Why separate awards for each conference are a must for the NBA
Last season, the NBA celebrated its 75th season and, with it, its 75 greatest players. It was also a showcase of today’s stars, many of whom could see their names on the next anniversary team. In fact, the NBA arguably has more stars now than they’ve had in decades, and recognition for those players is harder and harder to come by.
For instance, despite the NBA having had 15-man rosters for nearly 20 years, the All-Star game rosters inexplicably still sit at 12 players per team. The decision not to update the roster limits to reflect the rule change has cost plenty of players all-star appearances, which in turn can cost players money and affect legacies. The same can be said for league awards.
For decades, Major League Baseball has handed out a separate set of awards for the National and American Leagues, and the NBA should follow suit. After all, the NBA has 15 teams and at least 225 players per conference. Being voted the best out of 200-plus players would still be a huge honor.
This is despite the predictable claims that this would be akin to participation trophies. Would handing out two Defensive Player of the Year awards really cheapen it? No, of course not. Moreover, the disbursal of talent means that it won’t be any easier to win one of the individual awards in one conference versus the other.
NBA Finals MVP trophy (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Handing out two trophies for each award could drive interest in the NBA.
The NBA is a league of stars, and they’ve done a great job of marketing their best players, but they can’t beat the coverage of handing out two awards. After all, just look at all the attention award races already receive, with both the media and fans arguing over which player has the best case.
Doubling the candidate pool would only increase the attention paid to the NBA, especially after the All-Star break, when things really get going. Consider the MVP award race, which naturally attracts the most attention because it is only given to the absolute best of the best.
Then again, it often goes to the same players. LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Jordan all won the award three times or more. Additionally, those eight players have taken home 33 of the 55 trophies awarded, or 60% of the total.
Under this proposal, Joel Embiid would’ve won the Eastern Conference MVP last season while Nikola Jokic would’ve won the Western Conference counterpart. Now imagine if two candidates for one award faced off against each other.
Better yet, what if the two MVP winners faced each other in the NBA Finals? Aside from the obvious storylines and the championship being on the line, the NBA Finals MVP would serve as the unofficial final word on who’s most valuable and add another layer of intrigue.
It’s an interesting concept, for sure, and something the league should consider, given its success in MLB, the increase in stars in both conferences, and the marketing potential.
Although it’s unlikely, the NBA has proven that it’s willing to shake things up with recent changes to the NBA Draft Lottery, the All-Star game format, and the introduction of the play-in tournament. Based on that, having two winners for each individual award might just happen.