Today’s NBA features many talented players who have the potential to win the Most Valuable Player award, and when these players matchup against each other, it proves to be some of most exciting games of the season. The Greek Freak’s showdown with James Harden ended with a Milwaukee Bucks win, but both players posted numbers.
Antetokounmpo scored 27 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, while James Harden scored 42 points, rebounded the ball 11 times, and dished out 6 assists.
Five-time NBA Champion and former MVP Kobe Bryant challenged Giannis to win the MVP award, showing how high the Black Mamba thinks his ceiling is. Harden captured the award last year after leading the Houston Rockets to the No. 1 seed.
However, NBA MVP races do not always go how fans expect. Sometimes, the best players do not receive the award often enough, which has led to criticism of how it has been awarded. Here are some of the top upsets for NBA MVP.
Derrick Rose over LeBron for MVP in 2011
After bolting for South Beach in the summer of 2010, LeBron James’ image had taken a major hit. The red and black of the Miami Heat were fitting colors for the NBA’s new villain. Despite putting up impressive numbers that year, LeBron still lost to Derrick Rose.
Rose captivated sports writers with his spectacular third year leap, building on a first-round exit courtesy of Cleveland in 2010. Unfortunately, the Bulls would lose to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals in 5 games.
Rose: 21.8 PPG. 7.9 APG. 3.4 RPG Bulls Record: 62-20 First Place Votes: 113
James: 26.7 PPG. 7 APG. 7.5 RPG Heat Record: 58-24 First Place Votes: 4
Dirk Nowitzki over Kobe in 2007
Although Nowitzki’s impressive shooting year in a standout career led the Dallas Mavericks to a 67 win season, their victory celebrations would be short lived. The 8-seeded Golden State Warriors would be the first team in history to beat the #1 seed, dethroning the Mavs in 6 games and revealing glaring weaknesses in Nowitzki’s team.
Bryant’s numbers dropped from the year before, but he still averaged 30, 5, and 5 for the second year in a row. The Suns nonetheless beat the Lakers in 5 games in the first round, despite Bryant’s heroic efforts.
For the second time, voters refused to cast their first-place ballot for Kobe.
Nowitzki: 24.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, .502 FG%, .416 3P%. . Mavericks Record: 67-15. First Place Votes: 82
Bryant: 31.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, .463 FG%, .344 3P%. Lakers Record:42-40. First Place Votes: 2
Steve Nash, 2005 over Shaq
Steve Nash posted an impressive year, leaving behind the Dallas Mavericks and leading an impressive offensive attack with the Suns. However, Shaq still managed to dominate in the Eastern Conference with a sophomore year Dwayne Wade, and without Kobe Bryant.
Some point to Nash’s image as a reason he secured his first MVP award. The Lakers and Spurs had dominated the Western Conference for so long, and Nash presented something new and exciting.
Nash: 15.5 PPG, 11.5 APG, .502 FG%, .431 3P%, .887 FT%. Phoenix Suns record: 62-20 First Place Votes: 65
Shaquille O’Neal: 22.9 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.3 BPG, .601 FG%. Miami Heat record: 59-23. First Place Votes: 58.
Steve Nash, 2006 over Kobe
Once again with play making and sharpshooting, and leading an electric Suns offense, Steve Nash received another MVP despite not having playoff success. Bryant, this year, averaged 35.6 points without Shaquille O’Neal on the team. Despite the team not having much success, Bryant dragged a rag-tag bunch of players to the playoffs, although not achieving a desirable result. Bryant also scored 81 points that year against the Toronto Raptors, the highest scoring total since Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point outing in 1963.
Nash: 18.8 PPG. 10.5 APG, .512 FG%, .439 3P%, .921 FT%. Suns record: 54-28. First Place Votes: 57.
Bryant: 35.4 PPG, 5 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, .45 FG%, .347 3P%, .85 FT%. Lakers record: 47-35 First Place Votes: 22.
Malone, 1997 over Jordan
Despite Malone being an all-time great, his MVP award in 1997 comes under scrutiny as it faced criticism that the award needed to go to anyone else not named Michael Jordan. Despite putting up impressive numbers, Jordan lost the MVP vote. His teammate and current Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr blasted the MVP system, noting that it was simply denied to Jordan because he had won the award too many times.
Jordan: 29.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, .486 FG%, .374 3P%. Bulls record: 69-13. First Place Votes: 52
Malone: 27.4 PPG, 10 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, .55 FG%. Jazz record: 64-18. First Place Votes: 63