NBA Stats

Feb 14 2013 4:36PM

All-Star Game MVPs: Then to Now

By Jay Cipoletti

NBA All-Star Game MVPs have traditionally been high usage, highly efficient players in the showcase game. For example, last year's MVP Kevin Durant posted an Offensive Rating of 125.1 and Kobe Bryant posted a rating of 124.1 the year before.

A look at how they used their possessions illustrates why their ratings were so similar, as well as why they were voted MVP:

Durant '121425571.5:128.0%125.129.2%
Bryant '11 1426780.75:126.9%124.135.3%
A/T = Assist To Turnover Ratio
FTR = Free Throw Rate
OFFRTG = Offensive Rating: Team points scored per 100 possessions while he is on the court
USAGE = Percentage of team plays used by a player when he is on the court

Since Offensive Rating has been tracked, only Allen Iverson in 2001 (97.6 OffRtg) has won the MVP with an Offensive Rating below 100.0 (producing at least 1.0 point per possession). The next lowest MVP OffRtg mark of 104.8 was also recorded by Iverson in 2005.

In both games, Iverson was rewarded for his high volume usage despite making inefficient use of those possessions. In 2001, he took 21 shots from the field, six free throws, dished five assists and turned the ball over four times. Each of those were team highs in a game in which Iverson spurred the East to a 41-21 fourth quarter and an improbable 111-110 win, scoring 15 of his game-high 25 points in the last nine minutes.

Four years later, Iverson again benefited from a sizable usage edge over his Eastern Conference teammates, recording team highs in field goal and free throw attempts, assists and turnovers. In doing so, he won his second All-Star Game MVP despite having the lowest eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage) of any MVP - 30.8% - since the three-point shot was introduced in 1980, and the second lowest in All-Star Game history behind only Bob Cousy's 28.6% mark in 1957.

The difference between Iverson's two MVP OffRtgs can be explained almost exclusively by his ability to get to the foul line:


The two high volume MVPs awarded to Iverson notwithstanding, the gradual trend among All-Star Game MVPs is to make more efficient use of their numerous touches, therefore resulting in a high Offensive Rating.

What is the easiest way to increase the efficiency of each touch? Take shots that are worth more when they go in (or in the case of Shaquille O'Neal in 2009, just make everything you shoot from in close).

In the first All-Star Game featuring the three-point arc, the teams combined to take just six shots from beyond it. Last year, MVP Kevin Durant and the East's leading scorer, LeBron James, attempted eight three-pointers each. As the three-point shot has taken on a greater role, the All-Star Game MVPs (eFG%) has gradually increased as well:

Prior to the introduction of the three-point line in 1980, the shooting performances of All-Star Game MVPs was on a dramatic rise. Hal Greer's perfect 8-for-8 game at Madison Square Garden in 1968 is the exclamation point in this progression.

We started this retrospective with a look at Allen Iverson's high usage MVPs. Let's revisit the MVP usage rate again, this time incorporating eFG% to illustrate the importance of high usage in earning MVP honors.

Kobe Bryant has won or shared All-Star MVP Game honors four times (2002, 2007, 2009, 2011) in 12 appearances. While he has had occasional subpar games, the determining factor in his MVP years has been his usage. In each of his four MVP games, Bryant has had a usage rate of at least 30.6%; in his eight non-MVP games his usage rate has not topped 27.2%.

In 2000 (125.0) and 2012 (129.4), his OffRtg exceeded his average MVP OffRtg of 123.5. But in those two games his usage rate was 19.5% and 22.7%, respectively, well below his MVP average usage rate of 33.2%.

Kobe: MVP vs Non-MVP Usage and Production


Our last look will incorporate the NBA's Player Impact Estimate (PIE) rating. The Impact being estimated is an individual player's on the outcome of the game. The more possessions a player uses, the more likely they are to impact the outcome of the game. The more efficiently they use those possessions, the more likely that impact, and the outcome, will be a positive one. PIE captures that impact. Due to his mostly consistent production, Kobe's All-Star PIE increases as his usage increases.

Kobe: MVP vs Non-MVP Usage and Production


More All-Star MVP Facts

  • Kobe Bryant and Bob Pettit are the only players to have been name All-Star MVP four times. Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and Shaquille O'Neal have each won the award three times.
  • There have been only five All-Star Game MVPs that have had less than 10 shot attempts.
    1. Hal Greer in 1968: shot 8-of-8 from the field and 5-of-7 from the free throw line and finished with 21 points in just 17 minute of play for the Eastern Conference.
    2. Jerry West in 1972: shot 6-of-9 from the field and 1-of-2 from the free throw line and finished for a team-high in points with Connie Hawkins at 13 points. The Western Conference had a balanced scoring attack in the game, with seven players in double figures and nine with at least eight points.
    3. Nate Archibald in 1981: shot 4-of-7 from the field and 1-of-2 from the free throw line and finished with just nine points. While nine of his teammates outscored him, Archibald did dish out a game-high nine assists in 25 minutes to lead the East to victory.
    4. John Stockton (co-MVP) in 1993: shot 3-of-6 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free throw line and finished with just nine points. However, he did have a game-high 15 assists, with seven of them going to his Utah Jazz teammate and co-MVP Karl Malone, who finished with 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting.
    5. Shaquille O'Neal (co-MVP) in 2009: shot 8-of-9 from the field and 1-of-4 from the free throw line and finished with 17 points and five rebounds in just under 11 minutes of play. He shared the MVP with former LA Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant.

More All-Star Three-Point Facts

  • Larry Bird made the first and only three-pointer of the 1980 All-Star Game. There were six three-point field goals attempted in that game.
  • Nobody would make another All-Star three until George Gervin made his only attempt in 1983; Only three three-pointers were attempted in the 1981 and 1982 games; the East attempted only one three in 1982.
  • The last time a team did not attempt a three in the All-Star Game was in 1985. The East was 3-of-8 from three, while the West did not attempt any shots from beyond the arc.
  • There were 66 three-point field goal attempts in the 2012 All-Star Game. That is only 10 less than the amount of three that were attempted in the entire first decade of the three-point line in the All-Star Game (1980-1989).
  • Most All-Star three-point attempts: Ray Allen (71 3FGA in 10 All-Star Games)
  • Most All-Star three-point field goals made: Ray Allen (22 3FGM in 10 All-Star Games)
  • Highest All-Star three-point percentage (min 5 3FGM): Glen Rice (.600 3FG%, 9-of-15, in 3 All-Star Games)