The NBA’s Most Valuable Player is voted on by a panel of 100 media members, who rank MVP candidates first through fifth.
First-place votes are worth 10 points, second-place votes are worth seven points, third-place votes are worth five points, fourth-place votes are worth three points and fifth-place votes are worth one point.
It is an honor and a privilege to be given the power to decide the fate of an NBA player’s status and legacy. The 100 media members given this honor should never take it for granted and should really think long and hard on how they vote.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic received 65 first-place votes to win the 2021-22 MVP award. These 65 media members should all lose their NBA voting credentials because they committed the egregious sin of ignoring the most important statistic — wins.
With all due respect to Jokic, who had a fabulous season for the Nuggets, he didn’t deserve to win a second consecutive MVP despite posting astronomical numbers (27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists) for a Nuggets squad missing their No. 2 (Jamal Murray) and No. 3 options (Michael Porter Jr.). If we were playing Fantasy Basketball, Jokic easily gets the nod. But we’re not living in a fantasy world. In the real world, stats only tell one part of the story. The only stat that should matter is wins.
Ultimately, the best the Nuggets could do was 48 wins and sixth place in the Western Conference. By comparison, the two other 2022 MVP finals — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid — led their teams to 51 wins and finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Eastern Conference.
If OMFB had a MVP vote, it would be Giannis. He’s the undisputed best player in the world with stats to back it up, and he led his team to a top-three finish in the East.
Every team in the league has an “MVP.” The best and most logical way to identify individual accomplishment is through the lens of team success. That’s how it is at the youth level, AAU, high school, college, and pros. For whatever reason, NBA media members are infatuated with statistics. Despite having access to all the advanced metrics and data known to man, the media found a way to blow it, choosing narrative over common sense.
Winning a second MVP is reserved for basketball royalty. Jokic may get there eventually, but he’s nowhere near the level of multiple MVP winners Bill Russell, Bob Pettit, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Antetokounmpo.
Since the NBA began handing out a regular-season MVP award, 12 of the 15 players with multiple MVPs led their teams to at least one NBA championship. The only three multiple MVP winners — Karl Malone, Steve Nash, and Jokic — don’t have a championship. Malone reached the NBA Finals twice, but lost each time to Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Nash lost in the conference finals four times and never made it to the NBA Finals. Jokic has yet to reach The Finals, and his only trip to the conference finals came inside the Disney World bubble.
The Mailman, Nash, and Joker are Hall of Famers, but they each have a major hole in their basketball resumes. Malone and Nash are retired. Jokic still has time to change his career arc. Jokic has the added burden of needing a championship ring to validate his status as two-time MVP. The vast majority of NBA writers, broadcasters, and analysts named him king without a crown.
Since 1956 when the first NBA regular season MVP award was handed out, four most valuable players finished their careers without winning the ultimate prize while four are still in pursuit of that elusive chip.
Here are the eight NBA MVPs without a championship ring:
Charles Barkley (MVP in 1993)
Barkley is one of the most beloved sports figures of all-time. He had a big personality to match his big physical presence on the court. He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984 and quickly became a fan favorite in Philly. After being traded to Phoenix in 1992, Barkley enjoyed his best season as he captured the 1993 MVP and led the high-powered Suns to the best record in the league and advanced to the NBA Finals. But Barkley’s Suns ended up losing to Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the ’93 Finals, and Barkley never got back to The Finals. He did manage to win two Olympic gold medals and his career was validated by being selected to the 1992 Dream Team. The Round Mound of Rebound finished with more than 23,000 points and 12,000 rebounds. He was a unique player who wasn’t defined by one position. Barkley has said many times publicly that not winning a title shouldn’t and didn’t define his basketball career. Hard to argue with Sir Charles.
Karl Malone (MVP in 1997 and 1999)
With the help of his good friend John Stockton, The Mailman delivered two MVPs as a member of the Utah Jazz. Unfortunately, Stockton and Malone couldn’t deliver a title to Salt Lake City. Malone led the Jazz to appearances in the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. Both times his teams lost to Jordan’s Bulls (that was a common theme during the Jordan era) in six games. In 2003-04 Malone joined Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in L.A., hoping to make one final push for a ring. But it wasn’t meant to be as Malone had an injury-plagued season and the Lakers went down to the Detroit Pistons in five games in The Finals. Malone finished his career as the second-leading scorer in history (36,928). He made the All-NBA first team 11 times and made the All-Defensive team three times. He’s widely regarded as one of the greatest power forwards and part of the NBA’s 50 greatest players.
Allen Iverson (MVP in 2001)
When we’re talking about Iverson, we’re talking about a fearless competitor who played with reckless abandon. A.I. answered the call several times throughout his 13-year career, putting together a MVP season in 2001 and leading the Sixers to the NBA Finals. But Iverson ran into Goliath in the form of Shaq and the Lakers, and the Sixers were defeated in five games. That was the closest A.I. got to playing for a title. After stints in Detroit, Denver and Memphis (extremely short stint there), Iverson rejoined the Sixers but did not finish the season. He took his talents to Turkey, but that lasted about as long as A.I.’s career as a hip-hop artist. Iverson desperately wanted to finish his career in the NBA, but no team took the bait. Iverson will go down in history as a polarizing figure who gave us great highlights and one memorable soundbite. Yes, we’re talking about practice!
Steve Nash (MVP in 2005 and 2006)
Nash is considered one of the best point guards in basketball history, but he never reached the NBA Finals during his 18 seasons in the league. He led the Phoenix Suns three times to the conference finals and once with the Dallas Mavericks. He teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki to lead the Mavs to the 2003 Western Conference finals, losing to eventual champion San Antonio. He captured his first regular-season MVP in 2005, leading the Suns to the NBA’s best record. But the Spurs got in the way again, bouncing Nash and a loaded Suns squad that also featured Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, and Joe Johnson in the conference finals in five games. Nash won his second MVP award in 2006, but was eliminated by the Mavericks led by his buddy Dirk, who removed himself from the ringless fraternity in 2011. Voters may have made a mistake by giving Nash the MVP in 2006. Nash didn’t deserve to win it over Kobe Bryant, who had one of the best statistical seasons and delivered the signature moment of the year when he scored 81 points against Toronto. Nash maxed out in Phoenix and was never able to recapture that magic he had with coach Mike D’Antoni.
Derrick Rose grimaces in pain after suffering a knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. (AP)
Derrick Rose (MVP in 2011)
It’s almost unfair to put Rose on this list because he has been bitten by the injury bug several times. But the fact of the matter is D-Rose has an MVP trophy sitting at his home despite an incomplete career. He doesn’t own a championship ring nor has he set foot in an NBA Finals game. During his time in Chicago, Rose’s Bulls squad had a very nice nucleus and were strong contenders for the title. A devastating ACL injury in the 2012 playoffs dramatically cut down Rose’s promising career. Despite flashes of his old self, Rose never returned to his MVP form. He lost the burst that made him such a tough cover, and his jump shot never got good enough to keep defenses from sagging back. Rose has since left Chicago and all the physical gifts that made him so special are no longer there. Rose bounced around the league for the next five seasons, playing in New York, Cleveland, Minnesota and Detroit.
Russell Westbrook (MVP in 2017)
Westbrook is one of the most polarizing stars in the league. He has about as many detractors as admirers, and that list includes current players. Some people were bothered by Westbrook’s “Spalding” comment, referring to the ball being his only friend when’s on the court. Westbrook also rubs a lot of folks the wrong way with his abrasive personality. But what drives a lot of basketball pundits completely batty is Westbrook’s shot selection and recklessness. He can shoot you back in the game, but he can easily shoot you out of the game. Critics point to a playoff loss to Houston in 2017 when Westbrook scored 51 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished out 13 assists. Despite posting a triple-double, Westbrook was blamed for the loss after making just 17 of 43 shots, including 4-for-18 in the fourth quarter. Westbrook’s physical attributes aren’t enough. He struggles shooting 3-pointers and takes ill-timed shots late in ballgames. Sportswriters and broadcasters point to the historic nature of his triple-double season 2017 as the main case for him winning the MVP despite his team finishing sixth in the conference. But Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill asked this profound question: Would the media voted for Westbrook had he averaged 30-9-9? If you really studied your basketball history, Oscar Robertson finished third in the MVP voting during the season he averaged a triple-double.
James Harden (MVP in 2018)
The Beard came into his own when he left Oklahoma City for Houston. Harden went from a 17-point scorer to a 27-point scorer. He went from 6th Man contender to MVP winner. His 2017-18 season was almost like a video game. He led the league in scoring (30.4) and was the runaway leader in free throw attempts and free throws made. No one draws fouls (or tricks referees) better than Harden. In fact, he does it so well and so often league officials changed the way they call games. He gets to the line 11 times a game. For an 87 percent free throw shooter, that’s 10 points in the bank. Harden is so clever and crafty he has referees completely fooled. Harden does have other skills aside from gimmicks and tricks. He has a dependable step-back jumper to create space for his 3-ball, and he had straight-line drives going to his strong hand. Sixers teammate Joel Embiid surprisingly admitted that Houston Rockets version of James Harden doesn’t exist anymore. Once the NBA cracked down on non-basketball moves to bait referees into calling fouls, Harden’s numbers have significantly dipped.
Nikola Jokic (MVP in 2021 and 2022)
Nikola Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists in the 2021-22 season. He is the first player to have 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season. Jokic’s 32.8 player efficiency rating and 13.7 box plus-minus are the highest in history, and he led the NBA in every advanced metric available, including win shares (15.2), value over replacement player (9.8) and real plus-minus (11.78). Jokic had to shoulder the load for the Nuggets all season following injuries to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. The Joker’s individual excellence powered the Nuggets to sixth place in the conference, but were bounced in the first round of the playoffs in five games.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.