This year’s NBA MVP race is one of the tightest we’ve seen in recent memory. In Philadelphia you have Joel “The Process” Embiid regularly babying any and every player in the paint. Out west in Denver, Nikola Jokic is putting together the most efficient season we’ve ever seen with his two main co-stars sidelined with injury. Finally, in Milwaukee we have Giannis Antetokounmpo vying for a spot on the Mount Rushmore of GOAT’s as he dominates the league night in and night out. All three players are well deserving of the MVP award, but only one will end up with hardware. This year’s race is reminiscent of the 1989-1990 MVP race, one of the tightest in NBA history. Here’s the top three MVP candidates for the 1990 race and how the voting played out.
What Is The Closest MVP Race In NBA History?
3.) Michael Jordan
33.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.8 steals - 565 total MVP points
You know that an MVP race was stacked if the widely-recognized greatest player of all-time finished third. At this point in Jordan’s career he had one MVP to his name but was largely becoming known for being a career loser. The Bull’s couldn’t get out of the eastern conference, and that was a major stain on Jordan’s legacy. The Bulls finished 55-27, the second best record in the east. Jordan put up video-game-like numbers with 33.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 2.8 steals per game. Just looking at the numbers Jordan should’ve won this year’s MVP but the bulls not finishing with a better record put a huge stain on Jordan’s resume this year. Jordan would finish with 21 first place votes and 564 total points in the MVP race.
2.) Charles Barkley
25.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists - 614 total MVP points
The runner up in the 1990 MVP race was the Round Mound of Rebound, Charles Barkley. Barkley had entered the NBA as an overweight, undersized forward but had proven to be an elite big-man. At age 26 he was able to average 25 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, shooting 60% from the field, all while propelling the 76er’s to the third best record in the east. Despite losing hall-of-fame guard Mo Cheeks, Barkley helped add six wins to Philly’s record and put them squarely into contention for a championship. The most odd part about this year's voting was that Barkley actually received the most first place votes. He had 38 first place votes compared to Magic Johnson’s 27. Barkley only finished with 614 total points, which left him 22 points shy of the MVP award.
1.) Magic Johnson
22.3 points, 11.5 assists, 6.6 rebounds - 636 total MVP points
The inevitable winner of the 1990 MVP race would go to the leader of the showtime Lakers, Magic Johnson. Even though Magic only received 27 first place votes, his 636 point total put him over the edge to ultimately claim the award. Johnson would put up averages of 22.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 11.5 assists per game, but it was the Lakers win total that helped propel Magic to the award. The Lakers finished the season 63-19, a league best record. This was Magic's second MVP in back-to-back years and his third in the previous four years.
As this year’s MVP race comes to a close I think it’s important to remember that all three of the finalists are deserving of the award. There is going to be someone snubbed of an MVP award this season and there is really nothing that can be done about it. The talent in the NBA is rapidly growing, and to have the most coveted award be this tight of a race is truly a beautiful thing for this league. I can’t wait to see who takes home the hardware at the end of this season.
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