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Take Five: Delineating the Qualifications for “M! V! P!” Chant Recipients

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 25, 2010

You know the scene. A star player on a home team gets fouled, and as he goes to the free-throw line to take his compensatory shots, the crowd serenades him with the salutatory chant: “M! V! P!…M! V! P!” The implication, of course, is that the crowd is endorsing their franchise player as a worthy selection for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.  But while these chants may have been more practical in nature once upon a time–it’s hard to say exactly when, where, why or for whom they started, and they might even have their roots in other sports–these days, the award is handed down by adoring crowds with precious little discretion. For instance, during a recent playoff contest between the Bulls and Cavaliers in Chicago, I noticed that Bulls point guard Derrick Rose being the recipient of such a chant. Now, Rose is indeed a fine player, one who has played particularly well this post-season, and one who one day very well may find himself in post-season-award contention. But the kid is just a second-year player who was ineffective and/or injured for half the season and has yet to even make the All-Star Team (whoops, he actually made the ASG this year, though I’m not entirely sure how). In any event, MVP, he is most certainly not.

Now, truth be told, I absolutely love this custom of NBA culture. During the right situation, with the right crowd and the right player, these chants can be absolutely electrifying, the most vocal, emotional and appropriate way for a fanbase to show their true appreciation for their beloved star. But I would like to install some sort of system to ensure that the players receiving these accolades are indeed worthy of such honors. If we keep letting the bar slip lower and lower like this, soon enough they’re gonna be yelling “M! V! P!” at Andray Blatche during Wizards home games. Amusing as that would be, it would cheapen the credibility of the chant far more than I’m comfortable with.

So I have a short list of player categories that, in my opinion, qualify him for the fan-MVP designation. If your guy does not fall into any of these categories, please find a more appropriate three-syllable chant to proffer during his next appearance at the charity stripe.

1. Player is Generally Perceived to Be on the Shortlist for MVP Candidates. The most self-explanatory and obvious category. If a player is generally included in most analysts’ MVP discussions–and I would say that no more than three or four guys a year would fall under this umbrella–then naturally, he would be the most natural recipient for the “M! V! P!” chant. This year, those players would probably be LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Dwyane Wade–the only three players with even plausible credentials for the award, though most right-thinking individuals would deem James the clear-cut selection. These guys are not only meriting of the chant, they deserve and call out for it, and to not deliver it to them regularly at the appropriate times could be considered a major breach of etiquette on the part of their home fanbase.

2. Player Has Won the MVP Award in the Past and Both Player and Team Still Play at a High Level. You could make the “Once an MVP, Always an MVP” argument, and anyway, the chant is “M! V! P!,” not “THIS! YEAR’S! M! V! P!” Being an MVP is like being an Oscar-winner or a President–it’s pretty much a lifetime designation. That said, I don’t think the chant would be acceptable for a player who either had seen his game drop considerably and was now more of a role player, or a player on a team no longer approaching playoff contention–to shower such a player with this level of praise would not only seem out of place, but possibly downright insulting. So while the chant would still be appropriate for past winners like Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan, I would certainly hesitate to use it on past-their-primers like Shaquille O’Neal or (should he return to basketball) Allen Iverson. No need to rub the glory days being behind them in these guys’ faces.

3. Player is the Obvious Franchise Player on a Top Five Team. Some teams are good enough that it seems almost unreasonable for them not to have a convincing MVP candidate, so much so that the urge to select a de facto recipient is both strong and understandable. If a team is clearly among the league’s elite, it seems only fair to me that they should get to uncork the chant when desired–assuming, at least, that they have at least a semi-plausible choice for the honors. The most obvious example for this season would be Dwight Howard–his offensive game is still a little too raw and inconsistent for him to make a compelling case for the status, but he’s not too far off, and he was the primary reason that the Magic were one of the best teams of the ’09-’10 NBA season. This gets into murkier territory when dealing with teams with two arguable franchise players, such as Phoenix (Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire) or Denver (Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups), since awarding one and not the other could possibly cause tension among the two, and to award both would be both highly impractical and downright paradoxical. In such cases I would probably advise fanbases to avoid the chant altogether.

4. Player is a Huge Disappointment and is In the Midst of a Slightly Less-Disappointing Single-Game Performance. You’re playing with fire by using the “M! V! P!” chant sarcastically, since it no doubt strikes players as twice as barbarous as merely booing them would. Nonetheless, in certain extreme examples of a player consistently letting a fanbase down–due to poor conditioning, sour off-the-court demeanor, or providing just a fraction of the production assumed when he was signed or traded for–it seems pretty justified to me that said fanbase should be afforded that rare pleasure. Imagine if during one of his limited stints for the Knicks last season, Eddy Curry had gone 4-5 from the court during garbage time minutes, and went to the line for the first time with three minutes to go in the fourth. If the MSG crowd would be able to restrain themselves from showering the cap-clogging bench-warmer with a snide, bilious “M! V! P!” chant, well, they’re bigger sports fans than I.

5. Player is in the Midst of a Game That Defines Him as a Franchise Player. Of the qualifications laid out here, this one is the hardest to justify, and the hardest to define. Mostly, though, I’m thinking of a specific example from earlier this season, from a game between the Jazz and the Thunder at Utah’s Energy Solutions Arena. The game had ended up as an OT showdown between the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and the Jazz’s Deron Williams, with both players putting on performances as spellbinding as any other single-contest efforts from anyone else the whole NBA season. Williams’s night was so brilliant that as he stepped to the line for free throws in the overtime period, the crowd poured the “M! V! P!” chant on him with a guttural ferocity that made the stadium feel like a revival tent. I actually got chills watching it–and I couldn’t have been alone, since almost immediately afterwards, everyone jumped on the opportunity to anoint D-Will the NBA’s best point guard, even though just 24 hours earlier, it would have seemed ludicrous to rank him above Steve Nash and especially Chris Paul so unhesitatingly. It might have been the most special moment of the entire regular season. So while Deron didn’t really fit the “M! V! P!” qualifications–the Jazz aren’t a top five team, he only just made the All-Star Team this year, and no one is seriously considering him in the legit MVP discussion–I still couldn’t possibly deny the Utah fans their right to be possessed by the spirit of truly glorious ball like that.

9 Responses to “Take Five: Delineating the Qualifications for “M! V! P!” Chant Recipients”

  1. Aykis16 said

    Good post, but you do know that Derrick Rose was on the All-Star team this year right?

  2. Christ said

    You’re so stupid. Not only was Derrick ON the all star team this year, but it was Durants first all star game as well and u say he’s one of the only 3 u think should be aloud.

    He’s pretty much as young as Derrick too.

    Besides that, I agree. I hate the unwarranted chants too

  3. fdgfgdfg said

    “But the kid is just a second-year player who was ineffective and/or injured for half the season”

    you are clown shoes

  4. Mik said

    You Bulls fans need to get rose’s nuts out of your mouths. He played like ass for half the year and his team almost didn’t make the playoffs. He is a borderline all-star at the most.

  5. Miksucksdick said

    pass me some intensities penis

  6. Kelly Dwyer is a flaming homosexual said

    Deron Williams finally making an all-star game for once when in previous years he was inexplicably and unfairly passed over shouldn’t be reason to hold against him. There’s a reason he was picked before Chris Paul in the draft, and his teams have done much better since. He’s been one of the best point guards in the league since his rookie year, and though not on the shortlist of MVP candidates this year, definitely has earned a home-crowd MVP chant as he brings his high-level of play consistently throughout the year, every year.

  7. homophobes arent cool said

    To post number six, i think the Jazz’s and Derron Williams’s success might have a little to do with the fact that Jerry Sloan is an excellent coach and they have better players around Williams

  8. camel joe said

    during our intramural games when i was in high school, my friends chanted MVP when i got to the free throw line. the crowd joined in. i am a benchwarmer and our school intramurals don’t hand out performance awards. it was hilarious. so i guess i feel for those who get chanted sarcastically.

  9. Victor said

    You forgot chanting in situations where players with the actual initials “M.V.P.” are on the court like the above pictured Mr. Montel Vontavious Porter.

    Not really sure there are any current active players that fit this description though.

    Mickael “Villalobos” Pietrus?
    Morris “Vanbiesbrouck” Peterson?

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