The NBA MVP award is hard to predict. Any given year, the prize can go to someone who was simply the best player on the best team. Other years, it goes to a player who carries a team while putting up big numbers. Due to the many arbitrary qualifications, voters can get the MVP wrong. These are some of the most egregious examples of this error in judgment.
1. Derrick Rose, 2011 MVP
LeBron James has four MVPs, but it seems like he should have far more. One example: the 2011 season, when Derrick Rose beat James for his first and only MVP Award. The Bulls point guard had an amazing season, but his numbers paled to LeBron’s.
Despite Rose receiving a huge majority of first-place votes, it seems like many punished James for his decision to join the Miami Heat. Eventually, James added to his MVP collection. And Derrick Rose suffered a collection of injuries that cut his prime short.
2. Kobe Bryant, 2008 MVP
It’s strange to state that Kobe Bryant didn’t deserve the one MVP award he received during his NBA career. But when we look at who he beat, it seems like the shooting guard got an unfair advantage after acquiring All-Star center Pau Gasol as a teammate in the middle of the season.
Until that moment, the MVP race was between Bryant and Chris Paul. Many believed the player who finished with a better record would win. This measure should’ve ended after Kobe acquired Gasol. Paul put up a huge 21 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, and almost three steals per game. His New Orleans Hornets only finished one game behind Bryant’s Lakers — without the addition of a top-tier big man.
3. Magic Johnson, 1989
Like James, Michael Jordan seemed to be punished for being too good. One of these occasions occurred early in his career. In 1989, Jordan, who was not yet the champion he is today, was dominating the league with stats across the board and a killer instinct. Despite this, point guard Magic Johnson, while amazing, won the award while feeding off the aura of the Showtime Lakers.
4. Karl Malone, 1997
A second MVP robbery for Jordan: In 1997, power forward Karl Malone won an MVP award that seemed destined to go to “His Airness.” Despite being well into his 30’s at this time, Jordan led the league in scoring and put up great assists across the board. Malone was great, but his importance to the Jazz was not as significant as Jordan’s role with the Bulls.
5. Bill Russell, 1962
Oscar Robertson had a historically brilliant season in 1962. He not only averaged a triple-double — an unrepeated feat until Russell Westbrook came along — but he did so on nearly 31 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists per game. He could do a little bit of everything.
Unfortunately for Robertson, however, he faced the Celtics’ Bill Russell, who had a deep team behind him and was not nearly as statistically dominant. Wilt Chamberlain also had a monster season. A point could be made that he, too, deserved consideration.