NBA MVP Race: 5 Closest MVP Races Of All Time
The second edition of the annual NBA Awards ceremony is scheduled to start tonight at 9 PM, Eastern Time. The 2018-19 season is one of the closer MVP races in recent memory, featuring superstars James Harden, LeBron James and Anthony Davis going head-to-head as the top 3 finishers on the podium.
Also read: Ranking the Greatest MVP Seasons ever
All 3 of them have had historic seasons by any standards. While LeBron continues to defy Father Time and demonstrate himself as the preeminent ball player in the world, Harden finally seems to have a season that is, by most accounts, MVP-worthy - he is the prohibitive favourite. Not to be forgotten in this battle is Anthony Davis, who put the Pelicans on his back to take them to the playoffs as the sixth seed before leading them past the Blazers in a clean sweep.
Although not a clear parallel, this MVP race reminds us of several close finishes over the years, and we decided to compile a top 5 of the closest, best-competed MVP races over the 71-year history of the league:
#5 Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard in 2016-17
The 2016-17 season is the most efficient statistical season on a league-wide scale through 71 years, with the highest true shooting percentage of all years. The MVP race started heating up right in late November when people actually took notice of Westbrook's triple-double average and began comparisons between him and Harden.
Leonard joined into the party and finished among the top 3 for the second season running because of his ultra-efficient brand of offense and lockdown defense. Any of these 3 players could have won the MVP award, but there was a sense of inevitability that kicked in once the Brody tallied his 42nd triple-double of the season against the Nuggets and capped it off with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to confirm Oklahoma City's playoff berth.
While Westbrook had unreal averages of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game, Harden himself put up barely believable stats of 29.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 11.2 assists himself. Neither of them, however, matched up to Leonard's win share averages, as The Klaw tallied 0.264 win shares per 48 minutes in comparison to 0.224 for Westbrook and 0.245 for Harden.
Westbrook took first place on the podium with 888 total points, as Harden and Leonard themselves finished with 753 and 500 respectively.