We are on to 1958 in our second NBA Tuesday miniseries, as we examine the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards that didn’t exist at the time. 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 … on with the show!
1958 NBA FINALS MVP: Bob Pettit, PF, St. Louis Hawks
In a turnaround from the prior year, the St. Louis Hawks won the NBA title in six games over the Boston Celtics, and we have a repeat winner for the Finals MVP: Hawks power forward Bob Pettit. He averaged 29.3 points, 17.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in the Finals, as the Hawks broke a 2-2 series tie with a 2-point road win in Game 5 and a 1-point home victory in Game 6. In those two games, Pettit produced a combined line of 83 points (!) and 40 rebounds—including a whopping 50 points in the series clincher.
That is crazy, in truth. After playing center for the prior two seasons, as well, Pettit was back to his natural PF position on the court, and the results were pure domination. It’s early in our miniseries, but he also becomes the second two-time winner of this award, trailing only Minneapolis Lakers legend George Mikan and his three trophies.
1958 NBA DPOY: Bill Russell, C, Boston Celtics
The Celtics posted the best record in the league (49-23), and their second-year center played his first full season in the NBA after a rookie season where he only played in 48 games. Bill Russell was absolutely dominant, producing 7.68 defensive Win Shares—the second-highest mark on the record at the time, trailing only Mikan’s 1952 season. The closest player on the DWS list was last year’s winner, Maurice Stokes, at 5.03 DWS, and that’s not really “close” in the true sense of the word.
Russell posted 22.7 rpg to lead the league for the second straight season in that category, and he cut back on his fouls to just 2.6 per game as he learned to rely on something other than brute fear for his dominance. Altering shot after shot, he didn’t have to foul as much to be one of the most effective defensive players in league history.
How many of these awards might he win? Ten? Only time will tell … stay tuned until next week, of course!