Is there a greater individual award in today’s time than the National Basketball Association’s Most Valuable Player?
Does any athlete possess the array of overall talent basketball players possess?
Major League Baseball doesn’t even have a single MVP award, as there is one for the National League and one for the American League. Not to mention, there’s also a separate Cy Young Award for pitchers.
The National Football League has an MVP award, but it doesn’t draw the same attention as its basketball equivalent. This could be a result of players only playing on one side of the ball (offense or defense). As it ends up, the award has been dominated by offensive players; it’s been since 1986 that a defensive player (Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor) won.
College basketball has multiple awards on a national level, like the Naismith and Wooden Awards. Plus, there are individual awards within each specific conference; this proliferation dilutes the value of each.
College football, like college basketball, has multiple national awards, including the Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards, plus separate awards within the conferences.
Now, I won't argue that the Heisman Memorial Trophy isn't the most coveted recognition in college sports, but it has the same drawbacks as the NFL's MVP since it is dominated by offensive players and college football players only play on one side of the ball.
Individual sports like golf, tennis, and swimming have world rankings, but there is no defined annual "MVP" award.
Not that I'm trying to take away from the likes of Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Michael Phelps, who are just as talented (if not moreso) than even the best NBA players. But perhaps because these athletes are far and away better than the competition on a consistent basis, their success is assumed, as there is no debate or drama as to who the best is.
But consider the Association. The NBA has other awards, like Defensive Player of the Year and the All-NBA teams, but the MVP, by far, sits at the top of the heap.
The top NBA players are active on offense and defense and are a vital part of all of their team’s successes. They either have the ball in their hands or are guarding the other team’s best player when the game is on the line.
The players may deny that the MVP is important to them. They will always claim it is about the team winning games, but there has to be a part of them that wants to win the Maurice Podoloff.
Rivalries get richer based on who wins the award. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird practically killed each other on the court, And it looks like we are in for a treat these next few years with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Chris Paul gunning for the No. 1 spot.
The award doesn’t just go to the best all around talent, either, or what many refer to as the “Most Outstanding Player.”
All positions have won the award within the past decade, including offensively-minded scorers and defensively-focused players that dominate other areas like rebounding and blocks.
Stan Van Gundy’s complaint that his center Howard doesn’t get noticed because he doesn’t do the flashy things that the King, Mamba, and Flash do will eventually be addressed.
Dwight will get his just like Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett got theirs.
In fact, in the past 10 years, guards won four times and forwards or centers won six.
That being said, this stretch run with more or less a dozen games left on the schedule should be appreciated for what it is. I must lump myself with those that know the race is over; LeBron won the award awhile ago.
But the season is far from over.
LeBron still has games against the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics.
Kobe has five games left on his road trip and a highly anticipated matchup at the Rose Garden.
Wade will challenge Dwight and his Magic, Paul and the Hornets, and the Celtics.
Dwight is going to try to stuff LeBron like he did Paul Pierce and still has another big man matchup against Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets.
Chris Paul will go at it with Tony Parker’s San Antonio Spurs and Jason Kidd’s Dallas Mavericks twice each. Plus, Steve Nash and Wade are lurking.
The NBA. Where amazing happens. Enjoy it.