Gary Payton, the Hall of Fame point guard and Oakland native, said Thursday he has an issue with voters who gave the Warriors’ Stephen Curry the honor of becoming the NBA’s first unanimous MVP.
“People have to understand we don’t have an issue with Stephen Curry,” Payton told SiriusXM. “Stephen Curry doesn’t vote for himself. You had 131 people that voted for him. I’ve got an issue with them.”
Payton listed to Sports Illustrated previous MVP winners Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“I think all of them guys were unanimous decisions, too,” he said. “It just happened in an era that, it went his way. He was the first one to do it. I commend him again of what he’s accomplished, but you gotta think about who were voting for Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem and all of them during their time, why in the heck would they not give all their votes to them guys at that time when they were doing it?”
A vote of NBA players decided the MVP up until the 1980-81 season when balloting was done by a panel of sports writers and broadcasters from the United States and Canada.
“We forgot Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points and 30 rebounds,” Payton told SiriusXM. “You didn’t think he was a unanimous decision? Who else ever did that and scored 100 points in one game? And he didn’t even win it (in 1962). That’s what I’m trying to say.
“You look at Michael Jordan. When they set the record at 72-10 in 1996, he didn’t get all the votes. So you’re trying to tell me these reporters or whoever’s voting that you and them guys back then, they didn’t know that he was a unanimous decision? Don’t blame that on Stephen Curry. Blame that on them reporters.”
Payton told the radio station that the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, who finished second and third in the voting, deserved first-place votes.
“If you look at LeBron, what he does for his team, he does everything,” Payton said. “I still think he’s the best all-around basketball player. As we say, Stephen Curry was the best player this year but I’m saying all-around – who gives you assists, who gives you rebounding, who gives you points, who does a lot of things for his team to have it? If you take LeBron off that team, I don’t think Cleveland is a good team like that. If you Curry off of it, uh, right now I don’t know. They probably would win games. They wouldn’t have won 73, but they would win a lot of basketball games.”