fort Wayne Pistons. Despite this, Pettit started every game and was named MVP. He’d do it again after three seasons.

Bob Pettit (T10) – 72 Games (1958-59)


That Season’s Total Games: 72 (Standard games played during the season)

In his second MVP season, the superstar power forward averaged 29.2 points per game, 16.4 rebounds per game, and 3.1 assists per game on 43.8 percent shooting. There were only 72 games in the whole season, and Pettit played every one of them, averaging 39.9 yards per carry.

Pettit led the St. Louis Hawks to a 49-23 record, which was good enough for second place in the league behind the powerhouse Boston Celtics, with just eight teams in the league. Of course, the Celtics would win the championship (their first of eight) by beating the Lakers in the Finals. Pettit would have faced Bill Russell and the Celtics in the Finals if it hadn’t been for Elgin Baylor and the Lakers.

Nikola Jokic (T10) – 72 Games (2020-21)


That Season’s Total Games: 72 (Covid-shortened season)

Nikola Jokic played 72 games out of a total of 72 throughout the season, despite the fact that it was a covid-shortened season. With Jamal Murray’s late absence, the center averaged 26.4 points per game, 10.8 rebounds per game, 8.3 assists per game, 1.3 steals per game, and 0.7 blocks per game for the Denver Nuggets. The Serbians, of course, came through in a huge manner.

The Nuggets ended with a 47-25 record, which placed them second in the Northwest Division and tied for third in the league. Only the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns had a better record, but there was no denying that Jokic was the league’s most dominating player, and he has a chance to win the MVP award again in 2022.

Allen Iverson has 71 games under his belt (2000-01)


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That Season’s Total Games: 82

Iverson’s MVP season was legendary, as he was tasked with carrying a Sixers team through the whole season. Iverson was just unguardable, and he took use of his speed and agility to beat opponents off the dribble. Iverson is perhaps the greatest player of all time, and he was at his peak during his MVP season.

Iverson led the Philadelphia 76ers win the Eastern Conference by averaging 31.1 points per game (league-leading), 3.8 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game, and 2.5 steals per game (league-leading). Thus, “The Answer’s” 71 games played were more than enough for him to win MVP that year.

Bill Russell has 69 games under his belt (1957-58)


That Season’s Total Games: 72 (Standard games played during the season)

Russell earned five MVP Awards as a result of his defensive domination, constant rebounding, and one-of-a-kind leadership as an 11-time NBA champion. Russell was the undisputed leader of his era’s elite Celtics squad, and he will go down in NBA history as the greatest champion. The big man’s MVP awards attest to it, but his season in 1958 may have been the most disappointing of his career.

Russell topped the league in rebounding, with 16.6 points per game and 22.7 rebounds per game. The “problem” was that the center “only” played 69 games out of 72, and he wound up losing in the Finals to the St. Louis Hawks (his lone defeat in 12 Finals appearances). Bill Russell, on the other hand, was just in his second season, and his first MVP season would start off a dominating career.

5. 64 Games – Bob Cousy (1956-57)


That Season’s Total Games: 72 (Standard games played during the season)

Cousy was the first perimeter player to receive the award, and he was a member of a dominating Celtics squad that won numerous NBA championships. Cousy was the greatest player on the best team for a Celtics team that concluded the season with a 44-28 record as the point guard and team captain (number one in the league).

For Boston, the great point guard averaged 20.6 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, and 7.5 assists per game. Cousy was the league’s first dominating guard, and his first MVP award would prove crucial as he led the Celtics to their first NBA title.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo has 63 games under his belt (2019-20)


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That Season’s Total Games: 72 (Covid-shortened season)

Giannis Antetokounmpo was the greatest player in the world during a covid-shortened season. In a terrific all-around season, he averaged 29.5 points per game, 13.6 rebounds per game, 5.6 assists per game, 1.0 steals per game, and 1.0 blocks per game. As a superstar forward, he also won Defensive Player of the Year, which is an incredible accomplishment for a 25-year-old. For the second year in a row, the Bucks would have the best record in the league.

Because of the late start, the coronavirus would generate a lot of fear around the league, there would only be 72 games throughout the season. Despite this, Giannis played in 63 games, missing just 9 in total. This was not used against Giannis for the MVP award since he was the best player on the greatest team.

LeBron James is third with 62 games (2011-12)


That Season’s Total Games: 66 (Lockout-shortened season)

In a season cut short by the lockout, LeBron James took advantage of the additional rest by dominating the league in spectacular way. After failing to reach the Finals the previous season, James returned with a fury, averaging 27.1 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, and 6.2 assists per game while placing fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

James proved to be the most dominating player in the world with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by his side, and he would continue this level of performance until the playoffs. This may be The King’s most crucial season because he finally figured out how to shut out the noise and dominate the game, and he did it by winning his first NBA championship.

Bill Walton has 58 games under his belt (1977-78)


That Season’s Total Games: 82

It’s incredible that Bill Walton was able to win the MVP award despite only appearing in 58 games out of 82. In his limited court time, the center averaged 18.9 points per game, 13.2 rebounds per game, 5.0 assists per game, 1.0 steals per game, and 2.5 blocks per game. Walton controlled every element of the court while he was on the floor, as his statistics indicate.

Bill Walton wowed everyone with his performance the next season as the reigning NBA champion and Finals MVP, which is why his restricted amount of games played was not held against him. Bill Walton was, quite simply, one of the most dominating players in history during this time period, which is why his MVP title was well-deserved.

Karl Malone (49 games) is the first player on the list (1998-99)



That Season’s Total Games: 50 (Lockout-shortened season)

Karl Malone was a prolific scorer with the Jazz, winning two MVP honors by the time he retired. Malone was a double-double danger every night, thanks to John Stockton’s brilliant bounce passes and lobs. Their chemistry was phenomenal, and Malone’s shooting prowess is why he is ranked among the best three scorers of all time.

Karl Malone, on the other hand, only played 49 games during the 1999 season, yet it was enough to earn him his second MVP award. On 49.3% shooting from the field, the superstar power forward averaged 23.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. Many opponents argue that Malone’s MVP triumph was a ruse, and that the title was handed to him out of favor rather than Michael Jordan, who seemed to win it every year. Malone’s domination through 49 games, though, was enough to persuade voters that he was the greatest player in the league. 


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Frequently Asked Questions

Who played the least amount of games in the NBA?

A: The summer league players.

Who has the most MVP Awards in NBA history?

A: In the history of NBA, Wilt Chamberlain has won more MVP awards than any other player with 11.

How many NBA Mvps does Michael Jordan have?

A: Michael Jordan has 6 NBA MVP awards.

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