Kevin Love and the NBA Most Improved Player Curse

Sam CooperCorrespondent IIINovember 25, 2011

Kevin Love and the NBA Most Improved Player Curse

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    There are many curses associated with sports, such as the Madden curse that takes any player who appears on the cover of the video game, or the Sports Illustrated Curse, where players suffer setbacks immediately after appearing on the cover. But there appears to be another curse in the NBA, and it has to do with winning the most improved player award.

    The most improved player award is a great honor, as it showcases a player who has proven himself to be a dominant force and should be able to be a great player for many years to come. However, that is not always the case. Since the award's inception in 1985-1986, many players have fallen to the curse, and let's just hope that Kevin Love, the most recent winner, will be one of the lucky ones to avoid the curse. 

    The curse started with the first winner of the award Alvin Robertson, an absolute thief on the defensive end who stole 3.7 steals a game in the year he won the award. Robertson didn't have the most successful of careers; he played 10 seasons and averaged 14 points and five assists over his career.

    Although not dominant, the curse didn't strike him until after his career, in which he was constantly in trouble for beating his wives and girlfriends, and in 2010, was accused of sex trafficking, allegedly tied to a group that kidnapped a 14-year-old girl in San Antonio

    And so he became the first of a long chain of cursed players. 

Kevin Duckworth (1988)

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    Duckworth was a seven-foot center who played for five teams over his career. He was never as great a rebounder as expected for his height, but was recognized with the award in his sophomore season of 1988 after averaging 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.

    From there, the next few seasons were successful. He ended up being a two-time All-Star in both 1989 and in 1991 and managed over 15 points and six rebounds a game in his next three seasons after winning the award.

    But from there, he started to lose his dominance. He had five straight seasons of playing less than 25 minutes a game and putting up less than 10 points a game. By 1996-1997, he averaged just four points and 2.3 rebounds a game in 26 outings with the Clippers and retired at the age of 32, with career totals of 11.8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.

    His struggles didn't stop there. On Aug. 25, 2008, at the age of 44, Duckworth died of heart failure while going on a trip to Oregon as a host for a free basketball clinic. It was concluded that cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, along with hypertension caused an enlarged heart that had been failing for a long time. 

Pervis Ellison (1992)

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    Ellison was the first overall pick of the 1989 draft and came with high expectations. He was quickly traded to the Bullets after missing most of his rookie season. Once he was given a starting role, he started heating up.

    By his third season in the NBA, he took the MIP award with averages of 20 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks, a very high amount for just the 6'9" forward-center. 

    The curse affected Ellison immediately after he won the award, and his career was derailed by numerous injuries. He played eight more seasons in the NBA, and the only one in which he started was the year after he won the award. After that, he lost his starting position and never averaged double-digit scoring again.

    Also after winning the award, Ellison played more than 50 games just twice in eight seasons, and by the time he was 33 and playing for Seattle, he played just nine games and averaged less than a point before he retired. He retired with career averages of 9.5 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. 

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (1993)

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    Abdul-Rauf also won the award and emerged in his third year. He averaged 19.2 points and 4.2 assists and became a big contributor for the Nuggets. His real decline started in 1996, his last year with Denver in which he was suspended for a game for refusing to stand during the Star-Spangled Banner and said that standing during the national anthem would conflict with his Islamic beliefs. It was later worked out that he would stand during the anthem, but was allowed to look down and close his eyes.

    He was shipped out of Denver and traded to Sacramento after that season, and his career was never the same. He played two seasons for Sacramento, but failed to produce and has been struggling to keep a team ever since. He retired from the NBA at the age of 28 and has played in numerous countries since. He returned to the Vancouver Grizzlies for one year in 2000-2001, but has played with Turkey, Russia, Greece, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Japan over the past decade.

    Although he still plays at the age of 42, he was black balled out of the NBA a long time ago and has never been the same. 

Don MacLean (1994)

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    The 6'10" forward MacLean broke out in his sophomore season, in which he took the award with 18.2 points and 6.2 rebounds a game, and he shot over 50 percent from the field.

    However, his performance immediately declined. He played for the Bullets for his first three years, but then could not stay with a team, playing for six teams in just six years. He lost his starting job and was injury-ridden as well. In fact, after he won the MIP award, he had just one season for the rest of his career in which he played more than 50 games.

    By the time he was traded to Phoenix in 1999, he was burned out and averaged just 2.6 points a game. He tested positive for steroids in 2000, which ended his short nine-year career. He retired with career averages of 10.9 points and 3.8 rebounds a game. 

Dana Barros (1995)

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    It took a while for Barros to heat up, considering he won the MIP award at the age of 27 and in his sixth year. But during the season he won, he was capable of everything. He was a sharpshooter who shot 46 percent from behind the three-point line, which heavily accounted for his 20.6 points a game. He also got 7.5 assists a game and even managed to swipe a couple of steals per outing even though he wasn't considered great at stealing.

    He made less than $1 million that year with Philadelphia and used the award as an advantage to sign a bigger contract with Boston as a free agent.

    Unfortunately, it didn't pan out. Barros quickly lost his starting job and never came close to the numbers he had for Philadelphia again. He stretched his career to the age of 36, which is longer than most retired guys on this list, but he was nothing more than a role player by the time of his retirement. His career averages were 10.5 points and 3.3 assists, despite a great 41 percent career three-point percentage. 

Gheorghe Muresan (1996)

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    The 7'7" and 303-pound giant won the award in his third season of his career with the Bullets. He had 14.5 points a game, 9.6 rebounds a game and, as expected for his height, had more than two blocks per outing. All this plus the fact that he led the league by shooting 58 percent from the field.

    The next season, he took a step back, putting up over 10 points and six rebounds, but still led the league with his 60 percent field goal shooting. After that, he collapsed. Injuries ruined his career, and he retired at the age of 28, having only spent six years in the NBA. 

Isaac (Ike) Austin (1997)

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    Austin is the only player in the history of the MIP award to win with single-digit scoring numbers. He had just 9.7 points a game and complemented it with 5.8 rebounds. He also only started 17 of his 82 games for Miami, and overall, he rounds out to being the winner of a pretty weak year for breakout players.

    He actually improved the next year too, putting up 13.5 points and over seven rebounds a game, and so, due to two consistent years of pretty good play, he was rewarded with a bigger contract and signed in Orlando. That is when he fell off the face of the Earth.

    He played four more seasons with three teams, never played more than 25 minutes a game and never improved into an All-Star caliber player as some thought he was capable of. He retired from the NBA at the age of 32, and he had career averages 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. 

Alan Henderson (1998)

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    Henderson marks the seventh year in a row of the breakout player ending up a bust. The 6'9" forward won himself the award in his third season after finishing with totals of 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. He spent the next several years in Atlanta, and although the first few were decent, he soon found himself on the bench as a role player.

    He was eventually traded, along with Jason Terry, to the Mavericks in 2004. He spent his last three years with the Mavs, Cavs and 76ers before retiring at the age of 34.

    After his breakout season, he was never able to take another step forward and had career averages of just 7.8 points and five rebounds in 652 NBA games. 

Jalen Rose (2000)

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    It took him a long time, but Rose did have a few good years. In fact, the year he won the MIP award was just the first of four consecutive seasons in which he scored over 18 points.

    But quickly after Rose's few golden years, he fizzled out. At the age of 33, he played for both Toronto and New York, averaging just over 12 points and less than three assists and rebounds, but still commanded over $15 million. He finished his career in Phoenix the next year, getting in just 8.5 minutes a game over 29 games.

    He had a few good seasons, but nothing amazing, and he did struggle for several years early on and in the last few years of his career. He was probably expected to do better considering that he was a 13th overall pick. 

Gilbert Arenas (2003)

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    I've been debating whether or not to put Arenas on this list, considering he has had so much success and also so much bad publicity over his career. The three-time All-Star guard won the award in his sophomore season after getting over 18 points and six assists a game. And from there, he began his glory years.

    Five straight good years of improvement, including a few all-star appearances and a couple years of being considered one of the best players in the game. His 29 points a game at just age 24 showed that he was one of the few who escaped the curse.

    But then, his career took a terrible turn. He signed a five-year, $111 million contract, which is now one of the most regrettable contracts in NBA history.

    In four of those seasons on his contract, he has managed to have a couple of incidents of carrying an unlicensed pistol in the locker room and was suspended for the rest of the 2009-2010 season after the incident. Because of this, he has played just 68 games in three-and-a-half seasons with the Wizards before being traded to Orlando in December.

    Now, although he is healthy, he'll most likely be shed by the Magic via amnesty, and his days of stardom may be over. All this, and he is still only 29. 

Bobby Simmons (2005)

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    Simmons won the MIP award just six years ago, and yet, how many people do you think would know his name if you asked? Not many. In fact, Simmons winning the award is becoming more and more of a fluke.

    He was drafted 41st overall, so nothing too big was ever expected of him. He landed an everyday starting role with the Clippers for the first time in his career, and converted, putting up 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds a game, along with a dangerous 44 percent shooting from behind the arc.

    After that, Simmons parlayed his MIP into a contract with the Bucks in 2005 and didn’t earn a cent of it because of missing the entire 2006-07 season with an ankle injury.

    In 2010-2011, he played two games for San Antonio, picking up just one assist and one foul in 16 minutes. He was recently waived by San Antonio and is now struggling in the D-League. He's been in the NBA just nine years, but his career may be coming to an end quickly. 

Boris Diaw (2006)

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    The French forward Boris Diaw won the award while playing for the Phoenix Suns and had a very nice season, getting over 13 points, almost seven rebounds and over six assists, and he shot 53 percent from the field.

    In the five seasons he's played since then, nothing special has happened. All of the most recent years have been worse, and he is consistently putting up around 11 points and five rebounds over the past couple seasons. Not exactly a bust, but at 28, which is when most players are in their prime, you might expect him to play better than he is right now.

    Perhaps playing for France this year will give him a boost to his production and value, and maybe he'll come back to the U.S better than ever. He still has time to progress, but right now, he doesn't look like more than a mediocre starter. 

Hedo Turkoglu (2008)

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    Turkoglu was 28 when he won the MIP award. He had already played several seasons in the NBA and was looking like a consistent 13 or 14-point scorer with a good three-point shot, unusual for someone who is 6'10". He was rewarded with the award in 2008 after getting over 19 points a game, shooting 46 percent from behind the arc and putting up a good showing in the NBA Finals with Orlando.

    From there, he signed a meaty five-year, $53 million contact with Toronto a season later. Unfortunately, that was a disaster for Toronto. He had just 11 points a game before being traded to Phoenix before the 2010-2011 season, where he continued to do worse. He lasted less than half a season with Phoenix, and now he is back in Orlando, putting up 11 points a game and haunting the team with his big contract.

    At age 31, Turkoglu's best days are behind him, and the two seasons in which he had over 15 points a game may have just been because of him playing almost 37 minutes a game as opposed to about 30 in other years. 

Aaron Brooks (2010)

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    Brooks is the most recent victim of the MIP award. Brooks flourished in the role of scorer for Houston in 2009-2010, putting up 19.6 points a game. He also contributed 5.3 assists and shot 40 percent from behind the arc.

    Unfortunately, injuries slowed his progression this past year, and after Kyle Lowry secured the starting spot, Brooks was shipped to Phoenix, where he is stuck behind Steve Nash and playing just 19 minutes a game.

    Nash will be out of Phoenix sometime in the next couple years, so we'll see if Brooks can live up to the expectations that come with being a first-round pick. But as for now, the curse has effected his health and doomed him to a bench role for the next couple years. 

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