Our second NBA Tuesday miniseries moves on to the basketball odyssey year of 2001—and another title for Shaquille O’Neal. The Finals featured a “rematch” of two 1980s championship rounds, as the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Philadelphia 76ers. It was a good TV ratings matchup for the league, in truth, as 76ers playmaker Allen Iverson always made for great drama, on and off the court.
2001 NBA FINALS MVP: Shaquille O’Neal, C, Los Angeles (original, confirmed)
The 76ers stole Game 1 on the road behind a Jordan-like effort from Iverson, but the Lakers rolled in the next four games by an average of 9.0 points per victory. Iverson led all scorers with 35.6 ppg, but even with Dikembe Mutombo in the middle (16.8 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 2.2 bpg) to defend Shaq, it didn’t matter. Iverson also played a series-high 47.8 mpg in a superhuman effort, but again … it didn’t mean beans.
The Big Aristotle posted another impressive line: 33.0 ppg, 15.8 rpg, 4.8 apg, and 3.4 bpg in 45 mpg. He had more support this time than last year, but no one else on the L.A. roster could come close to match his efficiency: 57.3-percent shooting from the floor on a team-high 110 shot attempts. Kobe Bryant actually shot just 41.5 percent on his 106 shot attempts, so you can see the real issue for the Lakers.
For the record, we have confirmed 24 of the 33 vote winners of this award—and every one now since 1989, as well. Maybe the voters were getting better at identifying the right guys? Only time will tell, of course. Compare these numbers/rate to the DPOY section below, where we have confirmed just 4 vote winners in 19 seasons—a clear statement that defensive metrics are quite revealing, retrospectively.
2001 NBA DPOY: Dikembe Mutombo, C, Philadelphia (original); Chris Webber, PF, Sacramento (revised)
Acquired for the final 26 games of the regular season and the playoffs, Philly center Mutombo won the DPOY vote again, despite posting just 4.7 DWS. He won’t be winning our nod, of course, as that total didn’t even place him in the NBA Top 10. There were 9 other guys who did surpass our DWS threshold of 5.0 who are better candidates for this piece of precious hardware.
The ones who led their teams to the playoffs (without having a teammate in this elite group already) include only New York Knicks C Marcus Camby (5.52) and Sacramento Kings power forward Chris Webber (5.20)—last year’s winner in our estimation. Here are the playoff margins: New York (12), Sacramento (10). This means Webber takes the trophy again, which is an interesting surprise.
He didn’t finish in the Top 14 for the vote, which means he was really undervalued in his time. But not in ours! His stats—8.5 defensive boards per game, 1.7 bpg, 1.3 spg, and 4.2 apg—really show this guy was integral to the Kings’ success in this era of basketball. We really do wonder why the voters couldn’t see this happening right in front of them (although next week’s column might have the answer).