This week on NBA Tuesday, it’s time to look at the last year of the peak for the career of Michael Jordan. After this season, he would “retire” for the first time, and even when he came back, he would not the same player—especially on the defensive end of things. But let’s see how this development affects our awards analysis for the MVP before we write his career obituary, shall we? No one disses Air Jordan, after all, especially us.
Just remember this turning point in NBA history, as the rookie class helped define it, too.
1993 NBA MVP: Charles Barkley (original), Michael Jordan (revised)
The four best players in the league were clear, as they finished 1-2-3-4 in both Win Shares and Player Efficiency Rating: Chicago Bulls shooting guard Michael Jordan (17.24 WS, 29.70 PER), Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon (15.82 WS, 27.31 PER), Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone (15.38 WS, 26.21 PER), and Phoenix Suns forward Charles Barkley (14.43 WS, 25.90 PER). The Chuckster won the MVP vote as he switched teams from the Philadelphia 76ers and led the Suns to a league-high 62 victories.
However, Jordan’s Bulls won 57 games to claim the Central Division title, while Olajuwon’s Rockets won 55 games and the Midwest Division. The Jazz finished 47 victories and a playoff berth in the Western Conference. We probably can toss Malone from the equation as his team was the only one not to win a division title. But is Barkley’s team result enough to overcome both Jordan and Olajuwon in our analysis?
The Round Mound of Rebound did not lead the league in a single statistical category, while Jordan (32.6 points and 2.8 steals per game) and Olajuwon (4.2 blocks per game) did. That puts Barkley at a disadvantage, of course. And if it comes down to MJ or the Dream, it’s easy to see that Jordan will win another MVP Award.
The fact this was open for a little bit of debate illustrates our point above: Jordan had peaked already, even before his first retirement, but that doesn’t stop him from winning a seventh-straight MVP Award from us.
1993 NBA ROTY: Shaquille O’Neal (original, confirmed)
This year’s rookie class featured an impressive first and second team of first-year players that would end up winning 12 NBA titles among them—plus big names like Christian Laettner and Latrell Sprewell. Go figure. But the big boys in this group only really include three front-court studs: Orlando Magic center Shaquille O’Neal (10.4 WS, 22.9 PER), Charlotte Hornets center Alonzo Mourning (8.2 WS, 20.8 PER), and Denver Nuggets power forward LaPhonso Ellis (8.0 WS, 16.6 PER).
Orlando finished 41-41 and missed the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference on a tiebreaker against the Indiana Pacers. Charlotte won 44 games to make the playoffs, while Denver won 36 games and missed the final playoff berth in the Western Conference by three victories. That would seem to eliminate Ellis from this discussion.
The Magic improved 20 wins from the season before, while the Hornets improved 13 victories themselves. Both teams were last-place division finishers in 1991-92. So the impact of the two big men was profound, but while Shaq was the best player on the Magic, Zo had the aid of our 1992 ROTY winner, Larry Johnson, who was the best player on the Hornets. That is huge, having two young studs to lead the team, while Shaq took on more of a load all by himself.
In that sense, it was only a tiebreak that kept Orlando out of the postseason, and Shaq was the better player—and probably more valuable, too, so he keeps his award. This is the seventh consecutive season that we have confirmed the vote winner of the ROTY mantle.
(By the way, Robert Horry was in this rookie class, and he won seven NBA rings. O’Neal ended up winning four titles, and Mourning was on one NBA championship team.)