Throughout NBA History, the Most Valuable Player Award has honored an individual whose seasonal campaign served as a required impact on the team's success. The design to evaluate season-long significance has been crucial to always reward a worthy player.
However, rewarding the most worthy player will always be a debated. Patterns that involve giving the award to the best player in the best organization seem to be routine throughout former MVP winners.
Also, distributing the award to players who have yet to receive it, while a former winner was far more valuable appears to have taken place in NBA history.
Prior to 1980, the NBA MVP award was chosen by players in the League. Since the Eighties, the League has used sportswriters and broadcasters to decide season awards. Recently, the NBA has eliminated team broadcasters voting credentials to avoid biased votes. Since the Spring of 2017, new rules state that 100 independent media members, with no-team affiliation, will make the season award decisions.
The League’s adjustments all are established to eliminate unfair balloting. Unfortunately, many players have had seasons that were overlooked for whatever reason, here is a list of 5 MVP Worthy, yet Unawarded Seasons.
1996-1997 MVP Award Winner: Karl Malone
Leading his team to an impressive 64-18 in the 1996-97 season, Karl Malone earned his first MVP award. Having career years in assists, field goals made, and field goal percentage gave Malone the edge he needed over other contenders. The Hall of Famer finished his season with 2249 points (27.4 PPG), and 809 rebounds (7.5 PPG), guiding the Jazz to the NBA Finals.
Deserving Player: Michael Jordan
Unfortunately for the Goat, he was the runner-up of the 1996-97 NBA MVP. Despite being unawarded for his seasonal efforts, Jordan still earned himself two MVPs that year: 1st - in his time with the Tune Squad (Space Jam 1996), and 2nd - in the historical Finals, where he knocked down ‘The Shot’ and easily deserved Finals MVP. Regardless of these two career achievements, Jordan’s 69-13 season, nearly averaging: 30 points, 4 assists, and 6 rebounds per game, was most deserving of an MVP trophy that season.
2010-2011 MVP Award Winner: Derrick Rose
2010-11 was easily Derrick Rose’s best season. Despite the greatness, it is still questioned if he was deserving of the league MVP. Contrarians to Rose’s MVP award, believe voters wanted Rose to dethrone LeBron, possibly punish the King for leaving his hometown.
Rose led the Bulls to a tremendous 62 win year. In his second All-Star season, Rose just about averaged 25 points 8 assists and 4 rebounds per game. As his value has decreased immensely, it was Rose’s incredible ability to drive into the lane which seemed unstoppable. As his MVP caliber days have vanished, the topic remains controversial if Rose was most deserving of the award. Meanwhile, his summer agreement to play in Cleveland appears to be a ring chasing effort as he joins his former MVP nominee.
*Note* If Derrick Rose fails to make into the NBA Hall of Fame, he will be the NBA’s first MVP never selected in the into the HoF.
Deserving Player: LeBron James
After departing his hometown to take his talents to south beach, LeBron became the villain of the NBA. This ‘decision’ sparked a common despise of LeBron. After an estimated 27 point, 7 assist, and 8 rebound per game season, the King led the Heat to a 58 win season. Despite a noticeable advantage in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage, James was once again unawarded for an MVP quality season.
1961-1962 MVP Award Winner: Bill Russell
Through a career-high scoring season, it was Russell’s elite defense and strong rebounding that led the Celtics to a 60-20 season, winning their fourth straight championship. To understand the greatness of Russell, in last years season (2016-17), there were only 48 20+ rebound games league-wide. In the 1961-62 season, Russell averaged 23.6 boards per game. In today’s era, those rebounding numbers are unheard of. As this center excelled in the early 60’s, he also finished the season averaging 18.9 points and 4.5 assists per game. While these stats are surely mind-blowing, Russell’s year was not the most valuable of the 1961-1962 season.
Deserving Player: Wilt Chamberlain
Other than his team's record (49-31), Wilt appears to be the greatest player during the 1961-62 season. It seems incredibly unfair that Chamberlain wasn’t rewarding the MVP. In his third year in the league, Wilt Chamberlain showcased the most dominant individual season in NBA history. His historical 100 point outburst was not random as the star averaged 50.4 points per game that season. If you add up the total 50 point games from Michael Jordan (31), Kobe Bryant(25), Elgin Baylor (17), Rick Barry (14), LeBron James (11), and Allen Iverson (11) you will come across 109 scoring eruptions. However, those six stars combined still don’t reach WIlt’s record-breaking 118 total 50+ point games.
In the midst of his Hall of Fame career, Wilt Chamberlain was robbed of what would have been his second MVP award. In the 1961-62 season, Chamberlain shot a better percentage from the field and the free throw line than Bill Russell. He also averaged more rebounds and scored 2,593 more points than the MVP winner. Leading his team to the 3rd best record in the league, it’s disgraceful that Chamberlain was a runner-up this extraordinary award.
2005-2006 MVP Award Winner: Steve Nash
After an MVP season, Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns looked to bounce back after a Western Conference Finals elimination the prior year. In what looked to be a forming dynasty, Amar’e Stoudemire’s knee injury endangered the team's goals. Meanwhile, the former MVP stepped up and earned his team a two seed in the Western Conference. Nash finished the season averaging 18.8 points, 10.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game. With only three starts from his co-All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash’s ability to thrive through adversity earned him his second straight MVP award.
Deserving Player: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant’s 2005-06 season notched him a spot in the top 10 (ranked 8th) single-season points per game leaders. Besides the end of his career, this 2005-06 Lakers roster was one of Kobe’s worst supporting casts. With six games scoring above 50 points, one game with 62, and another historic night with 81, Kobe dominated during a rebuilding Laker year. Bryant’s season was responsible for the Lakers franchise to remain a threat through the 2000’s.
After this season, Kobe Bryant’s greatness was glaring. Due to the Mamba, Los Angeles became a desired destination for Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol. Following that unawarded MVP season, Lakers GM; Mitch Kupchak made transactions to building a title contending cast surrounding Kobe. Two years after his statistically best year, Kobe Bryant earned his first and only MVP award.
2014-15 MVP Award Winner: Steph Curry
Despite breaking his own three-point record, the Warriors success is heavily responsible for Steph’s first MVP award. As the NBA was evolving into a 3 point shooting league, Golden State was thriving during the shift. Lead by Curry, the three-point excellence was on display all season long. With terrific shooting wings in Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, the Warriors humiliated opposing teams defensively on the perimeter. The star power of the Warriors earned the Conference Title with a tremendous 67-15 season.
Deserving Player: James Harden
Since being traded from Oklahoma City, the spotlight has seemed to be focused on James Harden. As he continuously grows as a superstar, the Thunder gain regret for trading him. In 2013, after his unsatisfying experience in LA, the Rockets organization added Dwight Howard. The following year, an injury would limit Howard’s impact to Houston, as he could only play in 41 games.
Despite the star being sidelined, Harden would earn Houston the second seed in the Western Conference with 56-26 record. That year, he’d average stronger statistics in points, rebounds and blocks than MVP Steph Curry. With an incredibly weaker team, it’s astonishing that the remarkable impact Harden displayed all season long failed to earn the MVP award.
Deserving Player: Russell Westbrook
In my opinion, Steph Curry should not have won the Most Valuable Player in 2014-15, I would even argue whether he deserves the two spot.
Injury and recovering occupied the bulk of Kevin Durant’s 2014-15 season. The absence of the seasons prior MVP would be detrimental to nearly any other NBA team. However, the routine setup of rewarding the best player on the best team with the MVP award occurred once again in 2015. With a powerless supporting cast, Westbrook led Oklahoma City to a 45 win season. This record was identical to the eighth-seeded Pelicans, but OKC failed to make the playoffs.
In most cases, a record above .500 earns a team a playoff spot, but not in the Western Conference. A playoff berth may have been the difference maker to Westbrooks unrewarded season. Beating both Harden and Curry in points, rebounds, assists, and player efficiency rating, Westbrook displayed a tremendous super-star season. The 2014-15 campaign from Russ showcased an excellent case as to why he should have earned his first MVP in 2015.