What Does a Unanimous MVP Vote Really Mean?
I am a huge Steph Curry fan. What the man can do on a basketball court is magical. In my mind anyone who is still hating is doing so at the risk of looking very bad. Tracy McGrady, The Big O, Clyde Frazier, Charles Barkley, any of them with something bad to say about Curry is going to look very, very bad. Interestingly, all of these former players criticizing Curry have fewer MVPs than him. McGrady never finished higher than 4th in the MVP voting. Sour grapes? Frazier is asking if Curry can play at this level for 5 or 6 years. Really? You never played at a level close to Curry’s for one season and you are saying wait for 5-6 years? Frazier finished in the Top 10 in the MVP voting only 3 times in his career, never finishing higher than 4th, and he wants 5-6 MVP years before he gives any credit? Sour grapes? So I guess we need to consider the source of the criticisms.
On the flip side, we all know “that guy” who is putting way too much weight into the fact that this MVP award was unanimous. A unanimous vote does not mean Steph Curry is any more dominant or more deserving than Lebron James’ was in 2012-13 when he secured all but one MVP vote. Curry was not any more dominant or more deserving than Shaq in 1999-00 when he secured all by one MVP vote. It does not mean that the league today is “watered down.” And it does not mean that the league lacks superstars. What is does mean is that the way Steph Curry goes about dominating the league doesn’t rub any of the 129 voting sportswriters and experts the wrong way. That is all it means.
When Lebron lost a single vote in 2012-13, he average 26.8 points, 8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 56.5% shooting from the floor for the 66-16 Miami Heat who went on to win the title. The lone vote he missed out on went to Carmelo Anthony. Melo that season averaged 28.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals on 44.9% shooting for the 54-28 Knicks. Melo played only 67 games that season as well. That was the year that Melo won his lone scoring title, but other than that, Melo’s season, both as an individual and as a team, paled in comparison in every way to Lebron’s. Lebron deserved to be an unanimous MVP that season, but he wasn’t because one contrarian voter decided to vote for someone completely unworthy of MVP. Melo finished 3rd in the voting that year.
In 1999-00, Shaq won 120 of the 121 votes by averaging 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3.8 assists, on 57% shooting for the 67-15 NBA-best Lakers. The Lakers went on to win the title and Shaq was the Finals MVP. The lone vote he missed out on? Allen Iverson, who averaged 28.4 points, 4.7 assists, 2.1 steals, and 3.8 rebounds on 42.1% shooting for the 49-33 76ers who finished 3rd in their division. Iverson didn’t deserve a first place MVP vote. Iverson finished 7th in the MVP voting that year. Shaq should have been the unanimous MVP in 1999-00.
The only reason why Steph Curry was the first unanimous MVP in NBA history is that he does it in a way that he hasn’t made any enemies. Lots of “experts” held Shaq’s size against him. Held against him the fact that he “couldn’t make a free throw” or “all he could do was dunk.” Some resented him. Some experts resented Lebron’s superior athleticism. Some saw him as an underachiever based on his superior talent. Some saw him lacking killer instinct. Curry is exciting, he’s talented, he works hard, he’s the same size as many sportswriters, we all relate to him, he’s efficient, he smiles, he’s a family man who stays out of trouble off the court, and he’s dramatically underpaid and never complains about it. He does not do anything to turn off even a single voter and that is why he was unanimous. I just laugh at all of these past MVPs digging in their heels against Curry. Even Lebron, a 4-time MVP, is talking about how the definition of “valuable” changes every year. Voters changed that definition to your benefit four times Lebron, so who cares if Curry is the first unanimous? Steph Curry was deserving of the MVP this year, without question. But Bird deserved to be unanimous in 1985-86, Jordan deserved to be unanimous in 1995-96, Shaq in 1999-00, and Lebron in 2012-13. Let’s not make too much of this unanimous thing and make more of the fact that Curry had one of the single greatest seasons ever. He is only the 11th player ever to win back-to-back MVPs and he’s breaking records while changing the game. Enjoy this. Appreciate his skill, his flare for the dramatic, his love of the game, his competitive spirit, and will to win. I have only seen this type of display in five other players in my lifetime, MJ, Magic, Bird, Kobe, and Lebron. Regardless of the fact that none of them were unanimous MVPs, that is still very elite company.