Usually, the NBA MVP award is fuel for a light-hearted, fun sports conversation, until it gets hijacked by the urge to create hot takes.
With less than one month to go in the regular season, there is no clear leader for the NBA MVP, which should be fun for fans, analysts and debate show hosts. According to Nuggets coach Michael Malone, however, hot takes have ruined the debate, and superstar Nikola Jokić has found himself pulled into the center of the toxicity as he looks to win his third straight regular season NBA MVP award.
Michael Malone on MVP talk:
“This year has taken an ugly, nasty turn in the MVP conversation. And I think it’s turned a lot of people off, including [Nikola Jokic]…
It’s not promoting my guy, it’s tearing down every other guy. And that’s just ridiculous.” pic.twitter.com/1dx6PUORNQ
— Joel Rush (@JoelRushNBA) March 23, 2023
“This year, unfortunately, it’s just taken a really ugly, nasty turn in the MVP conversation,” Malone ranted in his postgame press conference Wednesday night. “And I think it’s really turned a lot of people off, including him (Jokić)…What happens in today’s society, it’s like when I was a college coach, all the negative recruiting, it’s not promoting my guy, it’s ripping down every other guy, and that’s just ridiculous.”
“Celebrate them, don’t criticize, don’t tear them down, build them all up, and whoever wins it, good for them,” Malone continued. “That’s one thing that’s been really disappointing this year with the whole MVP conversation and all the hot takes, it’s really just gotten ugly and nasty, and I really don’t care for it.”
Welcome to a world of sports entertainment dominated by the drive for social media attention. Jokić’s candidacy has been smeared by debate show analysts who cite his playoff record, and even posed the allegation that voters hold a racial bias against the league’s Black players. Amid the down and dirty conversations surrounding the NBA MVP award this season, Jokić and his head coach have seemingly soured on the award.
There is some truth to Malone’s gripe, especially on the heels of ESPN analysts Kendrick Perkins and JJ Redick screaming about racial narratives in MVP voting. But MVP arguments will never just be a celebration of every candidate, as Malone envisions, that’s not how debates work. However, it’s one thing to criticize or find the negative in an MVP candidate, it’s another to slander that player. And ESPN allowing its NBA MVP discussion to morph into a race debate is probably something the league would have preferred not to watch.