What should be taken into consideration when giving out the most prestigious award in any sport?
by Pranav Arun
The MVP title in all sports is awarded to the player considered the most “valuable”, and it is the most prestigious award given. The previous regular-season MVP for the NBA was Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. The previous winner in the NFL was Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. In the MLB, Freddie Freeman and Jose Abreu won the honor in the American and National League. All of these players won the award because they are considered the most “valuable” to their team in the league. But what does valuable mean? Does it mean having the best stats in the league, being the piece that helps the team finally win, or being the rallying point for growth and improvement of a team?
This is where the Trilemma is presented: Should the prestigious MVP award be based on the best stats that a player has, should it be based on the number of wins a player brings to a team, or should it be dependent on the role a player plays on growth and improvement of a team?
Stats Decide Value in Sports
Many people argue that statistics should be the deciding factor in MVP conversations and GOAT conversations. The GOAT is an abbreviation of Greatest of All Time, and MVP is an abbreviation for Most Valuable player. The GOAT is unofficial, but is of all time, and the MVP is an official yearly award. Stats show the productivity of a player in all sports and are important in grading players. For example, in the NBA, high scoring averages in limited minutes for a player indicate that the player should be given more time to play. Stats can show the productivity and talent of a player, but it cannot show other defining traits that are associated with value, such as leadership. It is important to look at averages as well as totals when looking at stats because players have to be consistent as well as consistently available to be regarded as valuable. A good example of stats being important in MVP races is Patrick Mahomes in the 2018-19 season, who won MVP while throwing for the second-most yards in the NFL and throwing for the most touchdowns, according to ESPN. His team did not make it to the Super-Bowl, but he still won the award in his breakout season.
Winning Decides Value in Sports
It is also argued that winning should decide who takes home the MVP award, and it is a valid argument. Many of the greatest players to play in the NBA, such as Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, and Patrick Ewing never have won a championship, and this shadows their careers. The same thing can be said for NFL quarterbacks such as Dan Marino and Jim Kelly, who are faces of the game. Although these quarterbacks may have better career stats and are arguably more talented than Tom Brady, Tom Brady is still the GOAT (basically all-time MVP) because he has a whopping 7 rings. Tom Brady’s longevity of his career should also be considered, but the point is that winning is important to be memorable and successful. This is why this side argues that winning should be the deciding factor in MVP conversations, not stats or leadership. Stats may show talent, but only winning show the value of a player according to this side. Players such as Lebron James and Steph Curry, consistent winners, probably would be considered more for MVP awards in the NBA if this side decided the MVP winner.
Growth and Improvement Should Decide MVP Winners
The third side in this Trilemma argues that the leadership and improvement in a team should decide the MVP in all leagues. A good example of something this side would argue is Chris Paul for MVP. Before Chris Paul came to the Suns, they were a team consistently ranking at the bottom of the NBA. His leadership and maturity as well as the growth of the players along him brought the Suns to become the 2nd best team in the NBA right now. If you don’t believe that Chris Paul’s leadership matters, you can look back to what happened in Oklahoma City after he left. When he was there, they were a playoff team, but now they are one of the worst teams in the NBA without him. Chris Paul and other veteran players that make the players around them better are some of the most important players in the NBA because they can lift teams from good to great, from the lottery to 7th seed. This type of value in a player usually is evident when they switch teams, and you observe what happens to the teams that they leave and go to. This way of looking at the MVP is observed mostly in basketball because that is the sport where team chemistry and leadership are most important. The chemistry of a team starts with the point guard, the person who passes the ball the most, and this is why Chris Paul is an important name for a lot of young teams wanting to go to the next level with their squad. This can also be observed in why quarterbacks almost always win MVP in the NFL. Quarterbacks are usually the ones in the huddle who call the plays, the ones who give the speeches in the locker rooms to motivate the team, and the players who get the most praise and hate when a team wins or loses. They are credited greatly with improvement, team growth, and team maturity. Even if you are an average quarterback in a winning team with a star running back, you are still more likely to win the MVP than that running back because of all of the leadership brought by you. In conclusion, this side is the side that is usually not thought about when talking about MVP, but it is still very important.