With such compelling playoff matches on tap as the Suns/Spurs rematch and the Mavericks v. Hornets, who really gives a hoot about the battle to be named Association MVP of the ’07/8 campaign? Well, seemingly everyone with a press pass writes Slate‘s Neil Pollack (above, left), insisting “If stupid arguments were outlawed, then nobody would ever talk about sports, and we don’t want that to happen because then we’d have to think about our actual problems. Still, this MVP race talk is far more annoying than the typical pointless sports discussion.”
Within the last week, this glorified bar argument has gone from an inevitable, annoying story line to the only story anyone deigns to write about. Mark Kriegel of Fox Sports thinks Chris Paul is the MVP because a 50-plus win team in New Orleans is “not supposed to happen.” Important outlets like the Canadian Press, which favors LeBron James because no one is more important to his team than LeBron James, have also made their opinions known. Even Henry Abbott, ESPN.com’s generally excellent basketball blogger, caught a virulent strain of the disease. Abbott called last weekend’s Hornets-Lakers game “The World’s Most Unlikely MVP Showdown.” “Chris Paul is the insurgent,” he wrote. “The new kid. The future that may or may not be here yet. And Kobe Bryant? He’s the people’s champ. ¦”
Never mind the fact that I am, technically, a person, and Kobe Bryant will never be my champ of anything. Please consider that last Saturday’s Hornets-Lakers game was for the top seed in the West. This was an important game, played in real life, on a basketball court. Does anyone else think it’s strange that so few cared to opine on how that game, won by the Lakers 107-104, might influence or help predict what happens in the playoffs? Meanwhile, 8,000 sportswriters, bloggers, and talking heads chimed in on the huge consequences MVP-wise. In the next day’s Los Angeles Times: “Competition appears to lean toward Bryant, who hasn’t been MVP yet, although Paul makes his case too in a game of wild swings.”
Perhaps this is too obvious to say, but what the hell: The MVP race isn’t real. Stephen A. Smith may think that if Kevin Garnett pulls a triple-double against the Sixers, it will suddenly become clear that he’s more valuable than Chris Paul, but I can pretty much guarantee that K.G. isn’t thinking the same thing. Bill Simmons, in his typically entertaining spastic-puppy hyper-referential novella-length style, recently ranked the four greatest MVP races ever. I wonder whether Bob Pettit, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, and Wilt Chamberlain knew that they were in an MVP race in 1961. Somehow, I think that the three guys who covered the NBA back then may have been concentrating on reporting on the actual games, or race-baiting, or both.
Though I don’t share Pollack’s frustration with widespread debate over the MVP prize, I must confess I’m disappointed there hasn’t been more talk radio convesation about the competition between J.R. Rider and Vin Baker for the (Please, Don’t) Comeback Player Of The Year Award.