NBA MVP: The Five Biggest Snubs of the Past 30 Years
His team currently has the best record in the NBA and appears to be the front-runner to win the championship.
He's averaging 29.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 8.6 assists, and shooting over 50 percent from the field.
He's the face of the NBA and the single most important athlete in America.
And yet, LeBron James is no lock to win the Most Valuable Player award.
Sad, isn't it?
Unfortunately, the sportswriters who get to vote for MVP are human beings with opinions, biases, and agendas. Some may hate James because he's too playful and appears attention-seeking.
Others may be diehard Kobe Bryant fans who'll scream, "He's scoring 27 points per game with a broken finger!"
Some may argue Oklahoma City's 20-plus win improvement and Kevin Durant's potential scoring title makes him the no-brainer choice. Others will say this is the year Carmelo Anthony is finally recognized.
Some will say Dwight Howard's defense trumps anyone's offense. Others will say Dwyane Wade does more with less than any other player around.
You get the picture.
In the end, there is only one MVP award winner named each season. This means many players have been slighted. Let's take a look at the five biggest MVP snubs of the past 30 years.
1993: Charles Barkley over Hakeem Olajuwon
Barkley: 59 first place votes; .852 percent of overall points.
Olajuwon: 22 first place votes; .660 percent of overall points.
FG percent: .520
3PT percent: .305
FT percent: .765
Team wins: 62
FG percent: .529
FT percent: .779
Team wins: 55
The voters decided this was the year to crown Barkley because, well, your guess is just as good as mine.
The Phoenix Suns had won 53 games the season before, so it's not like Barkley turned around a sinking ship.
This was a good Suns team that featured Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Cedric Ceballos, Tom Chambers, Danny Ainge, and Richard Dumas.
Majerle averaged 17 points and five rebounds while leading the league in three-pointers made; he was named Second Team All-Defense and received a first place vote for Defensive Player of the Year. Both Chambers and Ainge finished in the top five for Sixth Man of the Year.
Johnson was a stud point guard who got hurt and missed half of the season (injuries ruined his chances for the Hall of Fame). Dumas burst on the scene to average 16 points in just 27.5 minutes of action. Ceballos led the league in field goal percentage.
In Houston, Olajuwon won just seven fewer games despite playing with much less of a supporting cast. Who was the second leading scorer on the team? Vernon Maxwell.
The only player on the roster at the time to have any type of individual accolade was Otis Thorpe, who made the lone All-Star appearance of his career the previous season.
How in the world did this Rockets team win 55 games? Obviously, it was all Olajuwon. Look at how "The Dream" ranked in several categories:
Olajuwon ran away with Defensive Player of the Year honors. Barkley never played defense.
Barkley's Suns reached the Finals that year because they were the best overall team in the West.
But Olajuwon's 12-game playoff averages of 26 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and two steals, on .52/.83 shooting percentages was insane.
It was clear Olajuwon was the best player who was doing more with less. Michael Jordan deserved it more than Barkley too.
1989: Magic Johnson over Michael Jordan
Magic: 42.5 first place votes; .782 percent of overall points.
Jordan: 27.5 first place votes; .704 percent of overall points.
FG percent: .509
3PT percent: .314
FT percent: .911
Team wins: 57
FG percent: .538
3PT percent: .276
FT percent: .850
Team wins: 47
The voters decided Magic deserved it over Jordan because he was on the better team, plain and simple. Otherwise, there's little evidence to suggest Magic deserved it more.
Magic was in his prime; Jordan was just 25. Magic had Worthy (age 27), Byron Scott (27), Orlando Woolridge (29), Michael Cooper (32), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (41).
The only teammates Jordan had over the age of 25 were Bill Cartwright (31), John Paxson (28), Brad Sellers (26), Craig Hodges (28), and Dave Corzine (32). The second and third-best players on the team—Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant—were just 23 years old and in their second seasons (first as starters).
Jordan did more with less than Magic did. He was both the top offensive player (scoring title) and defensive (finished fifth in Defensive Player of the Year voting) player in the league.
In the playoffs, Jordan knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Seven, hitting the famed buzzer-beater over Craig Ehlo. Then he knocked off the New York Knicks at the end of Game Six by draining two free throws with three seconds left.
Heading into the conference finals, the Detroit Pistons were 7-0 in the playoffs after sweeping both the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
The Jordan-led Chicago Bulls gave the Pistons their toughest challenge, winning two of the first three games before bowing out in Game Six.
Jordan averaged 35 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists against the league's toughest defense.
The Pistons went on to the Finals to face the L.A. Lakers. Magic and his mates were swept in four games. In all fairness to Magic, he pulled a hamstring early in Game Two and barely played for the rest of the series.
1997: Karl Malone over Michael Jordan
Malone: 63 first place votes; .857 percent of overall points.
Jordan: 52 first place votes; .832 percent of overall points.
FG percent: .550
FT percent: .755
Team wins: 64
FG percent: .486
3PT percent: .374
FT percent: .833
Team wins: 69
The voters decided the Jazz improving nine wins from the previous season gave Malone the nod; Jordan's Bulls won 72 games the year before.
Both had tremendous seasons but Jordan was clearly the best player on the planet. Malone made one of his three First Team All-Defense selections that season, but everyone knew he was a slightly above-average defender at best.
Jordan, meanwhile, made his eighth-straight First Team All-Defense that year. Jordan was one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history.
In the playoffs that season, Jordan's numbers went up; he averaged 31 points, eights rebounds, and five assists in 19 games. The Chicago Bulls won the championship.
Malone’s numbers went down in the playoffs; he averaged 26 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists but shot a woeful 44 percent from the field. His Utah Jazz lost to the Bulls in the Finals.
In the Finals, Malone's scoring average dipped further, as he shot 44 percent from the field and 60 percent from the line.
2005: Steve Nash over Shaquille O'Neal
Nash: 65 first place votes; .839 percent of overall points.
Shaq: 58 first place votes; .813 percent of overall points.
FG percent: .502
3PT percent: .431
FT percent: .887
Team wins: 62
FG percent: .601
FT percent: .461
Team wins: 59
Many voters came out in full force to support Nash because in his first year in Phoenix, the Suns made a 33-win improvement from the previous year.
With their run-and-gun style, the Suns were the most exciting ticket in town and, Nash, a man who represents all that is good in the sports world, was front and center of it all.
What the voters—and the mass public—failed to realize was the Suns' turnaround wasn't just due to Nash. Youngsters Amar'e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, and Leandro Barbosa all matured with another season under their belts.
Added to the mix were newcomers Quentin Richardson and Steven Hunter. This was a talented squad.
Stoudemire and Marion even received MVP votes (Stoudemire was one of five players to receive a first place vote). Marion finished fifth in voting for Defensive Player of the Year.
Meanwhile, Shaq didn't have much in Miami except for a 23-year-old Dwyane Wade, who was just in his second season. Rounding out the Heat's rotation were Eddie Jones (past his prime), Damon Jones, Udonis Haslem, Rasual Butler, Keyon Dooling, and Michael Doleac.
A star in the making, Wade averaged 24 points, five rebounds, and seven assists.
However, it was due to the attention placed on Shaq—and the lack of another talented creator on the roster—that Wade was able to dominate ball-handling duties and gain every opportunity possible to amass these impressive stats. Wade didn't get one first place MVP vote, because this was Shaq's team.
After letting Nash walk away, the Mavericks improved by six wins (they would reach the NBA Finals the next season). After trading Shaq away, the Lakers went from 56 wins to just 34.
It's a travesty Shaq lost this MVP award by just .026 percent of the vote.
2006: Steve Nash over Kobe Bryant
Nash: 57 first place votes; .739 percent of overall points.
Kobe: 22 first place votes; .386 percent of overall points.
FG percent: .512
3PT percent: .439
FT percent: .921
Team wins: 54
FG percent: .450
3PT percent: .347
FT percent: .850
Team wins: 45
Like many, I always viewed Kobe as the epitome of all that is wrong in sports, the me-first jerk who says "look at me" when things go well and "ask my teammates" when excuses are needed.
He single-handedly destroyed the L.A. Lakers mini-dynasty, causing the departures of both Shaquille O'Neal and and Phil Jackson. Jackson called Kobe "uncoachable."
After a disastrous post-Shaq/Jackson season in which Rudy Tomjanovich and Frank Hamblen coached the team to 34 wins, Kobe matured enough to make Jackson reconsider a return.
Jackson came back, tapped into Kobe's inner animal, and unleashed a beast the NBA has only seen in Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
Kobe's 35.4 points per game was the eighth-best average in a season in NBA history. It's the second best since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976.
His 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22 is without question the greatest single-game scoring performance in NBA history. Chamberlain's 100-point game was a circus; Wilt attempted 63 shots against a team with no quality post player.
Kobe made 28-46 shots, including 7-13 from downtown, in the flow of the game, to lead his team to a comeback win.
Kobe also scored 62 points against the Mavericks in three quarters before sitting out the fourth. He torched the Mavericks another time for 43.
He put up 50 against the Nets, Clippers, and Suns—all playoff teams. He dropped 39 against the Pistons in Detroit, 40 against them in L.A. He put up 43 against the Spurs and its No. 1 ranked defense.
The Lakers were 18-9 in games when Kobe scored 40 or more, and just 27-26 otherwise. A .500 team with 24 games to go, Kobe put the Lakers on his back and led them to a 16-8 run to make the playoffs. During this run, he went for 40 or more points 12 times.
This Lakers team had no business winning 40 games, let alone 45 games and making the playoffs. Their starters were Lamar Odom, Smush Parker, Chris Mihm, and Kwame Brown. Brian Cook made 46 starts after Mihm got hurt.
Nash had an incredible season in Phoenix but wasn't doing more with less, even with Stoudemire out for the year.
Nash still had an All-Star in Shawn Marion (averaged 22 and 12), who received Defensive Player of the Year and MVP votes.
Both Leandro Barbosa and Eddie House were up for Sixth Man of the Year. Boris Diaw won Most Improved Player.
Kobe finished fourth in the MVP voting after LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki, but had the second-most first place votes.
The voters knew he was deserving but passed on him because he was so unlikable as a person. Lame.
Other Notable Snubs
1999: Karl Malone over Alonzo Mourning. Malone beat Mourning by just eight first place votes to win the award in the strike-shortened season. The Miami Heat tied for the best record (33-17) in the Eastern Conference despite losing Jamal Mashburn to injury. Mourning won Defensive Player of the Year.
2001: Tim Duncan over Jason Kidd. Duncan beat Kidd by .045 percent of the vote despite Kidd leading the New Jersey Nets to a 26-win improvement and Finals appearance. In 20 playoff games, Kidd averaged 20 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists.