As the NBA playoffs began this weekend, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the greatness that was Russell Westbrook and James Harden’s regular season play. While the MVP award has been all the sports media can talk about the last few weeks, what has seemingly gone unappreciated is the fact that these two players have given the fans one of the most exciting regular seasons in a long time. There is no debate that one of these players will win that MVP award, the only disappointing part is that one of them has to lose. Both Westbrook and Harden have had seasons from a statistical stand-point, that most basketball fans would find unbelievable. With Westbrook averaging a triple double, and Harden not far behind, the margin between them is so slim the MVP deciding factor could simply come down to personal preference.
The MVP award is voted on by the NBA writers/reporters and is typically announced after the first round of the playoffs. This season, the only acceptable answers for MVP are Westbrook and Harden, and depending on who you ask, the decision seems split right down the middle. Even former and current NBA players are split on their choice. According to former NBA player and current NBA analyst Rex Chapman, “I think you got to give it to James (Harden). You look at his stats and what he’s been able to do without any other superstars, it’s crazy.” According to Chapman, one of other reasons he thinks James Harden should get the nod over Westbrook is due to the Rockets’ record versus the Thunder’s record. Chapman said, “Because their stats are so similar, I think you have to look at the fact that Houston has won more games than OKC (Oklahoma City). I agree that the case can easily be made for Russell (Westbrook), but because it’s such a tight race and there can’t be co-MVP’S, if I had a vote, it would be Harden.” To his point, Houston won 55 games this year and grabbed the third seed in the playoffs, while Oklahoma City won 47 games and finished with the sixth seed. If only the decision were as easy as “who won more games,” because Russell Westbrook did the voters no favors by finishing the season averaging a triple double (a feat that has only been done ONCE before in NBA history), and breaking the record of most triple doubles in a season with 42 this season. Westbrook’s accomplishment of averaging a triple double has left both fans and players dumfounded, because it is a task that no one ever thought could be completed again. “Average a triple double? That’s insane, it’ll never happen.” Would have been the response from most, if not all basketball fans had you had told them Russell Westbrook would do what he did this season. For that reason alone, many people are voting for Westbrook based on his historical statistical achievement. According to current NBA player for the Phoenix Suns Alan Williams, “Got to go with Westbrook. He averaged a triple double man, that’s enough for me. Respect to everything Harden has done this year because he’s incredible, but I just think that for Westbrook, with Durant going to the Warriors and everything (referencing former OKC player Kevin Durant leaving the team in free agency to play for the Warriors), for him to come out and average a triple double and get his team to the playoffs, he’s the MVP in my eyes.” Williams makes a great point and makes it hard to see why Westbrook should not get the MVP, especially after listening to someone who played against him just a few short weeks ago. While compelling arguments can be made for both players, it is very clear that the stellar play of the Westbrook and Harden elevated the interest in regular season basketball and made for some great story-lines. This MVP race will go down as one of the most discussed and debated races in NBA history and you can be sure that both of these players remarkable seasons will surely be remembered by basketball fans for years to come.