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The Moments That Won the Last 20 NBA MVPs Their Award

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USA Today Sports. Pictured: LeBron James, Michael James

  • Every NBA MVP campaign is solidified by one moment. Rob Perez (aka @WorldWideWob) took a look back at the past 20 winners and theirs.

NBA MVP is continuously one of the most scrutinized, discussed and cogitated awards in professional sports.

The reason why it receives so much attention year after year is because the process of selecting the winner is purely subjective. Since 1980, the MVP has been chosen by members of the media who cast votes for their first to fifth place selections. First-place votes are worth 10 points, second worth seven, third worth five, fourth worth three and fifth worth one.

Some voters are former players, coaches, executives and team employees. Some are not. It’s a wide spectrum of backgrounds and experiences within the game voicing opinions and making an influential decision — which when you think about it, makes Steph Curry’s unanimous MVP campaign of 2015-16 even more absurd.

Curry was so damn good that he UNANIMOUSLY convinced a collection of humans with varying agendas, fandoms, emotions and job responsibilities to ALL vote for him. Do you understand how difficult that is in today’s age of #TwoAmericas and “well, actually…”?

You have to be just unfathomably, absurdly, unequivocally the best at what you do to even be in the market for a decision like this.

This season we are as far from a consensus, unanimous MVP as possible. Two candidates are as deserving of the award as an MVP has ever been: James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The case has been made for both, and you can’t go wrong voting for either. For every jaw-dropping statistic and eye-popping highlight reel Giannis produced, Harden has one, too.

So, how do we chose?

For the past two decades, all MVPs have one thing in common: A “holy shit, that’s the MVP” moment. A moment that, when it happens, has you frozen in time — you naturally know when it happens — a screenshot of when and where you were when it happened is uploaded straight to your anatomical iCloud.

It’s the highlight that runs on loop when the player is included in any future montages and will be engraved in the MVP shrine at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

Let’s take a look at those moments for the past 20 winners.

1998: Michael Jordan (92 First-Place Votes)

Second place: Karl Malone (20)

Jordan’s final game at Madison Square Garden as a Chicago Bull.

With the playoffs approaching and no guarantee that the Knicks and Bulls would inevitably face each other gain in the conference finals, Jordan came out and dropped 42 points, grabbed eight rebounds and six assists — including a no-look over-his-head layup down the stretch, which all but reinforced the notion that no mortal human was going to beat this man in a seven-game series.

It wasn’t his last hoorah at MSG, but it was his closing argument and a reminder that he was not only the best basketball player on Earth, but still, somehow, having the best individual season of anybody.

1999: Karl Malone (44)

Second place: Alonzo Mourning (36)
Third place: Tim Duncan (30)

This is one of the most controversial winners ever — one which narrative, experience and IOUs from the Jordan era superseded all.

Malone averaged the second-lowest point per game average of his career (23.8) and rebounds per (9.4) during the NBA’s shortened 49-game schedule following the lockout. In addition: He got outplayed by (rookie!) Tim Duncan in the Jazz’s final two games against the Spurs, both losses, forfeiting home court.

All three podium candidates were worthy of the award, but Malone won it when he proved that the Jazz were not even close to being that same championship contender from the season before without him — going toe-to-toe with who would eventually become the NBA’s greatest power forward ever.

2000: Shaquille O’Neal (120)

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