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.
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.
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.