Work in Sports
One man's MVP
CNNSI's Hickman explains his controversial vote
Posted: Wednesday May 10, 2000 02:46 PM
By Fred Hickman, CNNSI.com
First point. I am not the "Anti-Shaq." But I am amazed by the uproar my vote for Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers as the 1999-2000 NBA MVP over Shaquille O'Neal has drawn. And, in some cases, outright chagrin.
A statistical analysis of the two players and the regular seasons they posted -- the voting is restricted to regular season play -- does not suffice in my opinion. Part of the difference is the positions these two play -- post versus backcourt.
Shaq led the league in scoring at 29.7 points per game. Iverson was a close second at 28.4. Iverson was also third in the league with 2.06 steals per game, which I find rather remarkable for a guy known as a pure backcourt scorer.
O'Neal was the dominant field goal percentage guy in the NBA and its second best rebounder, but both logged nearly identical minutes -- Iverson at 40.8 minutes per game and O'Neal right at 40.
So to be perfectly fair, the numbers indicate to me a pair of MVPs. One who is a center and one who is a guard.
What then was the deciding factor in casting my vote? The simple reality that if you remove Shaquille O'Neal from the Lakers equation, you still have a very, very good basketball team, albeit not the favorite to win it all this season. The supporting cast is exemplary, featuring the likes of Kobe Bryant and Glen Rice on the floor, with Phil Jackson and one of the best coaching staffs on the bench. They make the playoffs, for sure, and maybe stay around for the conference finals.
On the other hand, if you take Iverson away from the 76ers, you have a low-level lottery club. The rest of the guys on that 76ers team certainly play hard and coach Larry Brown has squeezed the maximum from their abilities. But they are only as good as Iverson will allow them to be. The fact that Iverson has become a guy who has bought into the "make the other guys around me better" philosophy this season is the reason they made the playoffs in the first place and are still around. To me, that makes Iverson the more valuable quantity to his team.
Finally, the controversy over Shaq not being the first-ever unanimous choice for league MVP. For those who do not know how the system works, the league sends ballots to all of those who vote. We still fill them out and return them. It was not a situation where the other 121 voters (who, unlike yours truly are as far as I know still anonymous) were canvassed. Commissioner David Stern didn't call me and say, "Fred, it's all up to you to make or break Shaq." I voted my conviction and I stand by it.
If I were asked today to pick a player to start my own franchise with, it would be Shaq in a heartbeat. But asked who the most valuable player of this past season is, I stay with Iverson. No reservations. No regrets.