It’s time for the 1959 season 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 … hang on for the fun below!
1959 NBA FINALS MVP: Bill Russell, C, Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers in the Finals, and the winners have several candidates for this award: power forward Tom Heinsohn, shooting guard Frank Ramsey, shooting guard Bill Sharman, point guard Bob Cousy, and center Bill Russell. Kind of a ridiculous lineup to have to face, right? We’re impressed the Syracuse Nationals took them to a seventh game in the Eastern Division Finals, in truth.
But we digress: Each of that quintet above brought something different to the table, but we’re going to go with Russell for the following reason(s). First, in Game 7 of that EDF matchup, he brought the hammer with 18 points, 32 rebounds, and 2 assists in a game that was decided in the fourth quarter. Second, in the Finals, Russell let everyone else score aplenty, as he averaged just 9.3 points in the sweep. But by nabbing 29.5 rebounds per game and dishing 5.3 dimes per game, he all but controlled the floor.
1959 NBA DPOY: Bill Russell, C, Boston Celtics
By posting 8.19 defensive Win Shares, Russell also secures this award from us, again, as the next-best defender was Cousy (5.40 DWS). Russell was just that dominant on the defensive end of the court. He led the NBA with 23.0 rpg, his best yet in his short career, and he dropped his fouls, too, to just 2.3 per game. This means, again, that he was getting better at positioning to the point he didn’t need to foul anyone to get a board or alter/block a shot attempt. In his third year as a pro, he was just getting warm.