The NBA has had a long list of MVP snubs in its history. The system of letting sportswriters and journalists vote on an individual player's season has often been a hot topic of debate. These people don't represent the league or any franchise but get a vote in deciding prestigious awards which dictate an athlete's legacy.
The people who vote usually have an agenda or bias and that has been reflected in the voting system several times. Players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan could have won way more awards than they have if not for voter fatigue or personal biases.
Several NBA MVP snubs have been well-documented over time. Michael Jordan had a case to win the award on each of the three occasions that Magic Johnson won it. LeBron James has been snubbed way too many times, while many believe Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade not winning any MVP awards is ridiculous.
Let's take a look at five such individual seasons by NBA players that were deserving of the NBA MVP award, not ranked in any order.
#1 Wilt Chamberlain - 1961-62 NBA season
There has been just one player in the history of the NBA to average over 50 points per game in a season and he wasn't rewarded the NBA MVP award.
Wilt Chamberlain's snub of the NBA MVP was by far the most egregious disregard for any player's greatness. Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game that season and led the league in rebounds with a whopping 25.7 boards per game. He also sat atop the scoring charts averaging an unimaginable 50.4 points per game and did so in a league-high 48.5 minutes per game.
Bill Russell, the player who won the NBA MVP that season, averaged 18.9 points, and 23.6 rebounds per game in comparison. He also had significantly less win shares that season with 15.5 compared to Chamberlain's 23.1.
The difference in each statistic is staggering. Moreover, if the argument is that Russell's Celtics won more games that season (60-20) compared to Chamberlain's Warriors (49-31), the reality is that the Celtics had nearly five to six All-Stars and future Hall of Famers on the team. Wilt Chamberlain's 1962 NBA campaign will always be remembered for his unbelievable records but it was tarnished by the lack of an NBA MVP award.
#2 Chris Paul - 2007-08 NBA season
Chris Paul was arguably robbed of his only chance to win NBA league MVP in 2007-08. He was the best player on a 56-win Pelicans team and had incredible numbers to support his MVP bid.
Paul ended up 2nd in MVP votes and lost to Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers. This was a shock as, in just his third season in the NBA, CP3 earned his first-ever All-Star appearance. He averaged 21.1 points per game along while leading the league in assists (11.6) and steals (2.7).
Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, averaged 28.3 points, 5.4 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Bryant finished 3rd in box plus-minus, 4th in win shares, 7th in VORP and 8th in PER for the 2007-08 NBA season whereas Chris Paul was in the top two in each of those categories.
Kobe's Lakers were only 8.6 points per 100 possessions worse when he was off the floor. On the other hand, Paul's Pelicans were 10.9 points per 100 possessions worse with their talisman missing. Moreover, Paul had 17.8 win shares compared to Bryant's 13.8 that season.
An argument can be made that LeBron James should have won this award as well. However, Chris Paul was marginally more valuable to his team than James was to his. Paul also won more games in a tougher Western Conference than James' Cavaliers did in the Eastern Conference.
#3 Kobe Bryant - 2005-06 NBA season
Arguably the second-greatest shooting guard behind Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant was evidently snubbed for the MVP award in his 2005-06 NBA campaign. He averaged a whopping 35.4 points per game and led the league in scoring that season. Bryant also dropped 81 points against the Toronto Raptors and exploded for 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks. It is worth nothing that the Mavs scored 61 points as team in those quarters.
Kobe's unconscionable 81-point game is the second-highest scoring total in NBA history. His average of 35.4 points per game is the 9th-highest in league history (4th highest by players not named Wilt Chamberlain).
Steve Nash, the MVP winner that season, had comparatively pedestrian numbers. Nash was 23.3 in PER compared to Bryant's 28.0, 12.4 in win shares to Bryant's 15.3 and 4.9 in VORP to Bryant's 8.0. Kobe's team in 2006 was a rag-tag bunch of players who would technically all be bench warmers on a championship roster, and Bryant's absence on the court was catastrophic for the LA Lakers.
#4 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 1972-73 NBA season
Dave Cowens won this award in 1973 over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because his Boston Celtics won 68 games that season and people wanted to reward that historically great team. However, Cowen's individual season was nothing compared to what a 25-year-old Abdul-Jabbar did that year.
Cowens averaged 20.5 points, 16.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game that year compared to Abdul-Jabbar's 30.2 points, 16.1 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. The latter dominated every statistic over Cowens except rebounds, where he was a hairline short.
Cowens also had only 12.0 win shares that season compared to Abdul-Jabbar's 21.9. This disparity is one of the largest between MVP finalists in NBA history. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the NBA MVP award in 1971 and 1972 so there was apparently a case of voter fatigue here. However, voters realized the difference in stats and awarded Abdul-Jabbar the NBA MVP in 1974.
#5 Michael Jordan - 1996-97 NBA season
Arguably the greatest player in NBA history, Michael Jordan could have had several more NBA MVP awards in his career if not for voter fatigue. Many have debated Magic Johnson's three MVPs and argued that Jordan deserved at least two of them considering he had better statistics than Johnson in all three seasons.
In 1997, the league awarded the NBA MVP to Karl Malone when Michael Jordan was clearly the better player.
Jordan averaged 29.6 points compared to Malone's 27.4, 5.9 rebounds to Malone's 9.9 and 18.3 win shares compared to Malone's 16.7. However, Sam Quinn of NBC Sports wrote concerning the 1997 NBA MVP award, saying:
"Michael Jordan wasn't competing against Karl Malone for this trophy. He was competing against Michael Jordan."
Jordan had already won four NBA MVP awards by this point. He averaged 30.4 points on 49.5% shooting along with 6.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists in the 1995-96 NBA season. Jordan did so with 20.4 win shares on a 72-win team. However, in 1997, Jordan averaged 29.6 points on 48.6% shooting along with 5.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He did so with 18.3 win shares on a 69-win team.
That dip in his own numbers from last season was enough to convince voters that he didn't deserve the award, even though they were still better than Malone's numbers that year. It is almost inconceivable that Karl Malone won the award. Despite having worse numbers than Jordan, Malone's Jazz won 64 games, while Jordan's Bulls won 69 that season.
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