NBA fans love to chant "M-V-P" for hometown players. Yet what started as a perfectly understandable expression of fans' admiration for actual award-worthy stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James has turned into something much different. In past seasons, the chant has been aimed at everyone from ex-Golden State Warriors guard Monta Ellis (at the height of his high-usage, low-efficiency exploits) to Amar'e Stoudemire at a time in 2011 when the New York Knicks had already become Carmelo Anthony's team. The chant may exist, but it usually doesn't apply to actual MVP candidates. It often seems to be something more like shorthand for crediting a very important player for his contributions.
At the same time, as far as we know, none of these unlikely targets of the chant has ever asked fans to stop. Until now, because Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has asked his team's crowd to cut it out.
"I don’t like it,” he said. “No, I don’t like it.”
“Because our MVP is not playing. We have one MVP, and that’s Derrick Rose. And it’s not about MVPs, it’s about rings, and one day I hope that we can get one here.”
“That’s all I want,” Noah said of winning NBA titles. “I don’t care about none of that stuff [MVPs].”
Noah's support of his injured teammate is admirable, as well as totally in keeping with his approach to Rose's continued absence from the Bulls lineup. Last May, when the Bulls were in the midst of an impressive playoff performance given what most perceived as a lack of top-line talent, Noah spoke up for Rose's decision not to play when doctors had cleared him to do so. It helped express the Bulls' approach to Rose being out. No matter the situation, Rose will remain the team's primary star.
Still, it feels like Noah is giving fans too hard a time. The "M-V-P" chant is not a literal argument for a player's award prospects any more than "I'm rubber and you're glue" serves to give its speaker actual elastic properties. While more reasonable alternatives may exist, the chant is not really about being logical. It's an expression of support and thanks for the team's most essential player. Noah has been that guy in Rose's absence, no matter his protests to the contrary. Rose may be the key player long-term to get the Bulls a title, but Noah has kept them relevant this season.
He's been so important, in fact, that it wouldn't be shocking to see him as both a top-five MVP finisher and the All-NBA center. Noah might not see himself as the Bulls' star, but he's playing at a level that puts players in the MVP conversation. He has defended at his typically great level, found new heights as an offensive facilitator, and taken on greater responsibility when it was absolutely necessary to his team's success.
This could be a case in which the fans providing the chants and the man refusing them are both correct.
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