Defining an MVP
What is the definition of an “MVP”, and what do we look for in an “MVP”? Is he the most dominant? The highest scorer? Best defender or all around player? Does he make people all around him better or is he the engine that drives the team to win? All of these are qualities that separate superstars from journeymen but, it’s never been a player to encompass all these qualities. Since 1955 the Maurice Podoloff trophy has been awarded to the NBA’s best player. First it was decided by players, then by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. So who’s right and who’s wrong? Through out history there has been winners and losers in all things, but when you have 2 or 3 men that excel in their respective ways and reach the same pinnacle, how do you decide who’s the better man?
MVP races are mostly clear-cut, but that is still a matter of opinion. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to tell someone younger than me that in the ’92-’93 season Charles Barkley beat Michael Jordan for the MVP, a season in which he won the NBA title. Remember, there’s always a runner-up and that person always was in contention for a reason. Take for example; Hakeem Olajuwon, in 1994, won the MVP averaging 27pts, 12reb, 3ast, and 3blks. MVP worthy numbers, but Scottie Pippen averaged 22pts, 8reb, 5ast, and 3stl per game. He’s only the second player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, (Dave Cowens being the other) and he did it without Jordan and only lost two fewer games that year. He also came within a phantom foul of going to the finals to meet the eventual MVP. Another example is 2002′s MVP Tim Duncan and Jason Kidd who, in my opinion, should have won MVP. Yes, Duncan did what Mr. Fundamentals does, average 25pts, 13reb and the best record in the NBA. Kidd flirted with a triple-double all season, DOUBLED their win total from the previous year, and made Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin better players. Each played like an MVP but in their own way.
So with Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James being the names at the top of the MVP list, who do you choose? All have tremendous upsides and just as tremendous question marks. Do you go with Durant, the unguardable tornado from OKC? I’m not even sure he’s the leader of his team, that distinction to me goes to Russell Westbrook. How about Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba assassin who has that Jordan-like killer instinct and is a proven winner? He can’t even get his big man to stop shooting three’s and degrading his coach. What about LeBron James, the juggernaut that makes the game look so easy? I hate to beat a dead horse, but at some point you have to want to be the guy that wants it more. If it’s not a tough decision for you to make then you can’t consider yourself unbiased. For me, to consider someone the best a sport has to offer, they have to not only fill up a stat sheet, but also be an unquestioned leader. “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it”-Dwight D. Eisenhower. Yes these MVP candidates fill up stat sheets, but do they make people around them better? Make them want to get better? Make their team want to hoist trophies? At some point, the stat line is not enough.