James Harden just missed out on back-to-back MVP awards after finishing second to Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2018-2019 Most Valuable Player race.
This might have been one of the toughest, if not the toughest, losses yet in an MVP race for Harden, as he came off one of the greatest offensive seasons ever. Not only did Harden lead the league in scoring, but he was the only player in the league to average at least 30 points a game, had the highest PPG average since Michael Jordan in 1987, and is the first player to ever average 35 points and seven assists in a season.
I’ve written and broken down Harden’s MVP season plenty of times, so I’m not going to do that here, but here’s a recap if you want to know more. Also, here’s a great thread that the Houston Rockets Twitter account put together:
Congrats to the new MVP, but we respectfully disagree.— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) June 25, 2019
✔️ Finished Top 2 in MVP voting 4 out of the last 5 seasons
✔ 1st player in NBA history to avg at least 35.0ppg & 7.0apg in a single season
✔ Scored 40+ pts 28 times this season, 50+ 9 times & 60+ twice pic.twitter.com/UMmHARlNxg
As for this year’s totals, the race was much closer than people were letting on. Many thought Antetokounmpo would run away with the MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year award, but he unfortunately missed out on DPOY to Rudy Gobert, and Harden had a great push for most valuable.
In comparison, Curry won in 2015 by 262 points, Westbrook won in 2017 by 135 points, and Harden won in 2018 by 237 points. This also isn’t one of those moral victory stances. It’s simply a testament to how incredible Harden’s season was for a guy on a 53-win team that was fourth in the West to challenge a guy on a 60-win team and the best record in the league.
There’s also no need to be upset or to feel that Harden was “robbed” this year. Yes, I do believe that Harden should have won, but it’s also hard to make the case that they’re wrong in selecting Antetokounmpo. Not only did his team have the best record in the league, but he also averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds in one of the most efficient seasons in NBA history, while being extremely effective, and arguably the best player in the league, on defense this year. Rockets fans have made the argument of stats versus wins versus help, and I think Antetokounmpo checked all the boxes on this one.
It was a tough one to lose for sure, but there is some gratification to Harden’s year always being remembered as one of the greatest seasons of all time. He may not have the MVP award, but history will always be on his side.