Kendrick Perkins lit a fire under NBA Twitter and it hasn’t cooled down since.
On Tuesday, Perkins made an appearance on ESPN’s First Take along with Stephen A. Smith and JJ Reddick where the trio were arguing if Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić is running away with the NBA MVP, which would give him his third in a row.
Reddick, who is a former NBA player himself, said, “What we’ve just witnessed is the problem with this show where we create narratives that do not exist in reality. The implication, what you are implying, that the white voters that vote on NBA are racist. That they favor white people. You just said that. Yes, you did! Yes, you did … That’s exactly what you implied, Kendrick Perkins.”
Reddick was referring to Perkins’ appearance on First Take last week, where he suggested Jokić is going to win NBA MVP for the third straight year because he is a white European.
This has led to a full-on race war on NBA Twitter, with some claiming that Perkins has a fair point and others saying that his “race-baiting” behavior was absolutely unnecessary and praising Reddick for calling him out on it on national television.
Some of those figures include Charles Barkley, who ripped Perkins on local Denver radio, saying in an interview, “That’s asinine and silly. Asinine, silly, and stupid. Pick one of the words, whatever one you want.”
He went on to say, “We can talk about race as much as you want to as long as you’re going to be fair and honest. But to slander this man [Jokić] in this situation is just total BS.”
While I wish I could answer that question with 100% confidence, I can’t. Since 1956, when the NBA first started giving out MVPs, only eight White players have won MVPs: Bob Pettit, Bob Cousy, David Cowens, Bill Walton, Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Nikola Jokić. During that same time period, 27 Black players won MVP.
But, despite all of the great players who have come through the league, only one player has won MVP three years in a row, and that’s Larry Bird, who won it between 1984 and 1986. That’s not to say he was not totally deserving, he was. In 1984 the Boston Celtics won the NBA Finals, in 1985 they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers and in 1986 they won again. Bird was the catalyst behind all of that and deserved to win.
Jokić on the other hand, who is an amazing player and has put up absolutely insane numbers with ridiculous efficiency, (check out his Basketball Reference page) has not sniffed anywhere close to the same playoff success as Bird during his MVP years. But, it still has not caused one ounce of “voter fatigue,” as it normally does when players win the award multiple times in a short period of time.
This is where I bring you to @darwinchvz320’s thread on Twitter, where he perfectly lays out how voter bias does exist, but it does not diminish how great of a player Jokić is.
In the thread he states:
“Saying there’s voter bias when it comes to him doesn’t diminish the fact he’s a great player. It means he’s one of several really great players. voters are more comfortable bending voting trends for him than others though.
“We know most NBA voters are white. Additionally many NBA voters have admitted advanced analytics influence their decisions. These are tools that have primarily been constructed and broadly used by white members in both the media And NBA teams.
“But put that aside, the analytics that favor Jokic MVPs lean towards offensive impact and on/off differentials. Not inherently bad but It’s unnecessarily punitive to team some very successful constructs that don’t align with that model.
And if there was more diversity in NBA voters this wouldn’t be a problem but when there are so many white voters with analytic backgrounds it ends up in group think. And Jokic by default ends up the standard for success and value to a team.”
He also went on to say that none of this should reflect poorly on Jokic, acknowledging that he’s an amazing player and that this is largely a media issue.
He ended the thread by saying, “We ALL have biases. That’s not a failing of character however not acknowledging them is.”
I second all of his emotions on this, while we truly don’t know if the white voters of the NBA MVP are racist, we can acknowledge that there is a bias involved in the voting process and it has benefited Jokić, who happens to be white, more than any other player in the league over the past few seasons.