NBA AM: Controversial MVP Votes

Ty Lawson once received an MVP vote as a member of the Denver Nuggets, but there have been even crazier votes than that.

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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This season is going to be absolutely bananas when it comes to voting on an MVP. In Dennis Chambers’ most recent MVP Watch article, released last week, neither Kevin Durant nor LeBron James is even mentioned. Neither is James Harden or obviously the injured Kawhi Leonard, and last year’s MVP, Russell Westbrook, is ranked fourth.

There have been so many outstanding individual performances this young season that there’s a case to be made for four or five different players to be named the MVP. Of course, in a year like this, there are almost sure to be a few outliers that end up with MVP votes when the whole thing is said and done.

It happens almost every year where a completely shocking player ends up earning a single vote on the MVP ballot, and while these seemingly symbolic votes never have shifted the ultimate result of the award, it certainly has put some interesting players into the annals of history as having MVP votes tied to their names. Here are ten of the most confounding of them:

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets (2012-13) – There is a 100 percent chance that Lawson got his lone career MVP vote because Denver won a franchise-record 57 games that season, but 16.7 points and 6.9 assists per game are not MVP numbers by any stretch of the imagination. This was a LeBron James MVP year, but that Lawson vote couldn’t have gone to one of the many other huge stars that clearly had better individual years?

Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (2011-2012) – The only guy on this list to earn more than just a solitary symbolic vote, Rose somehow earned five total points the year following his actual MVP campaign. While his averages were perfectly respectable (21.8 points and 7.9 assists per game), he only played in 39 of the 66 total games during that lockout-shortened season. In a year where LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and even Kobe Bryant all were playing at high levels, it’s amazing five individuals could think to put Rose on their ballot despite playing in fewer than 60 percent of his team’s games.

Stephen Jackson, Charlotte Bobcats (2009-2010) – Imagine, if you will, a scenario where a member of the Charlotte Bobcats is in the MVP conversation, even if minimally. To be fair, this was the prime of Jackson’s career, smack-dab in the middle of a two-year stretch in which he averaged 20+ points per game. But that wasn’t more points per game than LeBron James or Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade or Carmelo Anthony or Dirk Nowitzki or Amar’e Stoudemire or Chris Bosh. How Jackson earned an MVP vote over some of those guys is truly dumbfounding.

Yao Ming, Houston Rockets (2008-2009) – This was Yao’s last healthy season, so perhaps the vote was a send-off for one of the most beloved international players of all time. His numbers were respectable, scoring 19.7 points per game on .549 shooting and 9.9 rebounds per game, but that was his worst scoring year and his fewest minutes during that four-year stretch. The list of guys ahead of him is prodigious, which is why he probably shouldn’t have gotten even the lone vote.

P.J. Brown, New Orleans Hornets (2004-2005) – Arguably the most egregious, unbelievable MVP vote of all time, this one for the delightful P.J. Brown came courtesy of the Times Picayune’s Jimmy Smith, who said he cast this vote because of how much Brown meant to the Hornets that season. He voted for Steve Nash to win and gave Shaquille O’Neal the second place vote, a one-two that most voters agreed on that year. To this day, though, nobody quite gets why a vote got cast for a 35-year-old who averaged 10.8 points and 9 rebounds per game.

Mike Bibby, Sacramento Kings (2001-2002) – Bibby never even got voted to an All-Star Game, so to get an MVP vote is more than a little surprising. While his stats aren’t staggering (13.7 points and 5.0 assists per game), this was Bibby’s first season with the Kings, and they did win 61 games. Of course, Chris Webber finished 7th in MVP voting for those that wanted to give a Sacramento player a token vote, but who’s counting?

Anthony Mason, Miami HEAT (2000-2001) – Unlike Bibby, Mason actually did have an All-Star season, and this was the one. Having played over 40 minutes per game in Miami that season and averaging 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, he probably was one of the league’s top 20 players that year. Being the 16th or 17th best player in the league, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the guy should have gotten a fifth-place MVP vote.

Darrell Armstrong, Orlando Magic (1999-2000) – There were a couple years there around the turn of the century where Armstrong was one of the league’s best stories. He came out of nowhere in the late ‘90s after a handful of mediocre seasons with the Magic, playing his best ball this year, with his 16.2 points per game. Those Magic teams were good, but was Armstrong MVP-caliber, even in his best season? Probably not.

Mark Jackson, Indiana Pacers (1998-1999) – A whopping 21 players received MVP votes in 1999, which may have occurred due to the shortened season on the heels of that year’s big lockout. Armstrong got a couple of fifth-place votes this year, too, and in a six-way tie for 16th place, Penny Hardaway, Vince Carter, Glenn Robinson, Steve Smith, Rasheed Wallace and of course Mark Jackson all ended up on the tally sheet. Jackson was easily the most controversial of the batch, averaging only 7.6 points and 7.9 assists per game for the Indiana Pacers.

Rik Smits, Indiana Pacers (1997-1998) – Somehow Smits and his Pacers teammate Reggie Miller both ended up with 2 total points in MVP voting this season, though neither one really deserved the honor. Smits averaged just 16.7 points and 6.9 rebounds that year, fine numbers, and enough for an All-Star nod that year, but certainly not MVP-worthy.

It’s been a few years since anybody did anything ridiculous with their MVP vote, but that may change in a year where so much is going on with the race. For now, all we can do is enjoy the ride and hope that the race for MVP stays as close as it has for the season’s first few weeks.

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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