What is the makeup of a deserving NBA Most Valuable Player Award winner? The answer to that question is subjective, which is why there are such intense debates about who should be considered the MVP every season. However, some MVP votes are inexcusable by any right-thinking NBA observer and I thought it would be fun to provide examples of some of the most questionable ballot decisions by the sportswriters and broadcasters who have been granted the power to contribute to NBA MVP voting over the past decade. Here are what I consider to be the five most egregious MVP votes cast over the previous 10 seasons.
5. Gary Payton, 2001-02
You would think a player would have to have a truly exceptional individual season to earn a first-place MVP vote on a team that finished 45-37, but The Glove wasn’t even the league’s best point guard that season — Jason Kidd finished second in MVP voting for leading a less talented Nets team to a 52-30 record.
4. Stephen Jackson, 2009-10
Considering that Gerald Wallace was easily the best player on the Bobcats last season, how do you think he reacted to the news that Stephen Jackson received a fifth-place MVP vote?
3. Elton Brand, 2005-06
In his prime, Elton Brand was consistently one of the NBA’s most underrated players. He toiled away on a procession of crappy Clippers squads and it was a travesty that he was only named to two All-Star Teams. While he was the key reason why the Clippers finished with 47 wins in the 2005-06 season — more than they had achieved since they won 49 as the Buffalo Braves in 1974-75 — that still doesn’t justify somebody granting him a first-place vote when the other first-place votes were divided among unquestionably more deserving players like Steve Nash, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Chauncey Billups.
2. Peja Stojakovic, 2003-04
If you’ve followed Peja Stojakovic’s NBA career, it’s unlikely it ever occurred to you that he was worthy of being considered for the MVP award. And yet he finished fourth in MVP voting in the 2003-04 season, including a first place vote for averaging 24 points and six rebounds when the Kings finished with the fifth-best record in the NBA. Both Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal finished behind Stojakovic in that year’s voting, presumably because voters were split on who was more valuable. That first-place vote played a role in Stojakovic’s MVP ranking that season, and the fact that even one voter believed he deserved to be placed ahead of Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Jermaine O’Neal is mind-boggling.
1. P.J. Brown, 2004-05
In order to understand why this is unquestionably the worst MVP vote of the past decade, you need to recognize the context. In this particular season, Kobe Bryant averaged 28 points, six assists and six rebounds but didn’t receive even a single fifth-place vote, which is understandable when you consider that the Lakers finished 34-48. P.J. Brown averaged 12 points and nine rebounds for a Hornets team that tied for the second-worst record in the league at 18-64, but he received a fifth-place vote from New Orleans Times-Picayune writer Jimmy Smith — who copped to casting the vote after a public uproar led him to remove the veil of anonymity that typically comes with MVP voting. He justified his vote for Brown in a column in which he wrote, “It was meant to be a symbolic gesture so that people would notice Brown’s quiet contributions.” I assume I’m not alone in asserting that MVP votes aren’t meant for players who make quiet contributions on one of the worst teams in the league. If Smith deserves credit for anything, it’s for helping to make my case that several of the writers and broadcasters who cover NBA teams are unqualified to be involved in the MVP voting process.