When the NBPA announced the nominees for the first-ever incarnation of "The Players' Awards" nearly two weeks ago, the unique categories stood out the most. The NBA's official season-ending awards have no equivalents to accolades like "Hardest to Guard" and "Player You Secretly Wish Was on Your Team." Those are the sorts of player-voted honors that can help the union's ceremony stand out from the competition.
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It's odd, then, that Tuesday night's broadcast on BET figures to get the most attention for the most familiar awards of all — Most Valuable Player. As indicated by photos from the ceremony made available on Getty Images prior to airing (and shown at the top of this post), Houston Rockets guard James Harden received the most votes for MVP (via Reid Laymance at Chron.com). Harden finished second to Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry in the NBA's official MVP voting.
The result is surprising if only because Curry won his award without much controversy, grabbing 100 of 130 first-place votes while Harden took a comparatively minor 25 (the other five went to LeBron James). Debates over which player deserved the trophy continued deep into the regular season, but Curry held frontrunner status for the vast majority of the campaign. The best argument for Harden concerned his overwhelmingly important role to the Rockets' offense. In the end, it wasn't enough to best Curry's role as the best player on the NBA's best team saw him to coast to victory.
Given the results of the Players' Awards voting, it's tempting to say that media members were swept up in their own narrative of Curry's excellence and paid too little attention to Harden's essential contributions. The problem with that view is that Harden also had a narrative — the Rockets' supporting cast wasn't that bad — and Curry has just as many advanced stats and eye-test results in his favor as does Harden. Ultimately, both players were and are perfectly deserving candidates for both the league and the union's versions of the MVP. It could just be that the players value a high-usage performance like that of Harden more than media members do. It's a matter of taste, not value.
So let's celebrate Harden's latest achievement instead of using it as ammunition in an unnecessary feud. He and Curry (plus fellow nominees LeBron and Russell Westbrook) deserve whatever awards they get.
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