NBA "Fantasy": What If the League Awarded an East and West MVP?

Vin GetzCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2011

NBA "Fantasy": What If the League Awarded an East and West MVP?

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    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Baseball does it: Two Most Valuable Players every year. One prize each for the National and American Leagues.

    That's understandable, though.  The leagues are more separate than in any of the four major American team sports.  Until 1997, they did not even meet on the field during the regular season.  With the introduction of interleague play, only 11% of the contests, at most, have NL meeting AL.

    On top of that, the leagues have some differences that make it fair to have separate MVPs, like strike zone differences, two additional teams in the National League, and of course the DH and its affect on style of play.  Maybe you can say that the NL has bigger parks, but that's a stretch.

    How does basketball compare?

    Well, the courts are all the same size, there's an equal number of teams in each conference, and there are no rule differences between conferences to start.  There aren't permanent style differences either; they change with the years.

    But, each team does play a majority of its games intra-conference: 63% - 52 of the 82 games.

    Based on these facts, it's probably correct that the NBA offers one MVP award for the whole league.

    The voting results support this as well.  Often, but not always, it's a blowout.

    But, what if, starting with the 1990-91 season, separate MVPs were awarded?  Who else would have won?  Who would have won again?  Would it affect Hall of Fame voting? Which teams would have their first MVPs?

    Here's a second shot at individual immortality for some of these players: A roll call of both East and West MVPs since 1990.

    Even if you disagree with awarding separate MVPs, this is still a good look at the top player in each conference for the past 20 years.

     

    The titles of each slide have the official winner followed by ("...and") who would have been the other conference's winner.  Included are the results for the top five vote-getters.

    Photo:  Two-time East MVP Alonzo Mourning (with Miami teammate Dwayne Wade).

1990-91 MVPs: Michael Jordan (Bulls)...and Magic Johnson (Lakers)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

     

    Magic Johnson won three MVPs.  This would have been fourth, and final, award.  Following the 1990-91 season, Magic tested positive for HIV and left the game.  He returned for 32 games in 1995-96.

     

    Rank  Player  Team  First  Pts Won
    1 Michael Jordan  Bulls
    77 891
    2 Magic Johnson  Lakers
    10 497
    3 David Robinson  Spurs 6 476
    4 Charles Barkley  76ers 2 222
    5 Karl Malone  Jazz 0 142

1991-92 MVPs: Michael Jordan (Bulls)...and Clyde Drexler (Trailblazers)

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    Mike Powell/Getty Images

     

    This would have been Clyde The Glide's only MVP, and Portland's second.  The other?  Bill Walton in 1977-78.

     

    Rank  Player  Team  First  Pts Won 
    1 Michael Jordan  Bulls 80 900
    2 Clyde Drexler  Trailblazers 12 561
    3 David Robinson  Spurs 2 337
    4 Karl Malone  Jazz 1 262
    5 Patrick Ewing  Knicks 0 100

1992-93 MVPs: Charles Barkley (Suns)...and Michael Jordan (Bulls)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

     

    After eight years in Philadelphia, Barkley was traded to Phoenix for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry.  Sir Charles won his only MVP that first year with the Suns.

    Up to this point Michael Jordan had already won three real MVPs (including the last two).  This would've been his fourth.  More to come.

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Charles Barkley  Suns 59 835
    2 Hakeem Olajuwon  Rockets 22 647
    3 Michael Jordan  Bulls 13 565
    4 Patrick Ewing  Knicks 4 359
    5 Dominique Wilkins  Hawks 0 54

1993-94 MVPs: Hakeem Olajuwon (Rockets)...and Scottie Pippen (Bulls)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

     

    Scottie Pippen, arguably the best No. 2 player in basketball history, would have been No.1 in 1993-94 with Jordan temporarily retired, taking the East MVP for his first, and only, award.  He never nailed one down in reality.

    In 1993-94, Hakeem Olajuwon became the second player to win the MVP for the Houston Rockets.  Moses Malone won it twice for the franchise before him.

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Hakeem Olajuwon  Rockets 66 889
    2 David Robinson  Spurs 24 730
    3 Scottie Pippen  Bulls 7 390
    4 Shaquille O'Neal  Magic 3 289
    5 Patrick Ewing  Knicks 1 255

1994-95 MVPs: David Robinson (Spurs)...and Shaquille O'Neal (Magic)

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    Shaquille O'Neal would have been ahead of his time.  He didn't win the MVP for real for another five years.

    David Robinson won the first Spurs MVP.

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 David Robinson  Spurs 73 901
    2 Shaquille O'Neal  Magic 12 605
    3 Karl Malone  Jazz 14 532
    4 Patrick Ewing  Knicks 2 230
    5 Hakeem Olajuwon  Rockets 1 147

1995-96 MVPs: Michael Jordan (Bulls)...and David Robinson (Spurs)

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

     

    David Robinson would have gone back-to-back.  As it is, the Admiral's only true MVP came the previous season.

    There's that other guy again.

     

    Rank  Player  Team
    First  Pts Won 
    1 Michael Jordan  Bulls 109 1114
    2 David Robinson  Spurs
    0 574
    3 Anfernee Hardaway  Magic
    2 360
    4 Hakeem Olajuwon  Rockets 1 238
    5 Scottie Pippen  Bulls 0 226

1996-97 MVPs: Karl Malone (Jazz)...and Michael Jordan (Bulls)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

     

    MJ would have had his second additional MVP in 1996-97.

    Karl "The Mailman" Malone is the only Utah Jazz cager to win the award.

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Karl Malone  Jazz 63 986
    2 Michael Jordan  Bulls 52 957
    3 Grant Hill  Pistons 0 376
    4 Tim Hardaway  Heat 0 238
    5 Glen Rice  Hornets (CH) 0 134

1997-98 MVPs: Michael Jordan (Bulls)...and Karl Malone (Jazz)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

     

    Air Jordan won his fifth MVP award.  With the two additional East MVPs, he would have finished with seven.  Kobe who?

    Malone would have represented the West again.

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Michael Jordan  Bulls 92 1084
    2 Karl Malone  Jazz 20 842
    3 Gary Payton  Supersonics 3 431
    4 Shaquille O'Neal  Lakers 1 311
    5 Tim Duncan  Spurs 0 148

1998-99 MVPs: Karl Malone (Jazz)...and Alonzo Mourning (Heat)

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    Malone continued his domination of the West, taking home a second MVP award in three years.  If he would have won the previous year, that would have been an MVP three-peat.  Larry Bird and Bill Russell are the only players to win the MVP three years in a row (for the Celtics).

    Alonzo Mourning would have reined in the Heat's first MVP.  They still don't have a winner yet.

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Karl Malone  Jazz 44 827
    2 Alonzo Mourning  Heat 36 773
    3 Tim Duncan  Spurs 30 740
    4 Allen Iverson  76ers 5 319
    5 Jason Kidd  Suns 2 159

1999-00 MVPs: Shaquille O'Neal (Lakers)...and Alonzo Mourning (Heat)

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    Mourning continued his two-year Eastern dominance and would have gone back-to-back.

    Shaq wins his one MVP award, grabbing all first-place votes, as a Laker.

     

    Rank  Player  Team
    First  Pts Won 
    1 Shaquille O'Neal  Lakers
    120 1207
    2 Kevin Garnett  Timberwolves
    0 408
    3 Alonzo Mourning  Heat 0 367
    4 Karl Malone  Jazz 0 312
    5 Tim Duncan  Spurs
    0 248

2000-01 MVPs: Allen Iverson (76ers)...and Tim Duncan (Spurs)

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    Another Georgetown alumnus continued to own the East in 2000-01.  Allen Iverson took home the MVP award for Philadelphia for the first time since Moses Malone, who won his third MVP with the 76ers.

    Four players have won the MVP with more than one franchise: Moses Malone (76ers, Rockets), Julius "Dr. J" Erving (ABA NY Nets, 76ers), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Bucks, Lakers) and Wilt Chamberlain (Warriors, 76ers).

    In 2000-01 Tim Duncan would have won his first MVP.  He'd have to wait just one more year.

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Allen Iverson  76ers 93 1121
    2 Tim Duncan  Spurs 18 706
    3 Shaquille O'Neal  Lakers 7 578
    4 Chris Webber  Kings 5 521
    5 Kevin Garnett  Timberwolves 1 151

2001-02 MVPs: Tim Duncan (Spurs)...and Jason Kidd (Nets)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

     

    Tim Duncan broke through with his first of two MVPs in a row.

    Jason Kidd would have carried the East (as he carried the NJ Nets into the finals for the first time in the team's history).

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Tim Duncan  Spurs 57 954
    2 Jason Kidd  Nets 45 897
    3 Shaquille O'Neal  Lakers 15 696
    4 Tracy McGrady  Magic 7 390
    5 Kobe Bryant  Lakers 1 98

2002-03 MVPs: Tim Duncan (Spurs)...and Tracy McGrady (Magic)

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    Tracy McGrady would have made his mark with an MVP of his own for Orlando.  As it stands, the Magic do not yet have an MVP winner.

    Tim Duncan went back-to-back for real.

     

    Rank  Player  Tm  First  Pts Won 
    1 Tim Duncan  SAS  60 962
    2 Kevin Garnett  MIN  43 871
    3 Kobe Bryant  LAL  8 496
    4 Tracy McGrady  ORL  4 427
    5 Shaquille O'Neal  LAL  3 126

2003-04 MVPs: Kevin Garnett (Timberwolves)...and Jermaine O'Neal (Pacers)

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

     

    Jermaine O'Neal.  Who would have thought?  He was the best the East had to offer in 2003-04

    Before Kevin Garnett was a champion with Boston, he was an MVP for Minnesota.

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Kevin Garnett  Timberwolves 120 1219
    2 Tim Duncan  Spurs 0 716
    3 Jermaine O'Neal  Pacers 2 523
    4 Peja Stojakovic  Kings 1 281
    5 Kobe Bryant  Lakers 0 212

2004-05 MVPs: Steve Nash (Suns)...and Shaquille O'Neal (Heat)

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    If the NBA began awarding separate MVPs starting in 1990, Shaquille O'Neal would have been the first player in history to win three MVPs with three different teams: Magic, Lakers and Heat.  At the least, he was the best player in his conference three times.

    Steve Nash won his first of back-to-back MVPs in 2004-05.

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Steve Nash  Suns 65 1066
    2 Shaquille O'Neal  Heat 58 1032
    3 Dirk Nowitzki  Mavericks 0 349
    4 Tim Duncan  Spurs 1 328
    5 Allen Iverson  76ers 2 240

2005-06 MVPs: Steve Nash (Suns)...LeBron James (Cavaliers)

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    LeBron James scored the most points of his career in 2005-06, but Steve Nash took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy a second year in a row.

     

    Rank  Player  Team
    First  Pts Won 
    1 Steve Nash  Suns
    57 924
    2 LeBron James  Cavaliers
    16 688
    3 Dirk Nowitzki  Mavericks 14 544
    4 Kobe Bryant  Lakers
    22 483
    5 Chauncey Billups  Pistons 15 430

2006-07 MVPs: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks)...and LeBron James (Cavaliers)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

     

    LeBron James missed another MVP chance in 2006-07 when the West dominated the NBA regular season again.

    Dirk Nowitzki won the Mavericks' only MVP.

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Dirk Nowitzki  Mavericks 83 1138
    2 Steve Nash  Suns 44 1013
    3 Kobe Bryant  Lakers 2 521
    4 Tim Duncan  Spurs
    0 286
    5 LeBron James  Cavaliers
    0 183

2007-08 MVPs: Kobe Bryant (Lakers)...and Kevin Garnett (Celtics)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

     

    Despite putting up serious league-leading numbers the previous two seasons, Kobe Bryant finally won his first (and only) MVP in his 12th season.

    A re-energized Kevin Garnett would have taken home his second MVP, but he was probably more satisfied with his first ring, and the Celtics first in over 20 years (when Larry Bird still ruled the roost).

     

    Rank  Player  Team First  Pts Won 
    1 Kobe Bryant  Lakers 82 1105
    2 Chris Paul  Hornets (NO)  28 889
    3 Kevin Garnett  Celtics 15 670
    4 LeBron James  Cavaliers  1 438
    5 Dwight Howard  Magic  0 60

2008-09 MVPs: LeBron James (Cavaliers)...and Kobe Bryant (Lakers)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

     

    King James put an end to the West's seven-year MVP run and took home his and the Cavaliers' first award.

    Kobe Bryant had to settle for second best, but best in the West.

     

    Rank  Player  Tm  First  Pts Won 
    1 LeBron James  CLE  109 1172
    2 Kobe Bryant  LAL  2 698
    3 Dwyane Wade  MIA  7 680
    4 Dwight Howard  ORL  1 328
    5 Chris Paul  NOH  2 192

2009-10 MVPs: LeBron James (Cavaliers)...and Kevin Durant (Thunder)

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    LeBron James is the current MVP, twice over.  Had there been separate MVPs, he would have four already.

    Super phenom Kevin Durant led both leagues in field goals, free throws and total points but was way behind James, who won his second landslide in a row.

     

    Rank  Player  Team
    First  Pts Won 
    1 LeBron James  Cavaliers
    116 1205
    2 Kevin Durant  Thunder
    4 609
    3 Kobe Bryant  Lakers
    0 599
    4 Dwight Howard  Magic
    3 478
    5 Dwyane Wade  Heat
    0 119