In an interview several months ago, Houston Rockets star James Harden said the media forms narratives when voting for MVP, which was recently validated.
The Houston Rockets are no strangers to national bias and being held to a different standard. From claims of them choking against the Golden State Warriors to media and fans not liking their playstyle, the Rockets have heard it all. That’s why it was no surprise when James Harden spoke about how media narratives decide MVP voting instead of on-court play.
At the time Harden brought this up, his point was criticized by the media as baseless complaining. Recently on The Jump, ESPN Insider Ramona Shelburne made it a point to say her vote for Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was a “narrative base vote.”
Shelburne was born in raised in Los Angeles, spending seven years with the Los Angeles Daily News before joining ESPN. Ramona’s admission validates what Harden had to say on the subject and explains why he had a point when explained why he likely had multiple runner-up finishes for the award.
Flashing back to the Houston Rockets superstar’s comments
In an interview before the season, Harden spoke about the flawed MVP voting system in an interview on 97.9 The Box.
“Once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and just run with it the entire year,” Harden said during the in-studio interview. “I don’t want to get into details. All I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. There’s only a few other seasons that anybody has ever done that before.”
“People were tuned in to how many points I was going to score the next game,” Harden continued. “It was a thing. But I can’t control that. The only thing I can control is coming back next year and being better than I was, and winning a ‘chip.”
These comments start at the 6:40 minute mark of this video.
To no one surprise, some of the media didn’t agree.
Harden is not the type of player who is going to run to the microphone to make phony claims. He has heard the reasoning over several years as to why he hasn’t won more than one MVP, and in every case, a narrative was formed before the season even started.
In her reasoning for voting for LeBron James as the MVP of the league this season, Shelburne uses the exact words Harden mentioned in his interview several months ago. This is not just an isolated incident. There are real biases in media voting.
Of course, an MVP is not the ultimate goal, but this affects bonuses and player’s legacies. Basing your vote on imaginary narratives instead of actual play is precisely what Harden was talking about in his interview.
It may be time to go back to a mixture of players and media members voting for the season’s most prestigious award, ala All-Star voting. There is one thing going on that Harden and all of us already knew: MVP is not always based on the best player, but often the best narrative.