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The hard-nosed 1990s have arrived on NBA Tuesday, and that means a lot of defensive basketball—with plenty offense from the league’s top stars thrown in for good balance. It was an interesting decade, of course, for a lot of reasons, and it’s also a decade that we still have ties to today. We’re catching up to real time.
Read on to find out where the individual 1990 hardware went …
1990 NBA MVP: Magic Johnson (original), Michael Jordan (revised)
This is what happens in the NBA: A single player leads his team to the postseason while also finishing atop the league in both Win Shares and Player Efficiency Rating, and that player usually gets the MVP Award from us. This is the third time we have had to take away a voted MVP Award from perhaps the greatest Los Angeles Lakers player ever—point guard Magic Johnson.
Blame Chicago Bulls shooting guard Michael Jordan, all three times, who once again was the best player in the league with 18.99 WS and a 31.18 PER mark. Both marks were tops in the NBA, and the Bulls won 55 games to finish with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Yes, the Lakers won 63 games in the Western Conference, but Johnson finished third in WS (16.55) and fourth in PER (26.60).
Magic was a god on the floor, but Jordan was the god of the day: He won his fourth straight scoring title (33.6 points per game), while also leading the league in steals (2.8 per game) for the second time in his career—while also playing all 82 games. Jordan also shot 52.6 percent from the floor and 84.8 percent from the line. Johnson, meanwhile, played just 79 games and didn’t lead the league in anything. His numbers were still very good, though: 22.3 ppg, 11.5 assists per game, 1.7 spg, and 6.6 rebounds per game.
The reality is Magic spent his entire career overshadowed by Larry Bird and MJ—two all-time greats, and those are just the breaks sometimes when it comes to MVP awards based on retroactive sabermetric analysis. Ask Bill Russell, who has suffered the same fate in this space, losing all five of his voted MVP awards.
1990 NBA ROTY: David Robinson (original, confirmed)
This is an easy award to analyze, as the top five rookies included Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Pooh Richardson (4.4 WS, 15.8 PER), Miami Heat point guard Sherman Douglas (4.4 WS, 17.0), San Antonio Spurs small forward Sean Elliott (4.6 WS, 12.5 PER), Los Angeles Lakers center Vlade Divac (5.0 WS, 17.5 PER), and Spurs center David Robinson (15.1 WS, 26.3 PER). Hands down, the Admiral was always a man among boys.
This is one of the better groups of rookies we will see in this space, but Robinson was a borderline MVP candidate with those sabermetric marks. His traditional stats? 24.3 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 3.9 blocks per game, 2.0 apg, and 1.7 spg. He was pretty great for a rookie, albeit a non-traditional one. Remember, the Spurs drafted him in the 1987 draft and then had to wait for two years as Robinson fulfilled his Naval Academy service requirement. He didn’t get rusty at sea, that’s for sure.