Sunday will mark the end of the NBA’s conference finals series when the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics play in a Game 7 to decide the Eastern Conference, and with that end will come the second conference finals MVP to be awarded after Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry won it for the Western Conference.
The award is a new one this year, with the West version named after Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson and the East one after Celtics legend Larry Bird.
But who would have won past versions of the award had it existed? Last week, Mike Lynch set out to find an answer to that question for FiveThirtyEight.
Using a metric created by The Athletic’s John Hollinger when he worked for ESPN called Game Score (the calculations for the metric can be found here) combined with taking into consideration which team won each series, Lynch determined who would have won each conference finals MVP since 1958 had it existed.
As should have been expected, the Jazz are represented twice, as they won the Western Conference Finals in 1997 and 1998.
Lynch determined that John Stockton would have won the award in 1997 (incidentally, Sunday is the 25-year anniversary of Stockton’s 3-pointer against the Houston Rockets that won the Jazz the conference finals), and Karl Malone would have won it in 1998.
The Jazz have made the conference finals four other times in their history, with Lynch determining the winners of Western Conference Finals MVP in those years as follows:
- 2007: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
- 1996: Shawn Kemp, Seattle SuperSonics
- 1994: Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets
- 1992: Terry Porter, Portland Trail Blazers