Top 5 individual seasons by players which deserved an NBA MVP award

Kunal Sethi

#3 Kobe Bryant - 2005-06 NBA season

Kobe Bryant in 2006
Kobe Bryant in 2006

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

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the Milwaukee Bucks
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the Milwaukee Bucks

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

Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls

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.

Also Read: 5 players with the highest points per game (PPG) in an NBA Finals series

Edited by Anantaajith Ra
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