Column: Define most ‘valuable’

By Jon Gluskin

Every year we have to answer the same question. Every year, it seems to get harder and harder to choose.

Whether it’s the NFL, NBA or MLB, picking the season’s Most Valuable Player is a daunting task.

After an NBA season filled with talent, talent and more talent, there are a handful of players who all make a case to deserve the hardware.

When it comes down to it, how do we even define the “most valuable?”

If you look up the definition of “valuable” at dictionary.com, you’ll find it to mean “of great importance, use or service,” or “having admirable or esteemed qualities or characteristics.” That doesn’t really help.

Kobe, LeBron, Nash, Brand, Carmelo, Garnett, Arenas, Shaq, Wade, Marion, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Duncan, Iverson, Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul are all of great importance and all have admirable qualities.

If you take any one of these players away from their respective teams, their teams will be significantly worse. But at the same time, if you take Chris Paul away from the Hornets, they would be in competition for this year’s No. 1 pick. But on the other hand, if you took Shaquille O’Neal away from the Heat, they would still be one of the best teams in the East.

But you shouldn’t count that against Shaq because he’s on a good team. That’s why I was so happy Albert Pujols won the NL MVP last season with the Cardinals. He was on an excellent team, but that still does not diminish his importance to that team. Under this definition, Allen Iverson would probably win this award year after year.

The MVP is not necessarily the best player. If that were the case, Peyton Manning should be the MVP of the NFL every year until he retires. As should Kobe Bryant. As should Pujols.

It’s not necessarily the most exciting player, either. Otherwise, Dwayne Wade would probably run away with the award. So would LaDainian Tomlinson. So would David Ortiz.

It’s also not necessarily the best player on the best team. If it were, this year’s winners would have been Ben Roethlisberger, Ben Wallace and Paul Konerko.

You can look at statistics – but we all know numbers can be deceiving.

At least in basketball, it’s easiest to make comparisons because there are a few dominant categories. You can look at points per game, which Kobe would run away with. You can look at rebounds, where Garnett is supreme. You can look at assists, which is what separates Nash from the rest of the pack. The MVP could have the greatest combination of these stats.

Bryant, for example, averaged 35.4 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

Garnett averaged 21.8 points, 12.7 boards and 4.1 assists.

Nash averaged 18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 10.5 assists.

So which combination is better? It’s too hard to tell. Each player plays a different position and has his own specialty.

The NBA, MLB and NFL should all take a page out of college basketball’s book in the way they hand out the most important award at the end of the NCAA Tournament – the Most Outstanding Player.

Granted, it’s easier to pick when you’re only looking at six or so games and one player will inevitably stand out. But “outstanding” is easier to define than “valuable.”

“Outstanding” is defined by dictionary.com as “standing out among others of its kind; prominent,” or “superior to others of its kind; distinguished.”

There are a lot fewer outstanding players than there are valuable ones. And you can also choose who was more outstanding than someone else.

When you break it down like this, the Most Outstanding Player of the NBA this year was Kobe. He carried a Lakers team to the playoffs that had no business being there. He scored points, made jaw-dropping plays and also scored 81 points in a game.

That’s outstanding.

Jon Gluskin is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]