That Stephen Curry is the MVP of the NBA for the second year in a row should come as a surprise to no one. That he’s the first unanimous winner in the 61-year history of the trophy – a feat that even the likes of Michael Jordan couldn’t achieve – might be.
Curry earned all 131 first-place votes Tuesday, less than 24 hours after he played for the first time in a scintillating Game 4 of a West semifinal series with the Portland Trail Blazers. Curry, who had been out with a knee injury since the first round, had 40 points (17 in overtime), nine rebounds and eight assists in a crucial 132-125 win for the Golden State Warriors to take a 3-1 lead.
It was the perfect timing for the league's announcement. Curry raised his scoring average from 23.8 as an MVP in 2014-15 to 30.1; his single-season three-pointers made record from 286 to 402; became the first scoring champion from the franchise since Rick Barry in 1966-67; and led Golden State to a record 73 wins.
It’s fitting that in surpassing Jordan’s 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10) that Curry became unanimous.
Former NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady, who is a good analyst for ESPN by the way, was critical of the NBA in general. Here's what he said about it all: “For him to be the first player to get this unanimously, I think it just shows you how watered down our league is.”
That logic is flawed. The league is "watered down" may be more of a statement of what it looks like at the bottom (and I doubt even that's true), but even if McGrady is correct that doesn't have as much to do with Curry being unanimous. The top is still heavy on superstars and stars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler and Dirk Nowitzki. And there are rising stars such as Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis.
Of course, debates also will rage that Curry isn’t better than Jordan therefore doesn’t deserve to be unanimous but that’s as short-sighted as hot-take analysis can get -- and irrelevant. Other than James (Cavs), who came in third in the voting, who rivals Curry in terms of transcendent star appeal? He's must-see TV even during warmups. Curry was MVP last season and was a far better player this season which probably factored into the reasoning of the voters, too.
Does Bob Cousy's MVP in 1957 not count as much because he couldn't beat Curry in a game of one-on-one? What about the consecutive MVPs in 2005 and '06 from Steve Nash? Because couldn't guard Kobe Bryant, those are bogus?
Kawhi Leonard (Spurs) finished second. Teammates Westbrook and Durant (Thunder) split their votes and were Nos. 4 and 5 in totals.
Leonard's team won 67 games with him as their best player. In any other year, he would've warranted quite a few first-place votes but Curry made history. The vote is subjective and prone to the whims of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters in the U.S. and Canada and one unified vote via fans online.
Maybe this is a sign that voting, which is now made public by the NBA, moving in the right direction. Think of all those private ballots in other sports when legendary talents don’t get voted into the Hall of Fame unanimously because of some ridiculous “code.” Or what about NBA All-Star voting by fans and then coaches that excluded Lillard (Blazers) this year?
Was the NBA "watered down" when Shaquille O'Neal was denied by one anonymous voter in 2000 from being unanimous, getting 120 of 121 first-place votes? James was hands down the MVP in 2013 and he didn't get one of the 121 first-place votes (shout out to my guy Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe for choosing Carmelo Anthony instead). Was that an indication of a "watered down" league just three years ago?
To recap using McGrady's train of reasoning: Because O'Neal didn't get all 121 first-place votes during McGrady's era, this is proof that the league was better 16 years ago? That's what he's actually saying.
There was no other choice above Curry that could be justified even by an outlier, though Harden (Rockets) getting on any ballots (two) after a 41-41 season ranges anywhere from comical to criminal.
The process never will be perfect. The Players Association had its first awards handed out last summer when Harden, worthy consideration at the time, was chosen over Curry and called by some "the real MVP." The suggestion was an absolute joke then as Curry was derided as a "system" player -- whatever in the hell that means -- but it’s doubtful that happens again given how the defensive no-show fared with Houston this season while the actual MVP took his game to another level.
If it's a competitive year for MVP votes there won’t be unanimous choices, but every now and then there will be exceptions. So what that in 1975 Bob McAdoo became MVP with just 81 of 193 votes (42%). How many of the voters actually saw him play with the Buffalo Braves often enough to make that judgment? There were no cable TV sports packages, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, mobile devices and tablets to watch NBA League Pass or an NBA YouTube channel to come to that conclusion.
The evidence is in your face and undeniable. But today's results should be confined to 2015-16 alone and not some historical debate about Jordan or predictable slights about the process that only serve to discredit Curry similar to those comparing his Warriors to the '96 Bulls.
Different eras. Different rules. Two completely different topics. Two completely different players.
The only reason this vote was a no-contest is that Curry was so dominant, he made it so.