In 1997, Karl Malone was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, beating out Michael Jordan by a narrow margin.
Many sportswriters and fans called this a travesty of justice and that Malone only won because people were tired of Jordan winning the award year after year. His sustained excellence year after year became the norm and anyone else who played at an exceptionally high level as well was automatically in the MVP discussion because they were not Jordan. This is why, in my opinion, Karl Malone was the MVP in 1997; MJ’s greatness became MJ’s norm and thus made the voters bored.
ESPN’s Page 2 highlighted this controversy here.
Four of the last five seasons, LeBron James has been named the league’s MVP. His dominance is becoming his norm, much like MJ. It is easy for me to see how although LeBron may dominate this year and lead his team to another playoff appearance yet not win the MVP, simply because that is what he is supposed to do. Unless he pulls an Oscar Robertson and averages a triple-double for the season, the MVP is going to be Kevin Durant.
Arguably, Kevin Durant is consistently the second best player in the league next to LeBron. His team is successful and he fills up the stat sheet on a nightly basis. He is still young and he is getting better each year (just like LeBron). This year voters will want any reason to give the MVP to anyone not named LeBron James. If Durant plays up to his norm or plays above it, it will be his MVP to lose. I have a feeling that anything less than an NBA championship will not satisfy Durant but winning the MVP will certainly soften the blow should he not reach his ultimate goal. Kevin Durant will be Karl Malone in the sense that he will be rewarded for a job well done for many years now and it was time to give the award to someone else.
Last year, LeBron James averaged 26.8 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, 7.3 assists per game, shot almost 57% from the field, 40% from 3 point range and 75% from the free throw line. Kevin Durant averaged 28.1 point per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game, shot 51% from the field, almost 42% from three point range and 90.5% from the free throw line. Durant became one of the rare NBA players to average 50% from the field, 40% from the three point line and 90% from the free throw line. Only five other players have achieved this feat: Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Mark Price and Reggie Miller. Should he accomplish this feat again this year it most certainly will not go unnoticed by the voters.
There are other candidates for MVP this year: Chris Paul and Derrick Rose and dark-horse candidates like Carmelo Anthony, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. However, I believe this a two-player race between LeBron and Durant. Ultimately, Durant wins in a narrow vote, much like Malone did in 1997. The final tally for that vote: Malone 986 points to Jordan’s 957 points.
Ultimately, the MVP should be given to the player that had sustained excellence throughout the year and led his team to success. Is it Durant? Maybe? Is it LeBron? Maybe. The fun part will seeing these two players show why they are the best in the league. The voters will make their decision and many of us will agree and many more will disagree. One thing we can all agree on is that these two deserve mention in the MVP discussion every year they take the court.
Ray Owens lives in Ohio and is an avid sports fan. His every man perspective about everything from sports, marriage and his children make his writing enjoyable and relatable. His blogs My Love Hate Relationship With Sports and My Non-Sports Blog Thingee showcase his unique writing style.