As we move forward in small steps through our second NBA Tuesday miniseries, we target the 1957 season for our awards analysis of the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year today. We hope you have fun on this second journey through NBA history as we see it, and remember to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, as well.
Remember, it took until 1969 for the NBA to award a Finals MVP trophy—and until 1983 (!) for the league to identify a DPOY. Shocking! Thank goodness we are here to fill in the historical gaps, right? It’s what we do best.
1957 NBA FINALS MVP: Bob Pettit, C, St. Louis Hawks
The Boston Celtics won their first (of many) NBA titles with a 4-3 Finals triumph over the St. Louis Hawks, and while the Celtics had three players averaging over 20 points per game in the Finals, the Hawks were carried—without a doubt—by a single star who averaged over 30 ppg in the seven-game series: center Bob Pettit.
In the Game 7 victory at Boston, Pettit posted 39 points to lead all scorers as the Hawks came up just short, 127-125. For these efforts, we give this award to a member of the losing team for the first time ever—although maybe not the last time. The Celtics were certainly a better team, but Pettit was the MVP as St. Louis would not have been there without him, fighting down to the wire of the final game of the postseason with a chance at the NBA title.
Pettit also grabbed 18.3 rebounds per game, and no other Hawks player scored more than 16.1 ppg or pulled down more than 11.6 rpg. For the record, the best Celtics players in this series were power forward Tommy Heinsohn (24.0 ppg, 12.6 rpg), shooting guard Bill Sharman (21.9 ppg), and point guard Bob Cousy (20.7 ppg, 9.1 apg)—and that doesn’t even include center Bill Russell (13.3 ppg, 22.9 rpg). That team was so loaded, none of the guys could really be a true MVP.
1957 NBA DPOY: Maurice Stokes, PF, Rochester Royals
Even though the Rochester Royals missed the postseason by winning just 31 games, their star power forward Maurice Stokes gets our nod for this award based on his 6.81 Defensive Point Share mark—which topped the league by more than 2 DPS. In fact, the next three players on the list were all Boston Celtics stars: Cousy (4.72), Russell (4.62), and Heinsohn (4.12).
With the Celtics winning 44 games to top the regular-season standings, it’s clear none of the trio—as individuals—really would qualify for our DPOY designation. Meanwhile, Stokes was so good on defense that he left the field behind, posting 17.4 rebounds per game and averaging 4.0 fouls per contest. He was a force to be reckoned with in the front court.
Plus, the three teams that finished above the Royals in the Western Division all did so with identical 34-38 records, so with those 31 victories, Rochester wasn’t too far out of the postseason. Imagine where the Royals would have been without Stokes, who was forced to retire after the 1957-1958 season due to a rare illness.