Face it Chicago fans, Derrick Rose shouldn’t have won that 2010-2011 MVP. No, it has nothing to do with his post-MVP career.
After the 2009-2010 NBA season, LeBron James already had two consecutive MVP trophies and still wasn’t the LeBron we see now – a basketball machine sent from the future to infuriate people across the nation while simultaneously building a case to be considered one of the five greatest players ever.
With no worthy opponents in sight, it seemed like LeBron’s MVP reign might go unchallenged for the next five years. Even as a player with room for improvement, he was putting up numbers and consistently carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers into the playoffs, taking them to the Finals at one point. Only after he left did we fully realize how much weight he had to carry on his shoulders while an incompetent coach and an incompetent supporting cast held onto his back for the ride.
How much did LeBron carry the Cavaliers? Look at what they’ve been since he left:
- 2010-2011: Cleveland lost 26 straight games, tying the record in all of professional sports for the longest losing streak in history.
- Cleveland plays in the crummy Eastern Conference, yet has been over .500 for five days in three seasons under the leadership of their current All-Star, Kyrie Irving, who was the #1 pick in the 2011 draft.
- Cleveland has had the #1 pick three out of the last four drafts (including the upcoming 2014 draft). That’s ridiculous.
In any case, LeBron had pledged to win a title for Cleveland. It was noble and made sense since Ohio was his home. Unfortunately, as time passed, he realized he needed significant help to be a champion. There’s nothing wrong with that type of epiphany and he’d definitely earned the right to find a worthy sidekick or two.
The only problem was “The Decision.”
I won’t go into the exact details of LeBron’s national TV announcement since you probably remember/know most of them. Just remember that the ESPN special raised money for charity, so it wasn’t a complete disaster. The point here is that LeBron James suddenly became the most hated athlete in America without breaking a single law. I mean, people hated Michael Vick when his dogfighting crimes were revealed to the public, but even he had his supporters (many people still hate Vick, but that’s a discussion for another time).
LeBron had no supporters for at least a solid year until the Heat lost to the Mavericks in the Finals. Everybody from casual fans to professional talking heads like Bill Simmons completely destroyed LeBron. People questioned his maturity, as well as the company around him. People also pondered about the validity of some unseemly rumors revolving around Cavaliers player Delonte West and LeBron’s mom.
And that brings us to Derrick Rose.
After free agency ended and the 2010-2011 season’s first game approached, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose asked why he couldn’t be MVP.
It was a silly question. While Rose was a rising star, he wasn’t considered “there” yet. It was also silly because LeBron was still playing in the league. Once the season started, of course, Rose admittedly took his play to the next level. That, I can concede (not too difficult since I am a Bulls fan).
Unfortunately, as Rose’s MVP case continued to build, LeBron’s MVP case was scoffed at as people utilized personal reasons to justify LeBron’s dethroning as reigning MVP. That is impossible to defend, especially in retrospect (also easy to concede for me because I’m an NBA fan first, Bulls fan second).
Was I happy when Derrick Rose won the MVP? Hell yes I was! At the time, even I didn’t like LeBron. I thought he was selfish and I thought he was being unfair to his home team. It would be like me becoming President of the United States and withdrawing all US troops from South Korea. Inexplicable.
But look, as the years have passed, the decision to let personal vendettas cloud voters’ judgements is becoming more and more embarrassing. Many of my Chicago friends don’t want to admit this, which is why I’m here to prove why LeBron should have five MVP trophies right now and not four. And by the way, this is something that is true even if Rose averaged 25 points and 8 assists per year after his trophy win.
While Rose’s current injury issues and struggles are sad, they are actually irrelevant to the discussion at hand because those are current. They had no factor in his win at the time, although I’m sure people incorrectly use his post-MVP numbers to argue why Rose was never meant to be MVP.
While those numbers may support my case, albeit erroneously, the real deal is in the numbers from the season itself.
This is a simple examination of LeBron and Rose that season, in terms of simple and advanced stats (courtesy of ESPN).
You’re not going to believe this, but this is a pretty easy argument in favor of LeBron. Almost every relevant statistical category puts LeBron over Rose. While it’s true Rose had a season of great growth, it still wasn’t better than a slightly subpar LeBron year. I feel like that’s a big deal.
The players around Rose and LeBron, respectively, are also worth discussing. After all, basketball is a team game.
When Rose tore his ACL in the 2011-2012 playoffs, the Bulls looked doomed. Then they kept playing at a fairly high level, although they obviously did miss Rose.
It seems to me that Rose’s coach, teammates, and their passion and intensity were underrated. Look at the Bulls without Rose and the Cavaliers without LeBron. The Bulls are still making the playoffs, although at a lower seed. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers should probably leave the league.
Is it really a coincidence that LeBron’s EWA was higher, even in his debut season on the Heat?
Amusing sidenote: Cleveland LeBron would have sodomized a nun for a team like the 2010-2011 Bulls (aside from the fact that he didn’t join the Bulls in free agency). And then another nun for a coach like Thibs.
I’m willing to bet if LeBron was on the 2010-2011 Bulls, and Rose was on the Heat, the Bulls would have advanced to the NBA Finals.
Let’s talk about defense. Rose was considered to be an average defender. He simply had the fortune of playing in a rigorous defensive system that allowed defensive anchors like Joakim Noah to prowl the paint and cover for Rose’s mistakes. LeBron also played in a smart defensive system, but unlike Rose, he was visibly the best defender on the court for many games.
Basketball is played on both ends of the court.
So LeBron had better numbers, was better on offense and defense, and the Heat beat the Bulls in the playoffs to top it all off.
Yeah, LeBron should have won. But get this: he finished third in MVP voting that season. Dwight Howard, of all people, finished second. That above all else shows voters were sticking it to LeBron that year.
Once people got off their high horses and realized even superstar athletes make mistakes, LeBron promptly won two more MVP trophies in a row. The only reason why he didn’t win this 2013-2014 season is because Kevin Durant played out of his mind – and had the numbers to boot.
2010-2011 Derrick Rose also played out of his mind. His numbers were at an All-Star level. I don’t think they were necessarily at an MVP level. I think LeBron would have won that trophy if “The Decision” didn’t taint everybody’s mind.
The people responsible for this mistake have started to realize the last couple of years that they stopped one of the five greatest players ever from winning five MVP trophies in a row.
Finally, look at the following “hypothetical” conversation:
PERSON A: Boy that Tony Parker is having some type of season!
PERSON B: What are you talking about? His numbers aren’t even that great.
PERSON A: Uh actually he’s having a season comparable to Derrick Rose’s MVP campaign.
PERSON B: Dang!
Surprise, that’s a real conversation every post-2011 season for players ranging from the aforementioned Tony Parker to Stephen Curry. Basically, Derrick Rose’s MVP year is considered the minimum level of comparison for a good season and it is often used to try and justify an underdog (unqualified) MVP candidate.
You’re telling me that’s a good thing?