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Chicago Bulls

How Shawn Kemp nearly won Finals MVP over Michael Jordan in 1996 on a losing team

The NBA Finals were Michael Jordan's absolute domain. Six appearances, six championships won, six Finals MVP awards.

Few players knew how to exert their will to the max like MJ.

In Episodes 7 & 8 of The Last Dance, the documentary which chronicles Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, we look back at the 1996 Finals against the Seattle super Sonics, the first of their second three-peat

While Jordan was crowned the best player of the series, which they won 4-2, the voting for finals MVP was not as clear cut as the Bulls' other championships.

Dennis Rodman and Shawn Kemp were also chosen by the press as deserving of that award for the best of the Finals. Striking? Without doubt, considering how the votes turned out as Jordan took 6 of the 11 votes, Kemp received 3 and Dennis 2.

Let's review their cases ... While Jordan's numbers speak for themselves - 27.3 points (41.5% field), 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals on average in 42.0 minutes, it was not his best finals series, given a tough night at the office from the defensive work of Sonics guard Gary Payton, especially in Game 4.

As usual, the next highest scorer for the Bulls was Scottie Pippen, who averaged just 15.7 points on 34.3% from the field - way below his regular-season averages.

What did Rodman do to get two votes? Well, a little of what he always offered, relentless rebounding and game-changing defence.

He averaged 7.5 points, 14.7 rebounds (series leader), and 2.5 assists in 37.5 minutes. At the time he became the fourth player in NBA history to win a title in the same year he led the league in rebounds _ the first since Moses Malone in 1983.

His Game 6 performance to seal the title was one for the ages - (9 points, 19 rebounds, 11 offensive, five assists, three steals, and a block). Enough to get the nod over MJ? Although his play was invaluable for the Bulls, we are talking about putting him above the best player on the best team, right?

Now, how did Kemp manage to get three votes? This seems even rarer, especially considering the historical situation: only once did the Finals MVP come from a player on the losing side: Jerry West in 1969.

While it's logical for the Finals MVP to be awarded to a player who's team achieved the end goal of winning the championship - Kemp was truly sensational against the Bulls, averaging 23.3 points on 55.1% shooting, adding 10 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.0 blocks in 40.3 minutes per game - numbers trumped by Jordan who lifted the Larry O'Brien trophy.

Rodman's impact cannot be understated and Kemp's consistent play on both ends certainly deserved credit, but in the end, it was Jordan's award to lose.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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