Dominant players rule NBA playoffs

Updated: April 16, 2004, 1:03 PM ET
By By Terry Brown | NBA Insider
With the 2004 NBA playoffs just one day away and the eventual champion being crowned in about two months, we have one question that begs to be asked before anyone makes their bold prediction on who will and won't win the title.

What came first . . . the MVP or the ring?

On June 15, 2003, Tim Duncan scored 21 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in an 88-77 victory to give the San Antonio Spurs the NBA title and himself the Finals MVP award after winning the regular-season MVP award.

The Nets had no one who averaged more than 20 in the series.

On June 12, 2002, Shaquille O'Neal scored 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Lakers defeated the Nets, 113-107, to win their third title in a row. O'Neal was named Finals MVP all three times.

The Nets had no one who averaged more than 22 in the series.

So . . . did the Spurs win the 2003 title, allowing Duncan to be named MVP, or did Duncan win the MVP and, as a result, the Spurs won the crown? I'll ask it one more time. Did the Lakers win the 2002 title before or after Shaq became the MVP?