Title: The NBA Needs a Most Outstanding Player Award
Date: March 5, 2009
Original Source: Hoops Addict
Synopsis: This was a Hoops Addict article requesting that the NBA create a Most Outstanding Player award to help with the constant arguments about the MVP, it’s definition, and the bias that can sometimes creep into the voting process.
I have always felt this way, but it is only now that I have reached my tipping point, enough so to write about it. The NBA is in desperate need of another end-of-season award, one for the league’s Most Outstanding Player.
Please be clear on my suggestion. I am not talking about another Most Valuable Player award. I am not even talking about providing a second honor for the league’s annual MVP award recipient. I am suggesting that the NBA adopt an award system for its top players that is more similar to the systems currently in place in the NHL and NFL, so that it may recognize outstanding play and value to a team separately.
Each season, the NHL awards the Hart Memorial Trophy, its de facto MVP award, to “the player adjudged most valuable to his team.” It also awards the Lester B. Pearson Award, given to “the most outstanding player in the regular season as judged by the members of the NHL Players Association,” that is, it is given to the best player in the league as decided by the players themselves. These awards, while occasionally given to the same player (four times in the past eight award seasons), illustrate a difference between value and outstanding play.
Each season, the NFL awards a Most Valuable Player award, as well as an Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year award. This structure allows for the voters to identify the most outstanding player on both sides of the ball, regardless of team performance, while also honouring the league’s most valuable player.
Both of these systems, I believe, create a distinction between value and greatness that I feel the NBA’s Maurice Podoloff Award voting neglects, or at least confuses. The discussions around the internet and television world throughout every regular season likewise fail to distinguish between outstanding play and value to a team. I have found that the debate generally boils down to one’s philosophy about the award, and not the most appropriate recipient.
This year may be a poor example – the debate is primarily between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, two phenomenal and near-equal players playing for two of the best teams in the league. No matter how you frame the argument, these two are as close to a wash in the overall public opinion as is possible. Still, the award discussion has completely neglected Dwyane Wade, who may be having a better season than both of them. If not, he is at least having a strong enough season that, given the current framework and history surrounding the award, he belongs in the discussion.
But this matter of MVP award philosophy should be irrelevant. It shouldn’t matter if you think the NBA’s MVP award should go to the best player on the best team, the best statistical performer, the player with the highest value over a replacement, or the player who means the most to his team. These are interesting issues to discuss, indeed, but the league’s most prestigious award should not be perennially sullied by debate about the award’s definition rather than its candidates. There should be a standard definition for voters to appreciate, and the award’s recipient should be he who best exemplifies that definition.
Since 1983, the MVP award has gone to a player on a team with at least 50 wins every year, except for the strike-shortened 1998-99 season. This makes sense, and I have no problem with the Most Valuable Player award going to a player on a very good team. It seems the voters, in general, get the tenet of ‘value’ correct. After all, marginal wins are more valuable than average wins, and thus a player making the difference between 40 and 50 wins is inherently more valuable than a player making the difference between 20 and 30 wins.
My problem is that the debate is, without fail, framed as a philosophical one, and the constant definitions from authors and voters that preclude their choice for the recipient make things more opaque than clear.
Thus, I put forth that the NBA should adopt a Most Outstanding Player award, or an award with some definition recognizing overall performance over value to one’s team. Again, it is not that I have a problem with the way the MVP award tends to be given out, it is that the award itself is denigrated by the debate surrounding its definition, and the addition of an M.O.P. award could aid that problem.
Additionally, it’s an award I feel should be given out anyways – there is no reason for a player on a mediocre team who has a phenomenal season, like Dwyane Wade is doing this season, to be neglected at award time because the second best player on his team is Udonis Haslem.
Yes, LeBron and Kobe are the 1-2 MPV punch this year, as they have been spectacular in leading their teams to great heights that couldn’t be reached without them. They both personify the MVP award, and this year’s MVP debate will (hopefully) finally be about the value of two players instead of the value of an award’s definition. The addition of an award for the Most Outstanding Player would ensure this is the case every season moving forward.