Why Steph Curry (probably) won't be the unanimous NBA MVP

BY Andrew Lynch • May 9, 2016

In his pursuit of the 2015-16 NBA MVP award, Stephen Curry wasn't really competing with his peers. His lone challenger was history. UPDATE, 5/10 (12:00 PM ET): And perhaps we should have had more faith in the media, as the NBA announced on Tuesday that Curry became the first unanimous MVP ever.

Curry reportedly will win his second consecutive MVP award later this week, and it's a well-earned honor. The Golden State Warriors point guard elevated his game from last year's already lofty standard, and he guided his team to the best regular-season record the NBA has ever seen. No other player in the league could lay claim to the title. If any season deserved a unanimous MVP, it's Curry's 2015-16 campaign.

But that almost certainly won't stop a few voters from picking someone else. It's just the way MVP voting works.

The NBA has never seen a unanimous MVP. Not in 1995-96, when Michael Jordan led his Chicago Bulls to 72 wins and a fourth title; Penny Hardaway garnered two first-place votes that year, believe it or not. Nor was Shaquille O'Neal the only pick in 2000, as the Los Angeles Lakers steamrolled the league. Allen Iverson, who finished seventh in overall voting, received the lone first-place vote that didn't go to Shaq. And in 2013, LeBron James was one vote for Carmelo Anthony away from making history -- but he came up short.

The problem is in the word "value." To most sane, right-thinking people, the most valuable player is also the league's best player, assuming he's able to play. Period. But not everyone buys into that logic. For instance, a voter might believe that because the Warriors are so good as a team, Curry is "less valuable" to his squad than, say, LeBron, who has to act as the heart, soul and brain of his squad.

What of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, you might ask? After all, those guys are pretty good, right? Sure. But to LeBron voters, it's a matter of degree. They aren't as good at helping you win games as Draymond Green, the theory goes, so LeBron has to demonstrate more "value" than Curry in order for his team to win.

It's far from a solid argument, to be sure. Unfortunately, it's one that comes up time and time again -- and all it takes is one voter being swayed by that line of thinking for things to fall apart. With over 120 voters, someone is guaranteed to cast a first-place vote for LeBron. Or for Kawhi Leonard, who will receive his fair share of consideration for helping the Spurs integrate LaMarcus Aldridge into their system and move on from the Tim Duncan era. And that's fine. Thinking about other candidates and their MVP credentials should be encouraged. 

When it was time to actually cast the vote, though -- which would have taken place before Curry's injury, as ballots are due by the day after the ending of the regular season -- there was only one answer. Curry obliterated his own record for made 3-pointers this season. He was far and away the most important player on the greatest regular-season team ever. He has continued to change the way we view the game and the way it's played at its highest level. And when he went down to injury in the postseason, the Warriors finally seemed human. What more can a player do to prove his value?

Curry is the MVP, through and through. No one else deserves a vote. Unfortunately, we're not expecting him to make history.



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