What has become of the MVP award?
Or, more specifically, what the hell does it mean in the first place?
The award had always been riddled with vagueness, an inexact method of awarding the top performer in a league where parity is encouraged. How so? The lottery itself, in all its flawed glory, shows how the team that achieves least gets rewarded with the best future prospect. Rules are changed (a la Chamberlin, Iverson, Shaq) to limit the dominance of certain players.
So who's to say that Kareem's sky hook is less MVP-worthy than DR. J's aeronautics? Or Shaq's power comparable to the court awareness of Kidd or Nash? Its apples and oranges. (Or Apples and Compaq's...whatever.)
The sport of basketball by rote creates players with unique talents. (Why else would Kevin Willis have survived so long? He was an undersized power forward with one offensive move, and he lasted nearly two decades in the league. Its because he was not a liability in any area, and could use that short-armed jump hook on anyone...even at age sixty, or whatever he is now.)
So, should these unique capabilities be under appreciated? One could argue that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was just as dominant in 1986 as he was in 1980, when he won his last of five MVPs. Likewise, one could argue Steve Nash had a better season in 06-07 than the previous two MVP seasons. Were they penalized because they already received the award? What changed?
Its as if the coaches and media get bored with handing the award over to the same people year after year, whether they deserve it or not.
The MVP award is, and has always been, a popularity contest. The trendy, sexy choice is usually the winner. Its no wonder Chamberlain and Russell both received the same amount of MVPs, though for the regular season Chamberlain was a far superior statistical player. (Credit to the 1960's Boston media for that one.)
So, without further rambling, I'm going to post two lists...
The Credentials by which the NBA MVP is awarded:
- You have always been a perennial all-star, and had a break-out season that puts you in the upper epsilon. Not the BEST player, but the NEW good player.
- You didn't do anything naughty in the off-season.
- You can score and do something else too. (ex. Nowitzki: score + rebound, Nash: score + pass, Jordan: score + defence, Shaq: score + booty)
- You don't play in New York. (Only Willis Reed won from NY, and he broke is ankle doing so.)
- You have marketability (goes with #2).
- You're team has no-name hustle players that make you look good, thereby helping you win a solid amount of games before they search for big contracts elsewhere.
- If you suck at something, make it something that someone else on your team rocks at. (ex. Shaq's free-throw percentage kept him out of contention until Kobe, Derek Fisher, Glen Rice, and Robert Horry started hitting from the line.)
What SHOULD determine the MVP award:
- OGD: Overall Game Dominance. You don't play many minutes, miss games, are constantly in foul trouble, or lack completely on one end of the court = you don't get the MVP. It should be given to the all-around player.
- Off of the OGD, if you have one unstoppable move and that's it, it plays. What's better, ten moves that work from time to time that you haven't mastered, or one move that consistently works? Being multifaceted is always a benefit, but give me the player who knows his role and dominates in two or three areas.
- Leadership Capacity: Must determine the outcome of close games or key plays, must alter the momentum when necessary, must get at teammates when they are slacking. (This is why it should be awarded after the first round of playoffs...advancing is a big plus. But, if your team really sucks and misses the playoffs, you can still win it if every other candidate craps out.)
- The Ego Complex: Please, please please PLEASE stop degrading players if they take too many shots or are high on themselves. Guess what: Basketball breeds egotism. There's a thin line between egotism and confidence, and the two often intersect. You know why? If you are any kind of basketball player, you have to BELIEVE that any shot you take will go in. If you don't have that confidence, you will pass up shots you need to take. Furthermore, quit telling Kobe or Iverson they're shooting too much. They are the ONLY options on their teams (well, before Iverson was traded.) Truth be told, they are the scorers. They don't score, they lose, and they know that.
- They challenge the league and its rules. By this, I mean they come up with new and unorthodox options for themselves, either using the rules in their favor or finding their way around those rules. (ex. Duncan's shoot-through-the-arm maneuver, Reggie Miller's up fake/contact initiation, or even Barkley's 15-second back down post-up.)
- No whining. You whine, Stu Jackson in the League Office takes five MVP votes away from you. Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan, and Rip Hamilton set the record for -5,000 votes. Also, you are given a 5-flop quota per year. You keep throwing yourself under the bucket in front of driving players (ahem-Ginobili-ahem) you're only gonna hurt someone, and retroactively hurt the league. Play defense, dammit. (Yes, I'm picking on the Spurs.)
- You can obviously, OBVIOUSLY take any other player in the league in 1-on-1. This is the ultimate most valuable player. And yes, I realize that it takes passers like Kidd or Nash out of contention, but that's just tough. If you can truly control the flow of the game, you should still be able to score.
So what does this all mean? Dirk shouldn't be MVP this year, he wasn't dominant enough by himself...Chris Bosh, to name one, had a better season. Nash shouldn't have gotten it last year, especially when Kobe put up 35 a game and 81 in one. And Isiah Thomas, Shaq, Nique, and Clyde Drexler (two NBA finals! TWO!) should have received more consideration.
So, who gets your vote?