With the exception of the 2005 and 2006 seasons, every MVP in the NBA of the last 25 years featured players that could claim the title of “best player in the league” during their respective years.
Prior to that span, every player to win the MVP award two or more times had at least one Finals appearance, and every player to win the MVP award two or more consecutive times boasted at least one championship ring.
Steve Nash, winner of the 2005 and 2006 MVP awards, was the first exception to all the above.
In the 21 years prior to Nash winning the award, the only players that had won the title in consecutive years were all-time greats Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, and Larry Bird.
Nash hardly belongs in that category.
Before Nash, every player that had won the award in consecutive years had legitimate claims to being the best at their respective positions of all time.
LeBron James has finally re-established that trend. Though it won’t be official until the season’s end, James wrapped up the MVP award months ago as the league’s second highest scorer and sixth-highest assist leader and in the way he’s single-handedly carried his team to contender status.
Fun fact: None of the 25 players scoring at a higher percentage than James are within five points of his scoring average.
Though Nash’s offensive skills are superb, he’s always been criticized for his soft defense and not-mean-enough-to-win demeanor. Under Nash’s leadership, these faults were only mirrored by the Suns and contributed to their constant failure.
No other consecutive MVP winner had such notable flaws.
James has no such weaknesses. Once criticized for his lack of a consistent jumpshot, James’ hard work and practice turned that fault into a weapon that further augments his devastating inside game. Once criticized for his mediocre defense, James has become the most effective shot blockers (particularly from behind) and overall defenders resulting in his first all-defensive team nomination last season.
Though James has already done much to restore historical significance to the MVP award, time will tell if he can further cement his status as an all-time great when he takes his heavily favored Cavaliers into the playoffs.