The NBA’S Most Valuable Player title is traditionally awarded to the league’s best performing player throughout the season.
While fans have been fortunate to witness incredible performances this NBA season – Stephen Curry becoming the first ever player to record back to back seasons with more than 300 3-pointers, “Greek freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo bringing excitement – and, more importantly, wins – back to Milwaukee, “silent assassin” Kawhi Leonard giving his all and then some to the Spurs or “the little man with the most heart,” Isaiah Thomas, leading the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference – these accolades are on the outside looking in to this year’s MVP debate.
By now, every basketball fan has heard someone ask, “Russell Westbrook or James Harden?” This question was impossible to answer for most of the year, as both posted two spectacular seasons and set the league on fire.
League players are terrified to guard James Harden; he can devastate a team in so many facets of the game. Defenders are left with the options of guarding his killer jump shot, his trademark sidestepping drives or his incredible court vision as he dishes assist after assist.
Harden’s incredible performance this season has led him to average 29.1 points per game, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game, but, more importantly, it led the Rockets to improve from a 41-41 record the previous year to an unforeseen 55-27 record this year and finishing third in the powerhouse Western Conference.
While Harden’s season has been one of the most impressive statistically, he should not receive the MVP award. Why?
Russell Westbrook is the real MVP. From the very beginning of this season, spectators knew they were in for a treat from Westbrook.
Even after losing Kevin Durant to the star-studded Golden State Warriors, the same team that beat the former duo in the Western Conference finals the previous year, Westbrook’s love for Oklahoma City remained.
How would Westbrook – a player doubted by countless sports analysts, a man whose friend walked out on the Thunder, a teammate stuck on a weak roster – respond?
By leaving the league in utter chaos as the world witnessed one of this sport’s greatest-ever spectacles. Westbrook’s incredible regular season led the Thunder, a thoroughly average team, into the playoffs. He astonished fans with record-breaking performances that broke Oscar Robertson’s once thought to be untouchable record for most triple-doubles in a season with 42.
Westbrook also became only the second player ever to average a triple-double over the season. He led the league in points per game with 31.6, finished third in assists per game with 10.4 and finished 11th in rebounds per game with 10.7.
These feats were accomplished in, on average, two minutes less per game (34.6) than MVP rival James Harden (36.4).
Some argue that the MVP must demonstrate an ability to win games for his team, and no player in the league carried his team quite like Westbrook.
The Oklahoma City Thunder finished 47-35, just eight fewer wins than Harden’s Rockets, and still climbed to sixth in the Western Conference. That record could have been exponentially worse had Westbrook’s season been anything but extraordinary.
The league’s MVP title is intended for the best-performing player over the course of a season, and, frankly, no one can hold a candle to Westbrook’s performance. Take a bow.