Wednesday, March 25, 2009

5 comments Talkin' 'bout the MVP but we're Keeping it Funky

Alright, quick confession, this post is less about Chris Sheridan and his comments on the issue and more a forum for me to vent about the MVP debate. So for all of those who come to see myself and Ben eviscerate some poor (as in, both unfortunate and...well, shit) sports writer, you will be largely dissapointed today. The article is called...

Straddling the fence: Kobe or LeBron?

Two points about the MVP;

1 - every year we get an article that opens with "what does the MVP mean? Oh, this is so hard to define. We all wonder, let's go into some major dissemination of what this means because the definition is oh so important." Observe, from the linked article;

The question: In this particular two-man race (and yes, Dwyane Wade, it is a two-man race, as I'll explain later), what should go down as UDF -- the Ultimate Deciding Factor?

If you're going to choose Kobe Bryant over LeBron, or if you're going to vote The King ahead of The Mamba, what single thing is going to tip the balance one way or the other? Better record? Better stats? Better job given the relative merits of each of their supporting casts? What they did head-to-head? Which guy's team would be worse off if you took that particular player off it?
The UDF tends to change from year to year, and I've been covering the league long enough to remember the discussion back in 1996-97 when the UDF seemed to be "Isn't it time that Karl Malone won this award?" -- an argument whose validity was ultimately undermined by what happened between him and Michael Jordan in the Finals.

The ever-changing nature of the UDF was a source of frustration for Shaquille O'Neal when I spoke to him about the subject a couple of weeks ago upon his return to Miami. The Big Sewer (OK, that's one of his old nicknames, but still a favorite -- if you can figure out the meaning) seemed frustrated that his legacy will include only one MVP award, or half as many as those won by the guy sitting across from him in the locker room, Steve Nash.

Myself, I always put a premium on winning, which is why I can't fathom the thought of voting for Wade. As great as he has been, as much as he has resurrected his superstar status, his team is five games over .500.

this is actually one of the more subtle and nuanced versions of my shorthand template, but it still has the same fundamental flaw. It treats this "Most Valuable Player" designation as though it were sent down from the Mount on stone tablets. "Oh, it says VALUABLE, not BEST, so this makes it so much more complex, I am so tortured in trying to define valuable, team, stats, clutch, winning, other players, cannot compute *explode*". Why? Why act like it's some sacred, secretly devious wording? I'm so sick of reading the same fucking article year after year. And I swear I have read something to the effect of what I outlined at least 15 times in my life. I'm over it. We know it's ambiguous, move the fuck on. It's clear what the award is designed to achieve, to commemorate the best player in the season, which brings me to my second gripe with the MVP.

Why not just say "best"? It makes so much more sense, and is so much easier to actually decide. Honestly, in most seasons, the best player in the league is not that difficult to decide. This season it's clearly LeBron, last season it was clearly Chris Paul. If Kobe could not win it in 2006, he should never have been able to win it, in that year, he was clearly the best player and he finished fucking fourth. FOURTH. Why? Because this "valuable" clause gives writers this out to basically make shit up.

Bryant has kept his team winning with the NBA's leading offense despite losing Andrew Bynum for half a season

oh boo-fucking-hoo. He still has Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and what is considered the best bench in the NBA. Not to mention the Phil Jackson vs Mike Brown comparison. Didn't that team go to the Finals? It's LeBron stupid.

We are still nearly a month away from the end of the season, so there is no need for me to make up my mind now.

if LeBron breaks his leg tomorrow it's still LeBron.

LeBron James: 28.6/7.6/7.3, shooting 48.8%, 1.8spg, 1.3bpg, a respectable 33.1% from deep, 3.01topg

Kobe Bryant: 27.5/5.4/4.9, shooting 46.9%, 1.4spg, 0.4bpg, and a very, very slightly higher 34.0% from deep, 2.64

The Cavs even have a better record. Kobe shouldn't have won it last year - if you wanted to give it to Kobe you may as well have given it to Pau Gasol, he's the dirty reason you gave it to Kobe Bryant, because the Lakers were a #1 seed almost entirely due to Gasol. This may be hard to believe considering the overwhelming contempt I exhibit for sportswriters, but I've never been more disgusted with them as a group for their wilful ignorance of Chris Paul last year.

This is NOT a debate in a sane world.

I want to see how the Lakers do on their current East Coast swing, I want to see how Cleveland does in this back-to-back set against Orlando and San Antonio two weekends from now, and I want to see which of the two locks up home-court advantage through the playoffs, because I have a strong feeling we're going to a Game 7 in the Finals this year, and it's going to be Lakers-Cavs.

an excellent approach, because I think the MVP award should go to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and if you argue for the Los Angeles Lakers you are a fool, well said Sheridan.

But the MVP is a regular-season award

and an individual award.

and there are a couple of other things I'll be weighing right up until the minute when I pull out my quill pen, fill out my ballot and crank up the fax machine (if you're going to be a Luddite, you have to pull out the ink jar and the fax while remaining Sloanlike in your bewilderment at twittering). Some of the arguments cancel each other out; others give a slight edge to one guy

may I suggest some examples? LeBron plays in a state starting with O, Kobe with C, which is first in the alphabet - advantage Kobe?

LeBron's mother is younger than Kobe's and probably more attractive, does that swing it to LeBron? Oh, so many factors! If it was only as simple as "who is a better basketball player this year" but of course that's madness.

Again, though, there is no reason for myself or anyone else to decide now which way we'll be voting three and a half weeks from now. We can milk the clock on this one, procrastinate, hem, haw and flip-flop, then sit down when all 82 are in the books and make up our minds then.

it's LeBron, it's not close. It's clearly LeBron, you are empirically wrong Chris Sheridan, every indicator says LeBron.

But, as I said before, this post is only tangentally about Sheridan, who I am no fan of and have written about before (his laughable FIBA analysis). It's a pandemic that sweeps the nations sportswriters at this time of year - pick the best player, base it 80% on numbers, by all means take in quality of supporting cast (in this case, the worse team should trump the better) as the largest non statistical mitigating factor and be done with it. And for God's sake, we KNOW it says valuable and not bes but who the fuck cares? Some dude just came up with that, you can do whatever you want.


Bengoodfella said...

I don't think you understand the seriousness of the MVP award. Much like the Constitution and any other legal government document, it can't just be altered to say the "best" player in the league. It has to be about value and how can we determine value based on numbers, you can't! It's impossible!

Enough sarcasm...the gnashing of teeth and worry about the MVP every year gets very tiresome. Take Kobe off the Lakers and the Lakers may still make the playoffs or at least are borderline. What are the Cavs without LeBron is the most valuable AND the best player in the league. Start inscribing his name now.

Martin said...

Did you know that South Carolina was thinking about succeeding from the union as far back as 1828? These are the things I learn from reading books at work and not being able to watch the Pitt and Villanova game.

Bengoodfella said...

I used to a be history buff so I think the man behind that was John Calhoun...I may be wrong though.

I am glad South Carolina did not secede from the Union because some state has to be last in everything and Mississippi needs some competition for that spot. I am just kidding Mississippi and South Carolina.

Actually, I am glad SC did not leave the Union because I don't want to have to get a passport or some other ID to go to Charleston.

Martin said...

Actually it was Calhoun who wrote the paper on nullification, but didn't claim authorship until many years later because he knew it would hurt his chances to become President. + 1 to Ben!

Bengoodfella said...

I am such a loser but I am impressed you knew about Calhoun and his paper on nullification. Ok, now we are both losers that we knew all of this.

Either way, reading about this and not watching the game sucks.