In the Case of the NBA's MVP Award, the Fix Seems Clear

In the past two weeks, we have come to realize that the most prestigious award in the National Basketball Association is in freefall, and by the time the winner is actually announced on June 26, the reaction will not be, "He really had a great year" but "Why him?"
Yes, it's the Most Valuable Player award, and in this past fortnight, we have seen Russell Werstbrook's candidacy undermined by Oklahoma City's decision to use only him. We have seen James Harden's candidacy undermined by one of the great personal power pouts in modern sports history. We have seen Kawhi Leonard's candidacy both undermined and then potentially enhanced by his ankle injury. We have seen the non-existent candidacies of Isaiah Thomas and John Wall greatly enhanced by their postseasons.
And we have no idea what to make of Kevin Durant or Draymond Green.
Most of this is due to two anomalies in the NBA award system. The first is the time-honored decision to end all voting at the end of the regular season, which makes sense because it rewards six months of consistent work rather than the last-thing-I-saw-matters-the-most crowd.
But the second is to put the award up after the season ends for the benefit of a television show, and as we all know, putting television first is always a winning strategy.
In this case, the choice to announce the winner 2.5 months after the end of the regular season allows the time and the corrosive nature of public commentary turns the winner into an abuse magnet.
And while even this individual award is far less important than the championship thing, the league and its various correspondents want it to matter for purposes of engine churn. Thus, the need for a fix seems clear.
Moreover, the fix seems clear. A regular season MVP and a playoff MVP.
Neither award would matter as much, of course, because the more awards you hand out the lesser each one seems. But the reduction in prestige would work hand-in-glove with a reduction of ridicule.
Knowing the NBA, it would probably do this and then double-down and have a Summer League MVP. Oh, wait; it already has one. But maybe nobody's thought of a training camp MVP yet. Get on that one, Adam.
And the MVP award still is facing a seismic war over whether it is for best numbers or best vague analysis of contribution. That will not be settled any time soon, to be sure. If Westbrook wins, it will probably be a one-off victory based solely on one's man's body of work separate from his team. If Harden wins, it will be for making the seemingly shambolic Houston Rockets a dramatically better team, which is the more historically predictable method. And if Leonard wins, it will probably mean ballot box fraud given that the entire debate has been about Westbrook and Harden to the exclusion of all other candidates.
But however this breaks down, the dissatisfaction will not be able to fit in the overhead bin, and that's no way to celebrate a season in which the apparently superior team could end up with no awards at all.
So maybe this is just more of the Great Year of National Deconstruction, in which all old standards are blown up just to see stuff rocket into the sky. You know, like our political, culture and ethical systems.
Now if that's your goal – to devalue the awards as some sort of hyperflagellant all-glory-is-fleeting-and-everything-is-meaningless message – then this is the best method ever. Closing the voting and wait for developments to turn everything into filth has never been tried before, so maybe this is the perfect year for it.
But I'll bet they try it only the once. This may a traditional notion, but the Most Valuable Player award should be a kind of cool thing rather than an award you pick up with barbecue tongs while wearing a Hazmat suit.

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