The Former NBA MVP’s That Won’t Make The Cut This Season

Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are the forgotten contestants in this year’s NBA MVP popularity contest.

Despite the fact that the same teams have been meeting in the Finals over the past four years, the NBA switches MVP’s like iPhone chargers. Over the last half decade, voters seem to be against selecting repeat winners.  

It wasn’t always like that. Lebron repeated twice. Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson won back-to-back MVP’s going back to the ’89 and ’90 seasons.

Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook and James Harden have all won the prestigious award since Lebron won his last of four MVP’s in 2013. Curry’s the only repeat-winner during that time.

Last season, James Harden was the flavor of the year.  This year, it’s “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and the return of  King  James and Curry to the MVP mix. If Toronto keeps winning, Kawhi Leonard will also figure more prominently. 

Which excludes three former winners who are having MVP-caliber seasons but getting very few mentions this season. All three guys used to play on the same OKC Thunder squad. 

 

Russell Westbrook

The man who has made triple-doubles as common as the alley-oop is just two years removed from an MVP campaign that had people calling him the game’s best player.  Michael Jordan  even compared Westbrook to himself.

Not much has changed with Russ’ game. On Saturday night, Westbrook passed Kobe Bryant for 30th on the all-time assists list. He’s averaging a triple-double for the third straight season ( 21.1 ppg, 10.5 boars, 10 assists) and he’s even taking his fewest shots per game since 2015-16, KD’s last year with the squad.

 

Westbrook’s possibly a better player now than when he won the MVP two seasons ago. He’s learned how to play with other stars, has a great relationship with Paul George and the Thunder are 18-10, good for third place in the tough Western Conference.

Russ is definitely MVP worthy.

 

James Harden

Kyrie Irving created a stir back in June when he tabbed James Harden as the “people’s MVP” and LeBron James as the “NBA’s MVP.”

Irving admitted that LBJ has the more well-rounded stat line, but when it comes to getting buckets in a multiplicity of ways, Harden has an alligator-skin attache case with an artillery of go-to moves.

The Beard is having another great statistical season. But after pushing Golden State to seven games in last year’s Western Conference finals, Houston is currently sitting in 11th-place. That has everything to do with why Harden is being overlooked in the MVP conversation.

Harden leads the NBA in scoring at 30.9 points per game and he’s been putting up some huge numbers, trying to keep Houston above water so that they can go on a second half tear. 

 

In fact, Harden is on pace to become the first player to average at least 30 points and eight assists in back-to-back seasons since Michael Jordan in 1987-88 and 1988-89.

If Houston can rebound, Harden can definitely get back into the race. 

 

Kevin Durant

KD’s had his moments this season and his social media comments and increasingly vocal demeanor have kept him in the headlines, along with his explosive offensive game. But overall, the four-time scoring champ has taken a back seat to Steph Curry this season. Despite Curry missing a large stretch of games, he’s still being mentioned as the team’s MVP.

 

Durant did some heavy lifting during Curry’s absence, dropping a season-high 51 points in a tough loss to Toronto. However, without the heart and soul and two-time MVP Curry, the Warriors just weren’t the same dominant force. The squad’s winning percentage is significantly higher with Steph — second in the NBA in scoring at 29.3 ppg — on the court. 

No matter how many championship MVP’s Durant wins, he will always be the A-Rod to Steph’s Derek Jeter in the eyes of Golden State fans. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.