May 4, 2011

NBA's Most Valuable is back in Chicago

Call it the curse of success: when a team does so incredibly well as the Chicago Bulls did in the 90s, a fall from prominence hurts more than, say, a team like the Clippers, who have been more or less un-prominent throughout. And what a decade the 90s were for Chicago! The Bulls won six championships in eight years, were the world's most popular team and the NBA's most feared. And most importantly, they happened to have the man now regarded as the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball, Michael Jordan, who bagged 5 MVP trophies over the course of his career.

The last one of Jordan's MVP awards came in 1998, the year he left the Bulls for good, and the year the team fell back into obscurity. It took a lot more false starts since then, but the Bulls got their shot at resurrection when they drafted local boy Derrick Rose with the first pick of the NBA draft three years ago. The choice couldn't have worked out better for them, as Rose quickly developed into a fascinatingly talented pro, and, as of yesterday, was named the youngest ever MVP of in NBA history.

Yes, at 22 years and seven months, Rose is five months younger than Wes Unseld of the Baltimore Bullets who was named MVP in 1969. It is an amazing achievement for a player, who in just three seasons, has achieved what most players fail to achieve in their lifetimes. He has backed up the hype with results: a first pick in the draft is always going to put pressure on a player - especially if he's the leading point guard on his hometown team - but Rose took it with stride, becoming Rookie of the Year in his first season, an all star in his second, and an all star starter and MVP in his third.

Couple Rose's development with the hiring of now Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau for the Bulls, and suddenly, the team that was eighth-seed in the East last year finished with the best record in the entire league, 62-20. Rose finished with averages of 25 points and 7.7 assists per game this season.

What is perhaps most awesome about this award is that Rose ignored the scoffs at the beginning of the season and predicted that he could do it. And what makes it more awesome for me, personally, is that I began to believe him too, and predicted that he could do it mid-season - it seemed like the perfect year, after all - LeBron and Wade were cancelling each other out in South Beach, Durant was sharing a lot of offensive responsibility with Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard was never going to be enough of a leader in my eyes, Kobe was deferring more and more to Gasol and co, Dirk & Chris Paul weren't being consistently brilliant enough in the regular reason, the Spurs and the Celtics had too many good players to single one out, and Amar'e Stoudemire was never going to keep up the great early season play, especially after the Knicks brought in Carmelo Anthony.

So on the whole, I think this is a completely deserving award. Unfortunately though, Rose has followed the MVP-caliber regular season with a pretty average post-season, struggling to beat a lowly Pacers squad in 5 games and losing his first game against the Hawks. This is what I call The Curse of MVP - Since Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1998, only two players (Shaq in 2000 and Duncan in 2003) have followed up MVP seasons with Championship seasons. If the curse is true, then the chances for Rose to win a ring this season are slim; on the other hand, LeBron James fans can rejoice, since the former two-time MVP didn't win the award this season but his Miami Heat are looking like favourite for the title so far.

Rose won the award pretty comfortably this year, with 1182 points. Rounding up the top five were Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant.

I read somewhere today that, because of the Jordan-Pippen Bulls, almost everyone who was a child back in their 90s era has a little bit of a Bulls fan in them - if that is the case, that little bit of a Bulls fan can have a little celebration over the Bulls' resurgence and their new leader. Now, Rose, Thibodeau, Noah, Boozer, Deng and co have to get serious about things if they plan on adding another championship and spawning a new generation of worldwide fans.

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