As we move deeper into the 1980s on NBA Tuesday, we feel it is important to acknowledge something here: This is the last season before Michael Jordan arrived in the league and changed it forever. For all the noise about Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, that dynamic duo has earned just one award nod from us in four seasons so far.
Just sayin’ … read on to see if Bird or Magic won anything this time out!
1984 NBA MVP: Larry Bird (original), Adrian Dantley (revised)
The two best players in the league, finishing 1-2 in both Win Shares and Player Efficiency Ratings, were Utah Jazz small forward Adrian Dantley (14.61 WS, 24.64 PER) and Celtics power forward Bird (13.57, 24.22). Both teams won division titles, although Boston posted 17 more victories than Utah did during the regular season.
Dantley won the scoring title, putting up 30.6 points per game, to go with his 55.8 shooting percentage, 85.9 free-throw percentage, 5.7 rebounds per game, and 3.9 assists per game. Bird topped the NBA with an 88.8 FT percentage, while scoring 24.2 ppg, grabbing 10.2 rpg, dishing 6.6 apg, and notching 1.8 steals per game.
The traditional numbers favor Bird, which is probably why he won the MVP vote at the time. But the sabermetrics favor Dantley, in terms of value and performance. We trust the sabermetrics, even if they don’t seem popular.
After all, Bird was playing on a virtual All-Star squad in Boston, anyway, and Dantley was carrying the Jazz load with less of a supporting cast, too. Remember, we stripped Dantley of his 1977 ROTY prize, so this also makes up for that—although that is hardly any reason for this choice whatsoever.
1984 NBA ROTY: Ralph Sampson (original, confirmed)
No NBA rookie even came close to Houston Rockets center Ralph Sampson this year, as he posted 6.0 WS and 20.1 PER marks while scoring 21.0 ppg and grabbing 11.1 rpg, too. The Rockets did not make the postseason, but when his WS total was basically twice that of the next rookie, that means very little this time out.
Sampson, for the record, also blocked 2.4 shots per game while dishing out 2.0 apg—not bad for a big man. His 52.3 shot percentage was pretty solid, too, leading to that high PER number in NBA rookie terms.