The regular-season MVP award is arguably the most coveted of achievements for a player. The accomplishment itself shows how the player took on every opposition with the same intensity and provided match-winning performances all through the season. Players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Wilt Chamberlain have all reached such a high stature because they had MVP awards to back it up.
The MVP award is decided by counting the votes of sportswriters and broadcasters along with the votes of fellow players in the league. Generally, over the course of most seasons, one player emerges to stand above the rest with scintillating performances in every game. However, in some seasons, it becomes very hard to determine who is more deserving.
Here we take a look at some of the biggest NBA MVP snubs of all time.
#10. Allen Iverson over Shaquille O’Neal (2000-01)
The 2000-01 season was one to watch because of many reasons. The teams who were considered as the minnows were starting to find their feet, and the big franchises brought in players who could influence games with their individual brilliance. However, none of the reasons was as captivating as the battle between Shaq and Iverson.
Everyone remembers Iverson as the one who introduced ankle-breaking handles in the league. In fact, he is still considered one of the greatest ball-handlers to ever grace the game. However, many forget the kind of impact he had on the Philadelphia 76ers side during his prime. In that season, AI averaged 31.1 points per game and had an assist average of 4.6. With his help, The 76ers went on to lead the Eastern Conference and play in the Finals.
Shaquille O’Neal came into that season with the previous season’s MVP tag. With a burly frame and surprisingly nimble movements, he was able to take the league by storm and scored at will. He continued where he left on in the previous season as well, averaging 28.7 points per game. His presence on the Lakers’ side was a big part of why they were able to win the championship that year.
Ultimately, the reason due to which Shaq was snubbed was that the people wanted a new MVP. Voters were reluctant on voting for Shaq because he had already won the award last season. With Iverson being the closest player to him in terms of impact, the award was handed to him.
#9. Magic Johnson over Charles Barkley (1989-90)
There is no doubt about the fact that Magic Johnson is the greatest point guard of all time. All His awards and accolades back that up and speaks for itself. However, when he won the MVP award in the 1989-90 season, some critics were of the opinion that Charles Barkley was miles ahead of him.
By that time, Magic Johnson had already achieved his legendary status and players dreaded to go up against him. His leadership on the court was pivotal in terms of the Lakers winning championships. However, Chuck was just starting out in his career and was already on course to become the fiercest player in the history of the game. The way he powered through defenses was a treat to watch. Apart from that, he also struck a rich vein of shooting that season and was the top scorer for the 76ers.
That season, he averaged an astounding 25.2 points per game along with 11.5 rebounds. In that era, the league had not shifted towards the small-ball approach. It was still played with players driving to the basket with little emphasis on shooting threes. The only reason behind Charles Barkley not getting picked for the MVP title was Magic Johnson’s illustrious career that demanded an MVP honor.
#8. Derrick Rose over LeBron James (2010-11)
Derrick Rose will always be remembered as the youngest player to ever win the MVP award. His performances that season lit up the league and he was well deserving of one. However, there was another player in the league who was having an even bigger impact on a franchise. That player was LeBron James. The four-time MVP winner would have won six if not for two unjust snubs. And the surprising fact is, with the legacy that Bron has created, no one would have questioned the six MVP titles. He was deserving of every one of those.
In the 2010-11 season, Derrick Rose averaged 25 points per game compared to LeBron’s 26.7. From the stats aspect, it was clear that LeBron pipped Rose in every parameter. In the end, the reasoning behind Rose getting the MVP might be more related to novelty than to actual impact.
The voters knew that giving the MVP award to a young and ambitious player will gain brownie points for the league. Everyone was in awe of this new player who was tearing apart his opposition with the perfect amalgamation of skill and determination all around the world of basketball. That is why giving the award to Derrick Rose seemed the logical thing to do. However, one cannot deny that Lebron was ahead of him when it came to individual stats.
#7. Kobe Bryant over Lebron James (2007-08)
The legacy that Kobe Bryant established over the course of his career will forever remain untarnished. One of the biggest legends of the game, Kobe was an inspiration to all aspiring hoopers. There is no denying that a player like Kobe deserved to have an MVP award to his name. He managed to do so in the 2007-08 season. However, many feel that Mamba received the award at the expense of a young LeBron James.
That year, LeBron had the season of his life in which he averaged 30 points per game. Which is slightly higher than Kobe’s 28.3. Moreover, the impact of Bron on the Cavaliers was significantly higher than that of Kobe on the Lakers. This might have to do something with Kobe requesting a trade before the start of the season.
In Kobe’s favor, he managed to score all those points in an inarguably tougher Western Conference, that also had Chris Paul’s Hornets. Whatever be the case, his greatness demanded an MVP award and he got one.
#6. Oscar Robertson over Wilt Chamberlain (1963-64)
When Oscar Robertson won the MVP award in the 1963-64 season, it was considered as one of the closest MVP decisions in the league. Both sets of fans would have been happy if the results went either way. However, some people believe that Wilt Chamberlain was the more deserving winner after recording healthier stats during the regular season.
In a season where the San Francisco Warriors and the Cincinnati Royals were practically neck and neck, Wilt and The Big O were fighting it out in a different war of their own. Ultimately, the decision was made by the players who had played against both of these men. The reason behind why Robertson was given the award is probably because Chamberlain already had an MVP under his belt. However, that does not take away from the fact that Oscar Robertson’s stats of 31.4 points and 11 assists per game would have guaranteed him a win in any other season.
#5. Bill Walton over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1977-78)
The 1977-78 season was very peculiar in the way it shaped up towards the end. The best players in the league, Kareem and Walton had missed significant chunks of the season and were not able to meet the typical requirements for an MVP caliber season. However, it was clearly evident that no other player was quite as good as these two at that time. That is why a decision had to be made regardless of the number of games played.
In the end, Walton emerged as the victor even after recording weaker stats than that of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. NBA fanatics suspect that the reasoning behind Bill Walton receiving the award might be related to his team’s performance.
One has to remember that the MVP award is not entirely about individual performances. It is also about how those performances impact the team to be in the top during the course of the season. When this dictate was applied in the 77-78 season, it irked many sportswriters and players, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
#4. Karl Malone over Michael Jordan (1996-97)
This was one of the MVP decisions that gained traction because of the MJ documentary, “The Last Dance”. While there is no denying the fact that both Malone and Michael Jordan played to the best of their abilities during the season, the MVP award could have gone to only one of the two.
With almost similar stats all throughout the season, the decision of the 1996-97 season had to be made in keeping with the player impact. In every aspect of the game, Jordan edged Karl Malone by a slight margin. That is why critics and analysts have failed to find the reasoning behind the decision.
The only logical thought that could have been behind this fiasco was that the voters were bothered by the utter dominance of Jordan and wanted someone else to win the award. He had already won the 95-96 MVP and missed a unanimous call by the smallest of margins.
In “The Last Dance”, Michael Jordan talks about how the MVP snub affected him. He said, “I’m not saying he wasn’t deserving of it. All I’m saying is that that fueled the fire in me. ‘OK, you think he’s the MVP? That’s fine, no problem.'” That season, MJ got to taste sweet vengeance when the Bulls won the NBA Finals against Malone’s Utah Jazz.
#3. Steve Nash over Kobe Bryant (2006-07)
There is virtually no argument that was in favor of Steve Nash regarding the 2006-07 MVP award. By every viewpoint of individual performance, Kobe Bryant was miles ahead of everyone else in the league. Even in terms of impact, Kobe was in a class of his own. He carried an abysmal Lakers team on his back to a playoff spot in that season.
Individual brilliance was an aspect where Kobe always thrived. in that season, he was probably in the form of his life. Dropping 62 points in three quarters and scoring 81 points in a match against the Toronto Raptors. It was clear as day when it came to deciding a winner. However, it was not to be as sportscasters and other voters believed that Nash had more of an impact because the Suns won more games than the Lakers.
That year will forever go down as one of the most bizarre decisions in the history of the coveted award. Kobe later won it when LeBron was more deserving of it. So in essence, everything evened out at the end for both of them except for LeBron James.
#2. Steve Nash over Shaquille O’Neal (2004-05)
The word unbelievable is wildly overused in this day and age. However, in that context, the decision mandates the use of this word. After the season Shaq had with the Miami Heat, it was all but certain that he would win the MVP award. In the end, the reality was quite different. He was bested by Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns who had stats nowhere near as good as O’Neal but still managed to receive the honour of being the regular season MVP.
In the season of 2004-05, Steve Nash was part of the iconic Suns squad which had a good record of 62-20. However, Shaq was a part of the Miami Heat side that was annihilating every single opponent who came in their path. In the final stages of his illustrious career, Shaq was once again dominating the grandest stage in the only way he knew.
During that season, Nash averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 assists per game. Compare that to Shaquille O’Neal and even the stats seem puny. That season Shaq managed to score 22.9 points and rack up 10.4 rebounds in every game. If those are not MVP-worthy, I don’t know what is.
#1. Bill Russell over Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson (1966-67)
This one is hands down the most eccentric decision ever made when it comes to the MVP award. There was not even a shred of doubt in anyone’s mind that Wilt Chamberlain deserved to win the MVP. However, in a set of strange events, Bill Russell was handed the honour without any explanation.
Wilt Chamberlain was averaging 50.4 points per game in that season. Yes, you read it right. He was single-handedly taking opposition defenses apart and no one could stop him. Another mind-boggling fact is that at the end of the season, he averaged 25.7 rebounds per game. Chamberlain was dominating the court like never seen before.
Even Oscar Robertson was on fire as he became the first player to ever average a triple-double throughout the season. He even managed to average 30.8 points per game. These stats will be enough to win the MVP in that day and age. In that era, these performances were simply otherworldly.
Comparing the seasons of both these players to Bill Russell’s is an abasement to their craft. Russell only managed to average 18.9 points per game. This award was only given as a tribute to the legendary status of Bill Russell and the admiration he had gained over the years. Other than that, there is no possible reason why Wilt Chamberlain was not handed the prize.
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