The blog post about comparing the NBA and the Oscars
You may have heard there’s an award show tonight. The Oscars are always a fun glance into the politics and business of the film industry. And they’re also a fascinating parallel to the MVP race in the NBA.
Much like the golden statues, there are no guidelines drawn for the MVP voters. There’s no set definition for what determines the winner, and as a result, there are always questions as to what in God’s name the voters are thinking. They suffer from the same pitfalls, most notably, hype over performance, subject over context, and of course, the body of work argument.
Often times, most notably in the Best Actor/Best Actress categories, the award will be granted based on the fact that someone has been an influential performer for years, yet never rewarded with the perfect combination of subject matter and performance. The result is a reward for a career’s worth of work, instead of the individual performance granted, or film produced. Take your pick of which MVP you disagree with in regards to this. Kobe in 2008, LeBron in 20o9, Karl Malone, etc.
Steve Nash is the most vigorously debated MVP of the modern era. Nash was so overrated that the reaction of calling him such made him underrated. Okay, not really, because that sentence is stupid. But Nash wasn’t granted a lifetime achievement award. Instead, he’s more the recipient of the product of hype. Essentially, Nash was “Forrest Gump” to Kobe Bryant’s “Pulp Fiction.” “Forrest Gump” is a brilliant film, well-executed, with masterful performances and direction. But “Pulp Fiction” is an influential film which lasted longer, had a greater cultural impact and was, well, cooler. I think if you consider the elements in play, that it’s hard to argue it was a better film than “Forrest Gump” though. And I say that as someone who owns the complete Tarantino collection.
At least the Oscars provide multiple opportunities to reward a film or performance. You don’t look at Defensive Player of the Year in the same frame as MVP, and there is no offensive player of the year. Why, we’re not sure. Offense is just as important as defense, in that at least you can hold your opponent to 20 points and still lose if you score 19. Wouldn’t creating such a trifecta of awards lessen the vitriol spit towards good players? Furthermore, for the Oscars, it means something just to be nominated. Even with the Best Picture nominees expanded to ten, the films on this year’s list gain a different level of success by having been nominated. “Winter’s Bone” for example, has no shot, but it gets the film in front of more people to appreciate its work.
Instead, with the MVP award, we find ourselves tearing down candidates based on our preferences. If “The Social Network’ falls to “The King’s Speech” tonight, it won’t diminish its cultural impact or the stature of its accomplishment. Conversely, Dwight Howard will be considered a lesser player than Derrick Rose should Rose win the MVP. And in the meantime, we come up with reasons it shouldn’t win. The criticisms of “The Social Network” are either one of personal preference or independent of the film’s consideration for Best Picture. Instead, Dwight Howard is somehow a “lesser player” because he’s not the MVP in the mind of critics. In reality? Rose, Howard, James, along with the other candidates are all incredible players. It should be a huge honor and something to appreciate when a player becomes worthy of MVP-consideration, not an opportunity to dissect their game and blow gigantic nitpicks out of proportion.
But therein lies the huge difference between the two awards.
The Oscars are an opportunity to celebrate what has been great in film during the season. The MVP is an opportunity to accentuate the differences in our personal feelings about players. Film is art, while basketball is sport, yet the sporting award is more based on feeling than the artistic award.
With that, here are some parallels from tonight’s Best Picture nominees to this season in the NBA:
“The King’s Speech": Is there a more fitting parallel to the Duke of York engaging with a speech therapist than Dwight Howard working with Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing on developing a jump shot? It represents the expansion of his game and overcoming something he’s particularly sensitive about. Nevermind that Helena Bonham Carter is Stan Van Gundy in this scenario.
“The Social Network": Egomaniac driven by a complicated relationship with friends, stabbing the people who got him to where he is in the back in pursuit of global dominance while befriending a slick set of friends in a nicer locale, threaded by a sad and desperate need to be close to people to avoid being lonely? I mean, I don’t have to spell this out, right?
“The Black Swan": A psychosexual thriller. Tread carefully. Let’s go with Carmelo Anthony, struggling to achieve what he believes he’s destined for and the immense pressure that surrounds it. The personal circumstances surrounding this season are his own skin removal.
“The Fighter': The tale of dealing with a brother’s downfall due to chemical addiction and the ever-popular theme of overcoming all odds is probably best fit for the Pacers. Tremendous initial success, followed by struggle including losing their coach, but now seemingly on track for the playoffs. This one could turn into a tragedy pretty quick, though.
“True Grit:" The Boston Celtics. We’re at the point now where it looks like the fugitive has escaped and all hope is lost. In this scenario, Danny Ainge is a drunken Rooster Cogburn.
“Toy Story 3": The Suns. Think about it.
“127 Hours": (chanting) Don’t make a Blazers joke. Don’t make a Blazers joke. Don’t make a Blazers joke. Don’t make a Blazers joke.
“Inception": Orlando’s season, because they’re constantly trying to figure out whether they’re dreaming or not.
“Winter’s Bone": The CBA negotiations. Because it’s hard to watch, in a place few people think about in public, and a struggle to figure out what the right thing is.