Jordan couldn’t do it, Lebron couldn’t do it, but Jokic can?!
To no one’s surprise, Michael Jordan dominated the basketball world all throughout the 90’s. At one point, he even made a mockery of it and retired right in the middle of his prime because he was just too damn dominant (or got into some shady gambling controversies and was forced to retire, but that’s a conspiracy for another day… whenever I find my tinfoil Jordan’s). Six finals appearances, Six championships, Six NBA Finals MVPs. But there’s one meaningless club that he was never apart of: Three consecutive NBA regular season MVPs. Bird, Wilt, and Russell are the only ones to accomplish that. I’d be willing to go out on a limb and assume Jordan doesn’t even know about that stat, and even if he does; I’m sure he sleeps just fine in his $15 million dollar mansion. He won four MVPs in the nineties alone, but fell short of a three peat after Barkley’s MVP in ‘92-’93 ruined that effort; then had his ‘96, ‘98 MVPs interrupted by Karl Malone’s (bad guy) MVP in between.
Flash forward to the late aughts – early teens, the #KidFromAkron was the new king of the basketball world. Although he didn’t have the same postseason success as Jordan, Lebron’s reign of dominance over the NBA was equally as impressive, if not more. Eight straight finals appearances, four NBA championships, four finals MVPs, and four time regular season MVP… But guess what? He’s not apart of the meaningless club mentioned before. Lebron’s first quest to win three consecutive MVP’s was abruptly shutdown in 2011, when Derrick Rose became the youngest MVP ever, pulling in the trophy at 22 years young. Lebron would go on to win the two following MVPs, but again missed out on the award in 2014 when KD earned his first one. Instead of heading to the 3x consecutive MVP winner table at lunch, he has to join fellow chumps MJ, Duncan, and Curry amongst others, at the back-to-back MVP table. Talk about surrounding yourself with a bunch of no-good losers.
Now I keep referring to this accomplishment as a “meaningless club” because that’s exactly what it is to (most) players. I’m sure it hurt at the time, but one less MVP isn’t ruining anyone’s legacy. Lebron even spoke on the matter in 2021 when he was in the race to add another one to his collection:
“I should have more than four” Lebron told reporters after a late season win over Charlotte; he went on “but I don’t sit around thinking about it or crying about it or whatever the case may be”. Take that as you may, but the guy wants it known he doesn’t think about it. Or cry about it. Or whatever the case may be. Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like a guy trying too hard not to care, in de facto, making it feel like he might think about it. Or cry about it. Or whatever the case may be.
In reality, stats or clubs like this only mean something to hardcore hoop heads like me (and maybe Lebron)… As things stand now, January 24th 2023, Nikola Jokic is the reigning 2x MVP and with no question, the most valuable player of the season thus far (-145 current MVP odds, second is Doncic at +400 via BetMGM). Averaging 25.1/11.0/9.9 on a 63% clip from the field with his Denver Nuggets firmly at the one spot in the West. He’s became more efficient on the offensive end, gets picked on less on the defensive end, and in general has the Nuggets running like a well-oiled machine. Now let’s play the hypothetical game because what sport fan doesn’t love hypotheticals?
- The Denver Nuggets finish 1st in the West
- Nikola Jokic continues the dominant pace he’s been on
- The best ability is availability: Nikola Jokic stays healthy
- Luka and Tatum don’t end the season on a tear
Simple right? All very possible and probably the most likely outcome. If it plays out like this, MVP voters find themselves in a sticky situation.
Let me take you on another trip down memory lane. What were you doing in 2014? Because I know exactly what I was doing. I was in the twitter replies. I was sweating out the NBA message boards. I was listening to Stephen A. yell blasphemy at Skip, all because of the possibility that Lebron James could win his third consecutive MVP, a feat that Jordan never accomplished.
Keep in mind, this is right as the Lebron-Jordan GOAT debate was heating up. Bron had won two consecutive NBA finals and was in a bid to grab his third.
Younger folk, more commonly Lebron stans, would use any piece of evidence to convey their majesty as the greatest ever to do it. For some odd reason, three consecutive MVP’s became the kindling to that wildfire. A feat that Lebron accomplished that Jordan never did. An accomplishment that young folk can use to send old heads, more commonly Jordan stans, off their wits end. Best part about all of it? It was irrelevant cannon fodder. Kevin Durant would comfortably go on to win his first MVP, but reality be damned, those 3-4 months of yelling about it were fun. The journalists and talking heads, the very same ones with NBA votes, helped give a larger than life aura to three consecutive MVP’s. Like accomplishing it would put you in a class of your own or something; solidifying your spot as the greatest to ever do it.
Now let me bring you back to modern day *verbal gif: Michael Scott snip snap snip snap*. We’ve talked about Jokic’s odds to win MVP this year and played the hypothetical game. If it plays as I listed earlier, this would make him the first three consecutive MVP winner since Bird’s magical run in ‘84, ‘85, and ‘86. There’s one looming threat on his quest to accomplish that…
In the pre-season NBA GM Survey, Jokic didn’t receive a single vote for who they thought would win MVP. The survey is done completely anonymously, but one GM added “there’s just no way they’re going to give it to him [Jokic] three times in a row”. Who is “they” that this GM is referring too? Yep you guessed it: Basketball journalists and talking-heads. The narrative-crafters and the folks that hold the votes.
Simply put, there’s a short list of two time MVP’s to never win a championship: Karl Malone and Steve Nash. There’s an even shorter list of three time MVP’s to never win a championship. In fact, the list doesn’t even exist. No one’s done it. If Jokic wins MVP and fails to bring home the championship, he’ll become the first three time MVP with zero rings. An exclusive club that no one wants in on.
Forget the championship qualification and let’s take a look at all the players to just win three MVP’s: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Lebron James
*head-scratching at Moses Malone*
Now I’m not here to argue semantics over the greatest ever, but damn near everyone of those guys has a debate for top 5 to ever do it. Every single guy on the list, besides Moses, has multiple championships. It’s a murderers row of NBA Godfathers, Hall Of Famers, and GOAT’s. The best to ever do it in your grandpa’s generation, your dad’s generation, and your generation… Like it or not, Nikola Jokic should become the ninth member of that list; and the fourth one to join it by winning them consecutively.
When Jordan and now-Lebron missed out on three consecutive MVPs, there became a unspoken narrative that it would never happen again. If the first G.O.A.T. couldn’t get it done, and the second G.O.A.T. couldn’t get it done, why should anyone else? Plenty of dudes have gone back-to-back, but god forbid someone goes back-to-back-to-back. Some claim it’s because three consecutive MVPs is a boring image for the league. Others say it’s a way to protect Jordan’s legacy.
Maybe no one since Bird has actually earned it. In actuality we’ll never know, but like I said earlier, what sports fan doesn’t love a good hypothetical.
I write all this to finally get to this:
Dear MVP Voters,
Don’t screw this up. I plead with you to stop the madness and award Jokic his third consecutive MVP so we can finally put this matter to rest. I understand whole-heartedly Nikola Jokic doesn’t belong anywhere near that list of 3x MVP getters and 3x consecutive MVPs; but this is the bed you’ve made for yourself, so sleep in it, and get over yourselves. Your not protecting the league’s sanctity, Jordan’s legacy, or any other madness anyone else can come up with. If winning MVPs was a presidency, than refer to Jokic as F.D.R. because it’s time to break the precedent. Stop putting a term limit on greatness (swished that one at the buzzer). Open the door for any legends that may follow Jokic.
About the Author
I was born and raised in Colorado as the youngest of five kids, four boys and one girl. Eat, breathe, and consume sports in any manner possible was how we were raised. I’m a true to home Broncos, Nuggets, Avs, and CSU fan(Sorry Rockies). Red Sox will forever hold my baseball allegiance. I mean, the first memory I have of this earth was being shaken awake as my oldest brother yelled “Papi did it again, Papi did it again, we’re going to game 6!!!”… Referring to David Ortiz, walking it off for the 2nd consecutive night of the 20004 ALCS.
If you catch me in my free time and sports aren’t involved, ask me if everything’s alright. I’m either being held hostage, or something’s gone deeply awry. Grab a beer for the Tuesday MACtion game? I’m your guy. Play some pool while watching some Thursday night FunBelt games? Count me in. Trying to bet on Bulgarian ping pong at 2AM? Sure, let me find out which sportsbook offers it. Chances are if there’s a ball and a competition at stake, I’m gonna watch it.
Helping Loot Sports takeover one person at a time because I pride myself, and think of myself as a man of faith… As there’s a drive into deep right field by Castellanos, and that’ll be a homerun. 4-0 Reds.