The 2021 NBA MVP race ended with Nikola Jokic winning the award over the likes of Joel Embiid and Stephen Curry, who both would have had reasonable expectations to win the award. While Curry ended up on a blitzkrieg, edging past Bradley Beal to win the scoring award, Embiid had a dominant all-round year but was unlucky to miss out due to injuries.
In the past, a range of NBA stars have been said to be robbed of the MVP award after having arguably better seasons than the eventual winners. In this article, we look at the top 5 players who could have won MVP but did not.
Five players who could have won NBA MVP but did not
The 2000-01 NBA season saw Shaquille O’Neal registering a slight dip in his overall stats. He had won the MVP the previous year and lost the award to Allen Iverson. However, O’Neal had had another double-double season and led Allen Iverson in both blocks and win shares. Voters presumably decided to choose Iverson due to the dip in Shaquille O’Neal’s stats. Regardless, several such arguably more surprising voting selections have taken place in the history of the NBA. The following article looks at the top 5:
#5 Wes Unseld – 1968-69
Wes Unseld made history by becoming the first and only player to win the MVP award as a rookie after Wilt Chamberlain. However, Willis Reed’s stats suggest that this is one of the most surprising selections in NBA history, something which had got much to do with the voting process. Until the 1979-80 season, a vote among NBA players decided the MVP award.
Wes Unseld was the fifth highest-scorer on his own team and finished with statistics of 13.8 points, 18.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists. In comparison, Willis Reed had 21.1 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists. While Unseld had small leads in assists, defense and rebounding, the difference in scoring and the fact that Willis Reed was on a much better New York Knicks team should have been enough to win him the MVP trophy.
#4 Kobe Bryant – 2007-08
Bryant won the NBA championship five times but the MVP award just once, in 2008. The Lakers eventually lost to a Boston Celtics team boasting of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. However, a clear argument can be made with respect to both Chris Paul and LeBron James being the better players throughout the regular season.
Bryant had 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists, with Paul registering a double-double season, with 21.1 points, 11.6 assists and 4 rebounds per game. LeBron, on the other hand, had 30 ppg, 7.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists and had led the Cavaliers to a third-placed finish in the Eastern Conference. Being on an inferior team proved to be LeBron’s undoing as he was placed second despite leading in multiple categories.