What is an NBA MVP? How is One Selected?

Published 04/17/2021, 10:39 PM EDT
Mar 13, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) talks with Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo (7) and guard PJ Dozier (35) in the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports


One of the most prestigious individual awards in any of the four major league sports, the MVP trophy is the king of recognitions. Most players dream of three things to sum up their career; a championship ring, an MVP declaration, and a Hall of Fame mention. So when it comes to the NBA league, what goes down into the announcement of an MVP?

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This year, the frontrunners for the award are Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, James Harden, and Luka Doncic, not necessarily in the same order. So how will the league select one and reject others in this cut-throat competition?

The selection of Kia NBA MVP award explained

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First things first, the NBA MVP award does not consider the playoff performance for evaluating the winner. So, a player who has been a boomer in the regular season and a bummer later in the postseason can also win it.

This was important to explain because last year, many were disappointed that Giannis Antetokounmpo won the recognition even as he failed in the playoffs.

Moving forward, until 2015-16, a designated panel of broadcasters and sports journalists from the USA and Canada used to vote for the nominees. However, to kill the chances of media faces holding biases because of their affiliation with NBA teams, the league tweaked this.

From 2016-17 and later, the NBA began recruiting 100 media members with no strings attached to any NBA teams to cast votes. Also, back in 2010, a 101st ballot was introduced to consider the NBA fan’s online votes and make the voting more 360 degrees. 

Read AlsoBlazers’ Damian Lillard Explains Why he Deserves MVP More Than Anyone Else in the Race

What goes into the final voting and how do voters analyze players?

Warriors’ Stephen Curry celebrates after winning the NBA All-Star 3-Point Contest at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The league then gives the selected voters the responsibility to rank the five MVP finalists in an order. So, their first choice becomes their most preferred MVP name, the second choice, the lesser preferred, and so on. 

The first position carries 10 points, followed by 7 points, 5 points, 3 points, and 1 point for the fifth. The player with the highest cumulative points takes home the coveted trophy. In 2016, Warriors’ Steph Curry surprised the league and set a record by bagging all the first-place votes. 

There are four most dominant factors that go into the selection of a player. One, the personal stats of a player and how he has done on both ends of the court.

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Two, his performance’s impact on the team’s overall success in the regular season.

Three, the athlete’s health and regularity in the season with playing the games. Lastly, the narrative (where media judgment comes in) about the name in the sports market.

Remember when Russell Westbrook won, and the narrative was that he averaged a triple-double even as Kevin Durant left OKC? Just an example of how narratives work in favor of players.

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This year, however, all the narratives seem to work in the direction of Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic. Do you think any player from either of the tiers can harm Joker’s contention? Help us know in the comments.

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Sourabh Singh

1449 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

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