The MVP Award Doesn't Mean a Darn Thing

Alex Campbell
FiredUp Network Sports Writer


Friday, May 5, 2023

The NBA MVP Award doesn't Mean Anything

I've never been a big awards guy, personally or professionally; I don't really care who wins awards. So, I didn't really care who won the Embid/Jokic MVP race this year, but I do think winning matters.  Forgive me, this is going to be a bit of a big picture rant on the NBA and the MVP race.  But it's not about Jokic or Embiid, not really.

I think we have to take a step back and look at what has happend to the NBA over the last 8-10 years and how it has impacted the awards race. The regular season TV ratings are simply awful, and over that time span they have simply gotten worse and worse. One of the reasons that the regular season TV ratings are awful is because nobody in the league cares about winning in the regular season, not really.

The last 5 players who have won the NBA MVP award, in their entire careers, have 1 title and 3 finals appearances.  The 5 players berfore that to win the NBA MVP award, in their careers, have 15 titles and 9 times as many finals appearances as the more recent recipients.  That's the crux of my beef here, the MVP trophy has become an amalgamation of stats and 'look at me' highlights.  Here's a prime example, the 76ers this season were 13-5 with Embid out of the lineup.  They have a higher winning percentage, and a higher NET rating when he doesn't play; and that's not even discussed.  The Nuggets, by contrast, are terrible without Jokic, they're not the same team when Jokic doesn't play.  But the regular season has become so trivial that load management has become a bigger issue than winning most nights, and only recently did Adam Silver even suggest that it's a problem.  If the regular season doesn't matter, then winning in the regular season doesn't matter, not that much.  Jokic being the lynch pin on a #1 seeded team is like 7th in the pecking order of what makes a modern NBA MVP.  It's just become a showcase of 'me', it doesn't matter when the stars play or what their record is and the controversial MVP race is a symptom of it. It simply doesn't matter that the 6ers are actually better when Embid doesn't play. 

In the last 20 years, the MVP has won a title just 3 times.  Twice it was Lebron in Miami, so if you just take Lebron out of the discussion it basically doesn't happen.  But if you look at the previous 20 years, half the time the MVP won a title.  Back then you were part of a collective effort, the regular season mattered more, the seeding mattered, and it was about winning and culture.  Look, I'm not saying stats don't matter.  But have we ever though for 5 minutes that Harden or Westbrook we're truly the most valuable players in the league? They're just really gifted and talented but Lebron and a few other players were easily more valuable in both of their MVP years.

So that's my issue, I don't have an issue with who won the award, I take issue with what the Most Valuable trophy has become.  As a league, if you wonder why you're NBA regular season ratings are plumeting, it's because the audience can tell that it doesn't matter to you.  The stars play 60-66 games. 66 games, that's how many Embiid played this year.  Stars can take 20-25% of the season off and still win the MVP.  That's my issue, most of us non-NBA playing 'normal' folks can't take a quarter of the work year off and still keep our jobs, let alone win an award.