We need to talk about the new NBA Individual Award trophies, and the decision to omit Kareem Abdul Jabbar from being included amongst the honors.
If you haven’t seen it yet, the NBA decided to re-name its awards to honor the contributions of past greats. Most championship trophies have names, for example the Larry O’Brien trophy that goes to the NBA’s champion. But honoring former NBA greats on the individual awards is new.
Let’s go through them-
The league’s Most Valuable Player will now be awarded with The Michael Jordan Trophy. You’d have to be insane to think there was an honor that could be given out that didn’t deserve to have Michael Jordan’s name on it, but Kareem won this award six times. More than any other player in NBA history. And even if you say to yourself, but surely “Michael Jordan deserved the MVP award more than the five times he won it,” don’t forget that in 1973 Kareem Abdul Jabbar averaged 30 points and 16 rebounds per game, and finished second to Dave Cowens, who averaged 20 and 16. MJ ain’t the only one with a legitimate complaint here.
The NBA is introducing a new award at the end of the 2022-23 season, the Kia NBA Clutch Player of the Year. This trophy is named after Jerry West. Love Jerry, but he’s already the logo, and do I have to remind you that at 1-8, Jerry West has the worst NBA Finals record of all time. His nickname might have been “Mr. Clutch” back in the 1970’s, but if Jerry West existed with this record in today’s hot take economy, you’d go to sports entertainment jail for calling him the most clutch player of all time. Kareem not only has six NBA championships, he owns the longest win streak in college basketball history, and was on the other end of snapping the longest win streak in NBA history by dominating Wilt Chamberlain and the Lakers. If anyone is clutch, Kareem is clutch.
And speaking of Wilt Chamberlain, the Rookie of the Year trophy has been named in honor of Wilt. I’ll admit that the man had the craziest debut in NBA history, coming out of the gate with almost 40 points a game. But if we’re keeping it a buck, Wilt wasn’t technically a rookie when he was a rookie. Through no fault of his own, Wilt was forced to wait to enter the draft after leaving Kansas, and spent time with the Globetrotters. Kareem, who went by Lew Alcindor when he came out of UCLA, turned down the Globetrotters money, and also won rookie of the year, improving the Bucks record by 29 games and setting a record for 20 point playoff games by a rookie that stood until 2018.
The Most Improved Player award is being named after George Mikan, whose scoring average dropped every year from 1950-1956, and who never won MVP again after his first season with the Minneapolis Lakers. I mean, what are we even doing here.
Until LeBron breaks Kareem’s all time scoring record, we’re talking about the all-time leader in scoring, wins, MVP’s and all-star selections, and is tied for most all-NBA selections. And while I get naming the NBA Defensive Player of the Year trophy after Hakeem Olajuwon, guess who “The Dream” had to pass in order to be the NBA’s all-time blocks leader? That’s right, Kareem. I don’t care what the NBA has to do to make this right- whether it’s a citizenship award, or an award that goes to the total points per game leader, Kareem Abdul Jabbar deserves something. Especially if we’re inventing new awards to hand out to Jerry West because he hit four buzzer beaters in a 14-year career. You know who more than doubled that amount? Michael Jordan. We should be naming the clutch award after him, and the MVP trophy after the guy who won the award more times than anyone.
Let that sink in.