Do repeat award winners ruin the value of competition?

Jokic MVP
Photo from Denver Stiffs.

Awards are designed to recognize the exceptional ability of a handful of athletes each year, whether that’s basketball’s MVP award, the Ballon d’Or in European soccer, or any number of accolades that populate world sport. However, in a world in which competition sometimes fails as a result of high-spending owners and their nigh-indestructible teams, the annual awards ceremonies have gotten a little bit predictable.

Things aren’t quite so bad in basketball, where there have been more than ten different MVP winners since Shaquille O’Neal won in 2000. There have been five repeat winners, however, with LeBron James taking four MVP awards and Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steve Nash, and Tim Duncan claiming two apiece. The suggestion here is that the NBA is highly competitive, which, let’s be honest, is how the league should be.

Around the world, the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year allows for multi-year winners, too, with racing driver Lewis Hamilton still in the Sports Personality of the Year winner odds despite claiming the coveted trophy in 2020 and 2014 and coming runner-up on four separate occasions. However, behind tennis prodigy, Emma Raducanu, most Sports Personality of the Year betting tips don’t expect Hamilton to win once again this year.

The Ballon d’Or, which is given to the best soccer player in Europe each season, has come to be regarded as a bit of a joke, though. Since 2008, the trophy has been claimed by one of just two players, either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, with the exception of Luka Modric in 2018. This near-complete elimination of competition for the award begs the question of whether repeat winners only serve to devalue these important accolades.

Nikola Jokic

It’s a fair shout that the era of LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Derrick Rose is over as far as the MVP award is concerned.

However, the fact that 2014 winner Kevin Durant is a popular pick for the 2022 installment suggests that time operates differently in the NBA and we could yet see anybody win it. The shortlist is still a rundown of familiar names and former winners, Antetokounmpo and Curry included.

The likelihood is that 2022 could see a new MVP winner crowned, though, in the shape of Mavericks’ Luka Doncic. After Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic’s win last year, Doncic’s coronation would mean that the MVP awards have had a brand new winner in each of the last three years, an outcome that’s arguably more valuable than mailing it to LeBron at the beginning of each season.

Granted, the MVP will sometimes be the same person in multiple years and it would be unfair not to at least recognize the achievements of that one person. But removing former winners from the proceedings (even for just a single season) would go a long way towards celebrating new talent rather than continually rewarding the same old faces. Although, admittedly, this is an unlikely outcome.


For now, much of the discussion surrounding the MVP awards is whether Jokic has what it takes to defend his crown.

Follow us on social media

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply