On Monday, James Harden took home his first NBA MVP award, and the voting wasn’t particularly close. Harden received 86 of 101 first-place votes, with LeBron James coming in second and Anthony Davis third.

There was little debate as to who deserved the MVP — a regular-season award — before the playoffs began, but a spectacular postseason performance from James makes Harden winning the award seem a little odd. Agreeing with that sentiment is LeBron’s former teammate and current Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, who made a distinction between “the people’s MVP” and “the NBA‘s MVP” during a radio appearance on Wednesday. Via ESPN:

“MVP, it’s hard to gauge nowadays. Because now you have the people’s MVP and you have, like, the NBA’s MVP,” Irving told radio station Hot 97 in New York on Wednesday. “I think the people’s MVP was definitely James [Harden], but the NBA MVP is definitely LeBron [James].”

Irving has never been afraid to speak his mind and stir the pot, but his quote speaks to the way that MVP voting has traditionally gone in the NBA. There’s sometimes a line drawn between the league’s best player and the MVP, with factors like wins and statistical anomalies (for instance, Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double) often considered.

There is also a precedent in NBA history of not giving out too many consecutive MVPs to the same player — only Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird have won three straight. Even when Michael Jordan and the Bulls dominated the NBA from 1996-98, Jordan only won two of the MVP awards, with the other going to Karl Malone.

While Irving dubbed Harden “the people’s MVP,” the fans do not vote on postseason awards — that honor goes to select media members. But there is a virtual consensus that LeBron has been, and continues to be, the best player in the league, which makes it strange that he hasn’t won an MVP since 2013. 

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