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Da Real MVP – Part 1: Voting

NBA MVP Voting

In these three posts series, I’ll try to present data regarding the NBA MVP winners. Award goes back to 1956, and we are going to analyze it from then to the present day.

Please note the following:

  • Data used in this post is accurate through the end of the 2019-20 NBA Season.
  • In order to view the graphs and charts clearly, please use a bigger screen. If you are on a mobile device, use the landscape orientation for a better view.

This post will be focused on MVP Voting, while two other posts will cover the following:

Unanimous MVP(s), most convincing wins, closest MVP races

Let’s start with elementary stuff and check on the players with the most awards won so far. Simple chart presenting all players that have won the award more than two times in their career.

Only LeBron James is still active among these players.

The next thing we look at is the most convincing wins, where players won the largest share of votes. The following chart presents all players that have won more than .990 of the possible votes.

Golden State Warriors ended the 2015-16 regular season with record 73 wins, and as a result, Steph Curry became the first unanimous MVP. Shaq & LeBron missed this feat by only one 1st place vote.

Before we move to the next question, and that is what are the closest MVP races, I would like to explain a bit the process behind the numbers. NBA voting has changed multiple times throughout the years; until 1980 players were voting, then it was handed out to media members. Additionally, there were more changes as the local broadcasters were removed, and the maximum votes point varied greatly through the years. Since 2014 NBA decided to open voting results and media ballots, making results accessible for everyone. Some would argue that this resulted in the first unanimous MVP winner (Curry, 2016). We can only presume that media members don’t want to be scrutinized by NBA Twitter and r/NBA fans for giving the vote to player X when player Y was obviously better.
Therefore, taking into account the above mentioned, to calculate the closest race we will be looking to the most relative difference in votes (percentage-wise) as opposed to the absolute vote numbers.
The following table is showing the 10 closest race in history, by looking at the difference in percentage between 1st placed and 2nd placed.


On several occasions, we had 3 horse races, which is a bit of a rarity. Let’s have a look at the races where the difference between 1st placed and 3rd placed was less than 15%, as presented below.

How often all-time greats find themselves on MVP voting ballots

Besides winning the award, being in the consideration for MVP, means a great deal. It shows that the player is truly performing on (or close to) an MVP level. Next thing we are looking at the players who finished in the top 3 voting more than 6 times.

LeBron is not only leading this race but he’s also only one among active players on this list with a chance to go even further. Never say never, but this really seems like one of those records that will stand forever.  Among the rest of the active players, Harden leads the way finishing five times in a top 3, Durant follows with four.

Although this post is dedicated to the MVP winners, I was curious to see which player finished often in positions 2 or 3, but never won the award. Shoutout to Mr. West!

Finally, to conclude this post, I would like to present to you an additional chart, where we are looking into multiple data metrics for all players that have received votes during 12 seasons or more.

John Stockton sticks out, as the only player who received votes 12 or more times, and never ended in the top 3, let alone won the thing. His best result was 7th place in 1989. On the other hand, Kareem dominating the chart as a player with most wins (6), tied with LeBron for most seasons to receive at least one vote (17), and tied in 3rd place with Bill Russell (both have finished in the top 3 on 9 occasions). Don’t let the Magic fool you, hiding behind Rusell.

With this, we are wrapping-up part about voting, and moving to the next post where we are going to look into stats, team performances, playoff achievements, and other awards. Keep reading here.

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Sources: , Wikipedia,

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