Russell Westbrook’s MVP Bid and History


I’m not going to write a big post about whether or not Russell Westbrook deserves the MVP award.  He certainly deserves consideration.  What I am going to write about is how unicorn – rare it is for two different players from the same team to win the MVP award in back to back years.

The last time it happened was 1957 and 1958 when Red Auerbach’s dynasty was still young.  Bob Cousy won his last MVP award in ’57, and Bill Russell won his first MVP award in ’58.

Even having two teammates win MVP while they are both still on the same team is extremely rare.  Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it.  Kareem won his 6th and final MVP award in 1980.  Magic won the first of his three MVPs in 1987 while Kareem was still a Laker.  Moses Malone and Julius Irving both won MVPs as 76ers, but Doc won his before Moses joined the team.

That’s the list.  Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant both won MVP awards, but Kobe’s came years after Shaq left the Lakers.

Really if Russell Westbrook wins the MVP award in this season, while he and Kevin Durant are both in their primes, it will be unprecedented.  Cousy stopped winning MVPs after Russell won his first because Bob was at the tail end of his career, and it was crystal clear that Bill Russell was the lynchpin of the team.  Kareem was well past his prime when Magic won his first.

Of course the reason that Furious Styles has a shot at MVP this year is because he has been a stat-machine on a winning team in the absence of Durant.  Had Shaq missed a little more time in 2003, maybe Kobe would have been a serious contender that year (though Tim Duncan and Tracy McGrady both had insane seasons in ’03).  If LeBron had been out in 2011, maybe Dwyane Wade becomes an MVP candidate that year and James takes in 2012.  Basically you need two of top 5 players in the league on one team, and they need to trade off who is doing the heavy lifting from year to year, which won’t happen without something like an injury.

None of this is to say at this point that I think Westbrook is the 2015 MVP front runner.  Stephen Curry and James Harden are probably still the best bets with LeBron James coming on strong.  It’s just that Westbrook’s candidacy is remarkable in light of Durant’s award last season.


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3 Responses to “Russell Westbrook’s MVP Bid and History”

  1. express34texas Says:

    MVP voting has often been very strange. The players used to vote on it, but then they changed because of bias, and now the media votes on it, and they have lots of bias, too, and vote on storylines more than anything else.

    Westbrook’s been a top 5 player for several years now. It’s about time he starts getting some recognition. He won’t win for several reasons, but the main reason being you have to play on a top 5 team in the league to really have a chance, which isn’t right. He isn’t a media darling, and has become the posterchild for media/fans to hate on, taking over for Kobe. He is still seen as the #2 for OKC, but established himself as the #1 so far this season. OKC has completely fallen apart this season when Westbrook doesn’t play, only 4-11, and all 4 wins are against garbage teams.

    Actually Shaq missing time in 03 probably hurt Kobe’s chances more than helping them. The Lakers only got the 4th seed that year, primarily because Shaq chose to heal on company time. After Kobe/Shaq, the Lakers were very barren, plus after 3 straight finals appearances, it is that much harder to make it over and over playing that many more games and having less rest.

    If not for missing 15 games, Westbrook should be the frontrunner. He’s playing better than anyone right now. But compared to Curry/Harden each missing 1 game, I can’t say that just yet at least. I only see slight improvement from Curry this year. His team is just better and healthier this year. He should get some consideration, but not too serious. Look at Teague, nobody is talking about him. I’d rather have GS cast than Teague’s cast as well. James has missed some games, too, and has admitted to coasting. He has a great cast and his team is only 4th in a weak conf. That’s a huge red flag. He is playing great, though. I hate to say that Harden should be the frontrunner right now. HOU hasn’t missed a beat when Howard hasn’t play as well. Harden’s overall game has really picked up this year. I don’t believe in HOU, especially in the playoffs in a stacked conf, but so far in reg. season, Harden has gotten it done.

    • jpalumbo Says:

      I just don’t think Kobe was ever going to win an MVP as long as that team used Shaq as a first option. And hey, the doubles that O’Neal drew did open things up for the perimeter shooters and make everybody’s life easier, so I see where voters would want to credit Shaq before Kobe even as the big guy got older and slower and Bryant got better and better.

      • express34texas Says:

        It wasn’t necessarily Shaq vs. Kobe. It was Shaq/Kobe vs. everyone else. Even though Shaq wasn’t really hated by the media like Kobe was, he was seen as some freakish athlete and didn’t get the credit he deserved. He still only won 1 MVP as well, which is a complete joke. Kobe truly established himself in 2003 with and without Shaq, but we also saw a decline in Shaq. True, that it’s probably hard to differentiate between either when they’re the top 2 players in the game at the time, and their team can only manage a 4 seed. Switch out either for Duncan, and somehow nullifying all voter bias, and either would’ve won. Well, maybe not Shaq, since he missed some time.

        The Lakers cast was getting old and just so barren in 2003. If Shaq/Kobe aren’t playing every game and at a very high level, they were in huge trouble.

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