It’s official! Nikola Jokic is now a back-to-back MVP. He becomes only the thirteenth player to achieve this feat. The last four awards have gone to two players – Nikola and Giannis.
Without a doubt, the regular-season MVP is the most prestigious and coveted individual honor for an NBA player. Every season, it’s awarded to the player judged to have had the most standout, match-winning performance all season. Although many argue that there are different metrics to determine who wins the MVP, the idea has always been to give it to the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER.
The regular-season MVP award goes a long way in determining your legacy as a basketball player. The likes of Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Magic Johnson rank higher on most people’s all-time list because of their MVP wins.
Sportswriters, broadcasters, and fellow players in the league vote to determine the winner of MVP. For the most part, one player happens to stand out among the rest. However, in some seasons, it can be pretty difficult to choose who is most deserving of the award.
This season, for example, is the closest MVP race we’ve seen in recent times. You could literally make a case for Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Devin Booker, or Luka Doncic. The NBA betting odds for the 2022 MVP tilted on many occasions.
Jokic put up insane advanced stats and became the first player to register 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in an NBA regular season. Antetokounmpo, coming off a championship-winning season, dominated both ends of the floor. Embiid led the league in points per game (30.6ppg), becoming the first big man to achieve this feat since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 2000 and the first since Moses Malone to average 30 points in a season. He also became the first foreign player to win the scoring title.
But there have also been close races and controversial decisions in the past. Here, we recourse our minds to some of the biggest NBA MVP snubs in history:
How can a player average 50.6 points per game and not win the MVP? That’s exactly what happened to Wilt Chamberlain in 1961.
Wilt was unstoppable. He had the height and athleticism that could tear a defense apart. Chamberlain led the league in scoring that year and also averaged 25.6 rebounds. No doubt he deserved the MVP.
Oscar Robertson also had a big season, becoming the first-ever player to average a triple-double (30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, 11.8 assists). However, the award was given to Bill Russell, who averaged just 18.9 points and 23.6 rebounds that season.
As good as winning four MVPs seems, under no circumstance on earth should a player like Wilt Chamberlain have only four. Wilt was one of the most unstoppable forces to storm the league and is widely regarded by many as one of the greatest NBA players of all time.
But in 1964, he faced some competition. He was up against the Cincinnati Royals’ Oscar Robertson for the MVP award, which many consider being one of the closest MVP races in NBA history. You could make a credible case for both players, but many believe that award was supposed to go to Chamberlain, who had the better stats.
Chamberlain averaged 36.9 points and 22.3 rebounds that season. In what world does this stat not win you the MVP? In comparison, the Big O recorded 31.4 points and 11 assists, which is more than enough to win the award. But Wilt’s numbers were outrageous.
It’s believed that Robertson won the award because Chamberlain already had one in the bag.
While individual performances are a major factor in determining who wins the MVP, team performance is also important. That’s perhaps the main reason Bill Walton won the 1978 MVP over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
This year’s selection was different from the previous year’s. Both Kareem and Walton missed many games and would not meet the criteria required for MVP considerations.
However, both players were miles ahead of the others, and it was so glaring to see. As a result, the NBA was forced to put them up for the award regardless. Although Kareem had the better stats, Walton was voted the league MVP thanks to the Portland Trail Blazers’ 50-10 record.
There may never be a better point guard than Earvin “Magic” John Jr. He is a 5× NBA Champion, 3× Finals MVP, and 3× regular-season MVP, among many more accolades.
However, his last MVP win wasn’t well-received by some critics who believed Charles “Chuck” Barkley should have won. Johnson was an established figure in 1990 and was famous for his fast-paced plays, popularly known as “Show Time.”
But there was Chuck, who was still considerably fresh in the league but was already making a name for himself. His ability to penetrate through the defense was startling. He was a good ball shooter and led the 76ers in points (25.2) and an astounding 11.5 rebounds per game that season.
Some critics believe the only reason for awarding the MVP to Magic was to cement his legacy as an all-time great.
Michael could have won more than five MVPs, and nobody would argue. He was way too dominant in the 90s, and it perhaps bothered many sportswriters in 1997. Looking at the decision from a different angle, It’s hard to say MJ was snubbed here but wasn’t he?
Yes, both Karl Malone and Jordan put up similar stats in almost every category, and both players had an MVP-worthy season. But we’re not going to act like MJ did not edge Malone statistically, even if it was by a margin. It’s safe to say everyone got tired of Jordan winning the award and wanted the MVP to go to someone else.
Fast forward, and Jordan would have the last laugh that season, defeating the Utah Jazz in the finals after six games.
It was one tight race. The MVP duel between Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson was one for the books.
O’Neal came into the season as the league’s reigning MVP. His ability to dominate the paint was unmatched. He averaged 28.7 points that season and would eventually lead the Lakers to their first back-to-back championship in over a decade. Shaq was named final MVP that year.
But then there was Iverson, who had an individually brilliant season of his own. AI averaged 31.1 points and led the Philadelphia 76ers to the top seed in the Eastern Conference and, subsequently, a finals matchup against Shaq’s Lakers. His ball-handling skills were the most notable aspect of his game, and they set him on a different pedestal.
Although AI was phenomenal that season, one could make a case for the unguardable O’Neal. Most people believe AI won the award because many wanted a new MVP and were reluctant to vote for Shaq.
Another Shaq snub.
O’Neal had a good second season with the Miami Heat. He averaged 22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds that season. However, the MVP award went to Stephen John Nash, who averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 assists per game.
We could argue that the Suns 2005 team was just too good. They had the best record in the league (62-20), but Shaquille’s Miami wasn’t far behind with 59 wins, earning them the top seed in the Eastern Conference. This decision is just unbelievable!
To many NBA fans and pundits, it’s arguably the biggest snub in the league’s 75 years of history, and it will be really hard to top it.
The NBA had blood in its hands when this decision was announced. There remains no credible reason why Steve Nash should have won this award over Kobe. Absolutely none!
Kobe had the best individual performance that year by a large margin. He almost single-handedly dragged a Lakers team that was a shadow of itself to the playoffs. When you talk about “peak Kobe” seasons, this one is up there.
It’s crazy to think that Kobe did not win the award in a season where he registered a career-high 81 points against the Raptors (62 points after three quarters). Kobe finished the regular season with a 31.6 point and 5.7 rebound average. In comparison, Nash averaged 18.6 points and 11.6 assists.
Voters, however, chose to select Nash as the MVP because they believed he was more impactful to the Suns’ 2nd seed finish. Kobe fans may never forgive this decision knowing well he could have finished his career with more than a single MVP honor.
At 22 years of age, Derrick Rose won the MVP award over a red-hot Lebron James, making him the youngest player to ever win the award. Rose had a phenomenal MVP-worthy season with the Chicago Bulls. He led the team to a 62-20 record, the best in the league, and became only the third player since 1973 to record 2,000 points and 600 assists in a single season.
On the flip side, when you consider Lebron’s 2011 regular season, it’s hard for even his biggest haters to argue that he was snubbed for the MVP. Stats-wise, Lebron was on top in literally every aspect.
He averaged 26.7 points compared to Rose’s 25; he had the most triple-doubles (4) and the highest efficiency per game (27.3). Lebron also had the most points in a single game that season (51). Rose never led the league in any major statistic that year.
Looking back, many agree that the reasoning behind awarding the MVP to Rose had more to do with pushing a narrative than fact. Rose was relatively new, young, ambitious, and skilled and was pushing the Chicago Bulls franchise to heights. It seemed sweet to vote for him, but deep down, every NBA fan knows that award was Lebron’s.