Who’s got a quarter?
There have been tough votes before when determining the league MVP. Tim Duncan and Jason Kidd in 2001-02. Michael Jordan and Karl Malone in 1996-97. There are often future Hall of Famers having great seasons at the same time, and you have to pick.
This year, though, is different.
What Russell Westbrook and James Harden are doing defies all previous narratives.
Harden’s production, as a passer and scorer, hasn’t been done in more than 40 years.
Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, something that hasn’t been done in more than 50.
Harden has been an incredible scorer while also being amazingly efficient.
Westbrook is leading the league in scoring.
Harden’s team has won more games than Westbrook’s, and has overachieved at a higher level than anyone thought possible while rewriting the record books for 3-point attempts.
Do you remember what happened on the Fourth of July last year?
This can go on and on. My VORPs and WARPs against your EWA and Win Shares, at 20 paces. The point is that any of us can make a statistical-based argument for the person we back for the award, and we wouldn’t be wrong.
But you have to pick someone, and exhale, and wait for the inevitable blowback. It’s the job. You can’t wuss out and split the vote two ways. Pick someone and live with your choice.
Okay. I pick Westbrook.
At the end of the day, and at the end of this season, history compels me to recognize an achievement that none of the game’s greatest players — not Jordan, not Magic Johnson, not Larry Bird or Isiah Thomas, not John Stockton or Karl Malone, not Charles Barkley or Patrick Ewing or Dominique Wilkins or Kidd or Steve Nash or Kobe or LeBron James or Dirk Nowitzki or Shaquille O’Neal or anyone has been able to do since Oscar Robertson did it. Russell Westbrook is doing something that hasn’t been done in 55 seasons. It isn’t a party trick or a novelty act; it’s a definable, quantifiable, noteworthy and historic thing.