Why Shaquillle 0’Neal Never Won More Than 1 MVP

Why Shaquillle 0’Neal Never Won More Than 1 MVP

Shaq is one of the greatest players in NBA history. He is also one of the most sensitive and revisionist players in NBA history.

From tweaking the context of his beef with Kobe to his gripes about only winning one MVP award, Shaq has taken his platform on NBA on TNT to completely reimagine reality and make it out to seem like he should have won several more MVPs than he did – especially in 2005 and 2006.

Below, I’ve taken the time to parse through the data and discuss, in detail, why Shaq only won one MVP award.

I hope this reaches TNT.

1992-1993 – Rookie Year

Shaq’s MVP Voting: 7th
Winner: Charles Barkley

Shaq was a rookie, and the Magic fielded a .500 record. Charles Barkley, Jordan, and Hakeem were the main MVP contenders, with Barkley winning the award.

1993-1994: The Year of The Dream

MVP Voting: 4th (at age 21!)
Winner: Hakeem Olajuwon

Shaq put up monstrous stats (29/13) in his sophomore season while playing 81 games; the Magic finish with 50 wins. However, his performance is no match for Hakeem Olajuwon, who puts up a career year while leading the Rockets to the second-best record in the league. Scottie Pippen, who finishes third in MVP voting, leads the Bulls to 55 wins without Michael Jordan.

1994-1995: So Close Yet So Far

MVP Voting: 2nd (at age 22!)
Winner: David Robinson

Shaq has another stat-stuffing year, and probably one of his greatest seasons ever, averaging 29/11 (while playing 79 games) and leading the Magic to 57 wins. Unfortunately, he loses the MVP voting handily to David Robinson, who puts up 28/11 with three bpg while leading the Spurs to the best record in the league. Hakeem, who finished 5th in MVP voting, avenges both Robinson and Shaq in the playoffs by defeating both HOF centers on his way to his second ring and second FMVP award.

1995-1996: Injuries and the Return of The GOAT

MVP Voting: 9th
Winner: Michael Jordan (72-10 Bulls)

Shaq only plays 54 games and has no chance of winning the MVP. Penny Hardaway finishes third in MVP voting because the Magic still finished with 60 wins. David Robinson finishes second. The Year unequivocally belongs to Michael Jordan, who comes back from retirement to put up 30/7/4 while leading the Bulls to a record 72 wins.

1996-1997: LA and More Injuries

MVP Voting: 9th
Winner: Karl Malone (controversial pick considering the Bulls won 69 games, and Jordan was still the best player in the league)

With ginormous expectations on his shoulders after his move to LA, Shaq is, once again, injured most of the season and plays only 51 games, wiping out his MVP chances.

[Fun fact: this was the year when an 18-year-old Kobe shot three airballs against the Jazz, thus beginning the Legend of The Black Mamba]

1997-1998: More Missed Games

MVP Voting: 4th
Winner: Michael Jordan (at age 34)

Shaq once again misses 20+ games, though the Lakers win 60+ games and field 4 All-Stars (Eddie Jones, Van Exel, Kobe, and Shaq). Karl Malone and Payton put up strong seasons (80+ games), but lose out to a 34-year-old Michael Jordan, who puts up 29/6/4 for an old creaky Bulls team that missed Scottie Pippen for half the season.

1998-1999: Lockout Shortened Season

MVP Voting: 6th
Winner: Karl Malone (at age 35)

In a shortened season with only 50 games played (not to mention half of the players showing up woefully out of shape), Shaq puts up a strong 26/11 but gains much less recognition than guys like Malone, Alonzo Mourning, Duncan, Iverson, etc. Malone leads the Jazz to the best record in the league (tied with the Spurs), and Zo leads the Heat to the best record in the East. The Lakers finish 4th in the West in a woefully underachieving year.

1999-2000: MVP Year

MVP Voting: 1st (finally!)
Winner: The Big Aristotle

Spurred on by the Zen motivations of Phil Jackson and supported by the rapid development of Kobe, a committed Shaq reaches max potential and wins the MVP award almost unanimously (some moron votes for Allen Iverson and ruins it). During the season, Shaq plays 40 minutes a game (pause and ponder that for a second), and averages 30/14 while leading the Lakers to 67 wins.

2000-2001: The Iverson Narrative

MVP Voting: 3rd
Winner: Allen Iverson
The Lakers stumble a little bit during the regular season, finishing with a 56-26 record mostly salvaged by their play in the second half of the season. Unfortunately for Shaq, the Lakers’ slow start + media squabbles with Kobe meant that the lead MVP narrative that Year was the redemption story of Allen Iverson. A prime Iverson balls out and leads the Sixers to an improbable 1st seed while winning the same amount of games as the Lakers do. Duncan, who finishes second in MVP voting, leads the Spurs to the best record in the West. Shaq made a decent case for MVP this year, but with Kobe averaging 29/6/5 during the regular season (sidekick, anyone?) + the slow start, it just wasn’t his Year.

2001-2002: Some More Missed Games

MVP Voting: 3rd
Winner: Tim Duncan
Shaq puts up 27/11 but only plays 67 games, which, in the MVP context, is typically not enough. The Lakers finish with the third seed in the West, and Tim Duncan is deemed the MVP because he plays all 82 games and puts up monster stats. This Year was a very close MVP race between Jason Kidd (who turned around the Nets dismal fortunes) and Duncan, with Duncan slightly edging him out.

2002-2003: Healing on Company Time

MVP Voting: 5th (behind Kobe)
Winner: Tim Duncan
Shaq plays 67 games and “heals on company time” to start the season, but averages a strong 28/11 to finish. He has no shot at winning MVP because Kobe plays all 82 games and averages a paltry 30/7/6 (sidekick!), while Duncan leads the Spurs to the best record in the league.

2003-2004: The Original Super Team

MVP Voting: 6th
Winner: Kevin Garnett
Shaq is noticeably larger by this point and, once again, plays 67 games. With Karl Malone and Gary Payton on the team chasing rings, and a pissed off Kobe Bryant shooting like there is no tomorrow (I mean this literally, the sexual assault case was hanging over his head this entire season), the Lakers finish second in the West, but Shaq’s numbers dip to 22/12.

Kevin Garnett was far and away from the best player in the league this season, and it shows in the near-unanimous MVP voting he receives.

2004-2005: The Most Controversial Year

MVP Voting: 2nd (extremely close)
Winner: That Canuck Steve Nash
In his patented “I should have won MVP” Year, a rejuvenated Shaq plays 73 games, puts up 23/10, and leads the Miami Heat to 59 wins with a sophomore Dwyane Wade. This was also around the time when the whole sports world hated Kobe (for, and I quote, “pushing Shaq and Phil Jackson out of town”), so Shaq had a lot of well-wishers who wanted to see him stick it to Kobe and win the award.

Easy pick for MVP, right?

Except….Wade (the “sidekick” on this team) puts up an equally as valuable 24/5/7 while playing a couple of more games than Shaq does. The only reason Wade is viewed as a “sidekick” at this time, despite putting equally impressive numbers, is because he’s a second-year player and hasn’t really come into the collective consciousness of NBA fans yet (he’d do that in the 2006 Finals), so his narrative doesn’t gain any MVP consideration.

On top of D-Wade’s ascension, Shaq’s MVP campaign is dealing with the revolutionary season of the Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns. This crazy team led by a floppy-haired Canadian not only wins 33 more games than the Year before and finishes with the best record in the league (62 wins) but excites fans and media members everywhere at a time when other top teams (Spurs/Pistons) played suffocating defense and held opponents to 80-90 points every game.

This context is important because, in a world of boring and methodical offenses, Nash and the Suns put up a whopping 110 ppg as a team and were a breath of fresh air to the league.

At the heart of all this revolution was Steve Nash, who drove the Sun’s engine like Steph drove the Warriors in 2016. Everything started and ended with Nashty Nash, and the unlikely MVP put up 16 points and 12 assists per game with 50/43/89 shooting splits. Some will argue that Amare’s 26/9 were more valuable, but without Nash, that entire offense (including Amare) sputtered and didn’t run on full throttle. I implore you to watch some classic SSOL games to see how Nash dictated the offense and changed the flow of the game.

While I agree that Shaq had a great shot at winning MVP (despite Wade’s emergence), I don’t think he was “robbed” in any sense. He finished a close second even though Dirk put up equally impressive stats and wins. However, Nash’s influence on the Suns, the beginning of the revolutionary Seven Seconds or Less Offense, and the Suns 62 wins made him the best MVP candidate.

Sorry, Shaq.

2005-2006: The Phantom “I Should Have Been MVP” Season

MVP Voting: N/A (did not qualify)
Winner: Nelly Furtado
I looooove talking about this season because it makes you realize how much revisionist history Shaq spews on TV. He has claimed, multiple times on TNT and otherwise, that Nash should not have won MVP over him “twice”.

The second instance he is talking about is the 2006 season where the following things happened:

Shaq played a whopping 59 games.

Shaq was not even top 10 in MVP voting, with guys like Elton Brand, Shawn Marion, and Tony Parker getting votes over him.

D-Wade averaged 27/6/7 and played 75 games compared to Shaq’s 20/9 over 59 games.

Shaq was not even CLOSE to being an MVP contender this Year. It was a race between Nash, Lebron (who finished a distant second), Dirk, and Kobe. The People’s Champ was Kobe since he had one of the most memorable seasons of all time. The problem with Bean was that the Lakers finished 7th, and there was still a lot of media backlash towards him from those above “pushing Shaq out of town” narrative.

So why did Nash win MVP, you ask? Well, for one, the Suns lost Amare to injury for most of that season. You know, the Amare who put up 26/9 the Year before. Oh, and the Suns lost Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson, two huge pieces of the SSOL offensive puzzle. Somehow, Nash still managed to keep the ship afloat, and Phoenix won 54 games while Nash upped his averages to 19 ppg and 11 APG.

In my humble opinion, Dirk had an MVP worthy season, as did Kobe and Lebron. In reality, those guys have more of a gripe about this season than anyone else, yet you don’t hear them say a word about it. It’s comical to me that Shaq thinks he should have won MVP in a year when he wasn’t even top 10 in voting.

2006-2007 – Retirement: The Irrelevant Years

After the 2006 championship, Shaq’s productivity and general impact on the game began to decline. He isn’t top 5 in MVP voting at any other point in his career and somehow transforms into The Big Journeyman towards the end, promising championships in Phoenix, Cleveland, and Boston (none of those teams won rings).

Conclusion

Shaq finished top 3 in MVP voting four times, winning once. Outside of those years, he was either injured most of the season, a rookie, not good enough compared to other candidates, or past his prime. In the years that he did finish the top 3, he made very strong cases, but in each instance, it was not the clear-cut favorite to win.

The Year that he was the clear-cut favorite (1999-2000), he won pretty much unanimously.

Full credit for this blog post goes to u/7AMinToronto