By Perry Green and Stephen Riley
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
It is hard to argue with the 2015 MVP Award selection of Golden State’s Stephen Curry. An incredible regular season backed by a stellar postseason performance has officially landed Curry into the household name category. His Warriors team is only one game away from their first Finals appearance since the 1974-75 season, and it’s no secret why. Equipped with a lethal jump shot, elite vision, crafty ball-handling skills and a magnetic personality, Curry’s regular season award is fitting and well deserved.
Golden State finished with the Association’s top record with 67 wins, a franchise best, and made believers along the way. The Warriors appear destined to meet up with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team who just finished last season with the No. 1 overall selection in the NBA Draft and now sits just two games away from the Finals. What’s changed so much for the Cavs? Perhaps a focused and mature LeBron James? Curry is this year’s MVP but was his play as vital to his team as James? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Green: There isn’t a more skilled player in basketball than Curry. Sure, the MVP award is based upon a player’s importance, but Curry aced every single field you can have when it comes to an MVP race. He was the best player on the league’s best team and he put on nightly routines throughout the year that were as entertaining as a sitcom. James’ acquisition no doubt helped boost Cleveland to the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, and they’re set to finish the postseason as the conference’s best team. A Finals matchup would virtually decide the real MVP and I’m all in favor of Curry showing us he fully deserves his title.
Riley: When you take a team that finished with last summer’s top overall selection then subsequently traded away that selection and still finished as one of the top teams in the conference, how can you not be impressed by that? James could realistically have been the MVP for the last 10-plus seasons that he’s been in the Association, but we continue to downplay his greatness. You’d be hard-pressed to research history and find a team who finished with the top pick in the draft and moved the player they selected and still had a remarkable turnaround. James has impacted the Cavs from top to bottom, from the worst player on the team to the best player. Players who couldn’t win with other superstars are now vital pieces; and coaches who never coached in the league are now big-time coaches. Golden State is only one season removed from winning 51 games, but it hasn’t been the turnaround that the Warriors experienced. If we were recounting you have to give it to James.
Green: James wasn’t alone in his return to Cleveland. Yes, his play was vital, but let’s not act like the roster is bare without talent. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and a host of others have proven so far that they belong in this league, and sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes to revitalize a player’s career. I’m not yet willing to grant the improved play by guys like J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the “almighty” influence of LeBron James. I think those guys are playing better on their own, and now James is benefiting from it. Let’s remember, the Cavs were a .500 team before the team traded for Smith, Shumpert and effective big man, Timofey Mozgov. Those three players made this team complete, so let’s not give a LeBron all the credit. On the other hand, Curry’s been flat out fantastic this season. And, the fact remains that he’s been the most influential player on the Association’s top team and that’s the key ingredient to becoming the MVP. He also won the three-point shooting contest and dazzled in the All-Star game. It’s been a record year for both Curry and the Warriors and while James has been his usual rock solid self, he hasn’t captured basketball enthusiasts’ hearts the way Curry has this year.
Riley: When I’m searching for a MVP I’m just looking for the facts. And the main fact is Cleveland was a bottom-of-the-barrel team just a season ago, and now they’re set to finish as one of the top two teams in the NBA. Curry’s offense sells tickets and puts fans into seats but no matter what he does in his NBA tenure, he’ll never be the transcendent player that is James. The Warriors and Cavs appear headed on a collision course right into each other, and I would even give the nod to Golden State since they’re the healthier team at the moment. However, no one expected this Cleveland team to be this deep into the postseason, especially after last year’s finish. What James’ presence has done to elevate that coaching staff and his teammates is something that not all players can do. Sure, Curry can go out and lead by performance, but he just doesn’t have James’ intangibles. The Most Valuable Player Award could really go to James every year, we know that, but for what he’s done this season with that team it should’ve been a no-brainer to select him this season. He’s been a beast on the court, but has also been the MVP for the franchise as well. It was his presence that made Cleveland a more attractive place to guys like Love, Smith and Shumpert. And it’s been his influence on Irving that has turned the young point guard into a prime time player. It’s too late to hand James the award, but it’s clear who the trophy really belongs to.