LeBron James and Derrick Rose fight for the prize. The question is: Which prize?
The NBA MVP award will be given to either LeBron James or Derrick Rose. While Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, and, yes, Dwyane Wade each have legitimate claims of their own, the media votes are the ones that count, an issue alluded to by Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. This means that the award is similar to a beauty contest. Objectivity is pushed into the corner. While every candidate is attractive, a gesture as simple as a gravity-defying, one-handed, alley-hoop dunk during a January contest against a lower-level team can be the defining highlight that is too hard to ignore come ballot time.
The criteria used to determine which player is, in fact, the most valuable is almost as subjective as whether you prefer blonde or brunette.
Is he the BEST player in the league? Does that question answer who is the most VALUABLE? Of course, it depends on whom you ask. If the award goes to the best player, then a player like Michael Jordan should have as many MVP trophies as he has years spent in the league. The best player doesn’t always take the cake.
Is the player with the most impressive stats the most valuable player in the league? That cannot be the case. Every team plays the same amount of minutes as the rest of the league. Stats will accumulate for even the most mediocre of players.
Best player on best team? This is not the Heisman Trophy. This NBA award is an individual one, at least in comparison to college football’s version.
WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST WE DO? FLIP A COIN?
The only question that must be answered is: Which player has played the biggest role in his team’s success, where success means having a legitimate shot to win the NBA Finals? This can also mean: Which contending team, when removing its best player, suffers the most?
Sure, some of the previous questions can be correctly answered by applying this simple equation, but they can also lead voters on the wrong path.
The best player in the NBA? LeBron, Durant, Wade, and Howard come to mind. Kobe should be there somewhere, too. Rose is in the discussion.
The player with the most impressive numbers? LeBron, Howard, Rose, Blake Griffin, Monta Ellis, Kevin Love, and Zach Randolph have put up impressive lines all season.
There is something to be desired with these lists, at least with regard to the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in the league.
Let’s ask the question again: Which player, on a championship contending team, plays the biggest role in his team’s success?
There are eight teams that have a real shot to win it all: San Antonio, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and Oklahoma City out west and Chicago, Boston, Miami, and Orlando in the east.
We can eliminate players from the west. Each of those teams can lose their best player and still compete at a high-level. The Lakers sport two towers in the middle, Dallas is as deep as anyone, San Antonio relies on its system almost as much as its facilitators, and Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook, a budding star in his own right.
We can eliminate Boston and Miami, both of whom combined to represent seven of the East All-Star’s twelve participants this year. Also, Wade and Chris Bosh, along with key complimentary pieces, and under the sole leadership of Wade, would be a title-contender even without LeBron. The same can also be said about LeBron and Bosh, sans Wade.
This leaves us with Orlando and Chicago. Howard vs. Rose. Big vs. small. Size vs. speed. Point guard vs. center. The great debate. Howard may be a more coveted commodity, but Rose has his team atop the standings.
At this point, other than flipping a coin, one should not be convinced either way. It is safe to say that both teams lack the firepower around their shining star to compete any more effectively than Milwaukee or Phoenix.
This is not a bad thing. Hugely subjective? Absolutely. But who cares? This is an individual award. The fact that there is any debate about who deserves the award is an example of how intriguing this league is. The game is better for it. Publicity is good.
SO WHO IS, IN YOUR OPINION, THE NBA MVP?
Can I vote for co-MVPs? If so, I vote for Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
Then again, it is the Finals MVP that really matters.