The formula for what makes an MVP-in any league-is, at best, an inexact science. Is it the player that puts up the best numbers in a given season? Is it the best player on the best team? The player who means the most to his team's success? While the Maurice Podoloff (NBA MVP) Trophy will always be a prestigious award, I wonder if the award still means as much as it once did because I think a very important factor-the likelihood of a candidate to lead his hand to the Promised Land in that season-has gotten lost in the shuffle of late.
Despite winning MVPs and championships in the 2000s, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett were not able to accomplish the feat in the same season. Dirk Nowitzki obviously won his first title earlier this year (which still stings and is technically in a different decade from the one in which he won his MVP) while Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, LeBron James, and Derrick Rose have yet to win one. To put all this into perspective, from 1980 to 1998, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird (twice), Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan (three times), and Hakeem Olajuwon (twice) all won regular season MVP and a championship in the same season. In that same span, only two MVPs-Charles Barkley and Karl Malone (twice)-never won a title in their careers. Once officially retired, Steve Nash and Allen Iverson likely join that list.
What does any of this have to do with the Miami Heat? The title of "best player in the game" currently belongs to a Miami Heat employee: LeBron James. The likes of Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant have turned that discussion into more of a debate, but the consensus is that No. 6 is still the best. Holding such a distinction automatically puts Bron in the conversation for MVP for as long as he is in his prime. Before I begin pleading his case (a truly rare occurrence because I have been as tough on the kid as anyone over the last two years), let me say that no one will cry for LeBron James if he never wins another MVP trophy-and, frankly, no one should for that matter-but his 2011-12 season will be one for the ages. I have said it in comments, but I want to go on record as saying LeBron's 2011-12 season will go down as one of the best by a player who did not win the MVP in that season. Seriously, when you consider the fact that he is shooting well over 50% from the field, snagging better than seven boards a game, dishing out better than seven assists a game, and leading the League in scoring-all while playing with two other stars who need their touches as well, what LeBron is doing right now is truly remarkable-scary even. The reasons James should win the MVP this season will be truly numerous. The reasons he will not win it, while less numerous, are equally remarkable. Many voters still feel the way "The Decision" was carried was the sports equivalent of damn near capital murder, the "Not one. Not two. Not three..." quote is still considered an despicable misuse of a microphone, and Bron's attempt at turning NBA heal character-a la Triple H of the WWE-last season is still a little too fresh in the mind of many with an MVP vote. Perhaps most importantly, still, is the fact that he plays on a squad with two guys who would surely be MVP candidates if they were the lone star attractions on their own teams.
Another thorn in the side of any hopes No. 6 might have of obtaining his third Maurice Podoloff Trophy this season is the lights-out play of Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Chris and Paul-and the fact that all three are media darlings (i.e. people love these guys). There will be a big push from many sportscasters to anoint Kevin Durant for his first MVP. Word to KD: there was such a push last season, but Derrick Rose just became a true stud right before everyone's eyes and stole the show. This is mere speculation, but I assume that had Rose not been the odds-on favorite to take home the MVP heading into voting a season ago, he would have garnered quite a few more Most Improved Player votes and been the only player in league history to win both awards in the same season or even in a career.
The good news is that if the current trend of the past 14 years holds, I would rather not have LeBron James-or any other Heat player-win MVP for at least the next 10 years.