In a season full of Stephen Curry breaking records, Stephen Curry broke another record. He became the first NBA player to ever unanimously claim the Most Valuable Player award, something Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal and many other greats never did.
Perhaps that stands out less to you than becoming the first player to sink 400 3-pointers in a season (or even 300) or captaining a record 73-win team, but winning the vote of 131 sportswriters is Curry's most unbelievable achievement. It will never lose context.
The changing ways of the NBA are often used to downplay anything a current superstar does. Curry holds the 3-point record ... but only because the three-point line didn't exist or wasn't important back in the day. Curry's team was dominant ... but only because the league is supposedly weaker than it once was. Winning an MVP award holds the same honor regardless of the era. Winning MVP awards back-to-back holds an even higher prestige.
Winning the award in unanimous fashion is inconceivable given that every Hall of Fame legend has missed the mark. Michael Jordan was shorted four votes to Penny Hardaway (two), Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone in 1996. Shaquille O'Neal lost a vote to Allen Iverson in 2000. LeBron James came up one vote short to Carmelo Anthony in 2013.
One reason an MVP hadn't won unanimously until now is that the award is labeled vaguely. Nobody really understands the desired traits to qualify. It's not explicitly a best player award, which trips up voters.
Jordan undeniably had the best season of any player in '96. The Bulls marched to a then-record 72-win season behind his 30.4 points per game. Jordan had already won three consecutive championships and three MVP awards, so it's easy to blame voter fatigue for the other selections.
How do you explain Iverson taking a vote away from O'Neal in 2000 despite finishing seventh overall in the voting? Fred Hickman, the one outlying voter, described his choice:
"I certainly didn't mean to be the lone one," said Hickman. "I picked the guy who was the most valuable to his team. Philadelphia without Iverson was a CBA team, and if the Lakers didn't have Shaq, they would have still been a pretty good team."
History repeated itself 13 years later. The Miami Heat won a league-high 66 games, including 27 in a row. James was the NBA's fourth-leading scorer at nearly 27 points per game on 57 percent shooting, and he also pulled down eight rebounds and dished out more than seven assists per game. He was clearly the league's best player, yet he fell one vote shy of a unanimous MVP win.
Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe used his vote on Carmelo Anthony, who finished third overall behind Kevin Durant. He explained why:
I voted for Carmelo Anthony based on his importance to the New York Knicks, who, if you haven't been paying attention the past decade, have failed to be relevant. Secondly, this isn't the Best Player in the Game award, it's the Most Valuable Player award, and I think what Anthony accomplished this season was worthy of my vote. He led the Knicks to their first division title in 19 years.
Washburn voted again this year. Despite Curry coming off a championship win and playing alongside superstars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Washburn and 130 others chose Curry for MVP.
No matter how the award is interpreted, Curry checked every box. He is the best player on the planet and also its most valuable. He's transformed a franchise associated with losing to one that fielded the most victorious team of all-time for a single season.
The MVP award has always included contrarian votes, but Curry's talent caught everyone's eye the same. Moreso than the Warriors' 73-win season, this achievement is 2016's most untouchable.
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