The LeBron James Trophy Takeover: Why the NBA Needs to Fix Its Awards

By: 05.09.13  •  8 Comments
LeBron James

LeBron James (photo. Nike Basketball)

When it was announced that LeBron James would collect his fourth Most Valuable Player award. No one, except the Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn (and he’s entitled to his views), wanted to be caught with a stain on their ballot … and rightly so. However, does that mean Kevin Durant‘s work (50/40/90 shooting averages and the West’s top record) should go without a well-earned receipt?

For the uninitiated, pro baseball hands out trophies for their top rookie, best pitcher, leading manager and most trustworthy fielder. MLB’s major awards are akin to the four biggest accolades handed out in the NBA – Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year – except that they’re given out in both the American and National League’s, respectively.

Given the NBA’s visible conference divide, isn’t it time that both the elite from the East and the best playing out West serve as different streams of power for their own lighthouses? If baseball, with clear distinctions between its two leagues, awards its players accordingly, shouldn’t the NBA look to do the same?

If the NBA wants to persist with pointless banners (like the ones given out systematically to their divisional record leaders), surely it’s worthwhile presenting more individual accolades (whenever a deserving recipient surfaces). Their Rookie and Player of the Month trackers run side by side, divided by conference, why not carry that over to all the major awards?

Surf the web and you’ll easily find any End of Season Awards discussion inclusive of debate about regrettable exclusion. It would appear, after the 2012-13 season at least, that giving out more individual awards wouldn’t dilute trophy value. Rather, it would attempt to address the need to identify the best in the business on a broader scope, and more often than not, ‘best’ isn’t limited to one talent, or position, or conference.

[One important footnote: Awards don’t have to be mandatory, not when you’re giving out more of them. If the East doesn’t have a standout rookie, don’t assign the Conference one. This’ll increase the importance of award winners over time because stand-alone recipients will appear even more amazing (or lucky, or timely, etc.).]

Would anyone really have a problem with K.D. being awarded a trophy that says “West MVP”? Durant, a lock for First Team All-NBA recognition, falls short of his true title because the NBA believes glass cabinet tokens (for elite play) are a league-wide matter but that’s only because it suits, or, once upon a time, served a more obvious purpose. Durant’s otherworldly season deserves a trophy, not an honorable mention or “second place vote” tally. It’s time the NBA steps up and starts following at least one of Major League Baseball’s best attributes, even if it’s weighed down by its own history.

On the next page, the solution to the MVP dilemma…

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