The Worst Players to Win MVP in Professional Sports History

  • One crop of MVP winners just don’t live up to their colleagues
  • Steve Nash won back-to-back MVPs and both were highly questionable
  • Jimmy Rollins won the MVP and wasn’t the best player on his team
  • Jose Theodore won the MVP in a year he wasn’t the best at his position
Jimmy Rollins
VSO News has picked five of the worst players to have won an MVP in their respective sport, including Jimmy Rollins (pictured). [Image:]

A contentious subject

There is no greater individual achievement in professional sports than winning the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. But such is the culture of sports fans, this accolade sparks countless debates, including the best and worst MVPs, how each athlete ranks historically, and what their most incredible achievements were.

not of the same caliber as other award-winners

An MVP is an unimpeachable distinction that separates players from their contemporaries forever. However, even with that, there are a few MVPs that have won the award controversially. They appear less deserving than other candidates, or not of the same caliber as other award-winners from the past or future.

Without further ado, these are the “worst” players to ever win an MVP award. Congratulations to everyone that made our list, and no hard feelings.

Worst MVP winners of all time

Steve Nash (2005 and 2006)

Nash was not a bad NBA player by any stretch—he was an eight-time All-Star, seven-time all-NBA member, five-time assist leader, and four-time 50/40/90-club member. He also helped revolutionize basketball as the point guard of the Phoenix Suns with the “seven second or less” philosophy, which prioritized shooting the ball within seven seconds every possession. 

So why is he on this list?

Nash’s MVP seasons (emphasis on plural) were nowhere near the standard set by previous winners. In 2005, he averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 assists. Meanwhile, in 2006 he averaged 18.8 points and 10.5 assists. Great numbers, but far off the MVP’s usual standard. 

Shaq has repeatedly referenced Nash’s MVPs as robbery

What makes Nash’s wins more egregious is that he beat out Dirk Nowitzki (26.1 points, 9.7 rebounds) and Shaquille O’Neal (22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds) in 2005. Then he defeated Kobe Bryant (35.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists) and LeBron James (31.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.6 assists) in 2006. Shaq has repeatedly referenced Nash’s MVPs as robbery, claiming it “don’t make sense” he and Bryant have one MVP while Nash has two.

Thanks for helping change modern basketball Steve, but unfortunately, Shaq is probably right. Even Nash’s former teammate Jim Jackson had to admit it:

Mark Moseley (1982)

Even the most committed NFL fans may have a hard time remembering who Mark Moseley was and for good reason. He played one of the least important positions in football for a team that no longer exists. 

Are you listening now? Moseley was a kicker that played 17 years in the league and 13 for the former Washington team that is now known as the Commanders. It was in the nation’s capital where he won the MVP in 1982 when he finished fourth in total points scored (76). 

Moseley went 20-21 (95.2%) on kicks that year but only made a season-long field goal of 48 yards. He strangely also went 16-19 (84.2%) on extra points back when they were just a couple of yards away from the goal line. To this day he is the only kicker that has ever won the MVP.

he would be nowhere near an elite kicker in the modern era

The 1982 MVP winner is not only the worst in league history, but he would be nowhere near an elite kicker in the modern era. The Baltimore Ravens’ Justin Tucker has a career field goal percentage of 90.5 compared to Moseley’s 65.6. He also has a career-long of 66 yards, 12 more than Moseley’s 54.

Kevin Keegan (1978)

Hands up, Keegan technically never won an MVP—but he did win the Ballon d’Or, which is soccer’s equivalent of the award:

Keegan is actually remembered as a pioneer and legend in English soccer and is not a bad player by any means. And while he had a legitimate case in 1979, his 1978 Ballon d’Or, well, that’s a different conversation. 

Keegan was known for his flair and technical ability and could score goals from nothing; but in 1978, he managed just six league goals in the Bundesliga, and his team, Hamburg SV, finished tenth in the table. They also lost in the second round of the Cup Winners’ Cup and were demolished 7-1 by his former team Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup. 

no domestic, European, international, or individual success

Granted, only European players could win the Ballon d’Or at the time—but Keegan’s England didn’t even qualify for the World Cup that year. So, with no domestic, European, international, or individual success, it’s astonishing that he was named the most outstanding player on the continent. 

Jimmy Rollins (2007)

Again, Rollins is not a bad player. He made three All-Star teams and won four Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and a World Series, But nobody on this list is actually bad at their sport (aside from maybe Moseley—sorry again).

To say that Rollins’ 2007 MVP win was a little undeserved would be putting it nicely. He greatly benefited from being on the NL East-winning Philadelphia Phillies, but weirdly, his teammate Chase Utley did not, despite having a better season. 

Rollins was tied for 20th in home runs and 64th in batting average

For comparison, Rollins was tied for 20th in home runs and 64th in batting average, while Utley was tied for 59th in home runs but 24th in batting average. The latter also had a higher wins above replacement (WAR) total at 8.7 compared to Rollins’ 6.1, plus he knocked in nine more RBIs while playing in 30 fewer games. 

That doesn’t even account for the New York Mets’ David Wright or Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones, both of whom had far more impressive statistical seasons and finished just one and five games behind the Phillies, respectively.  

José Théodore (2002) 

Théodore is one of six goalies to have won the Hart Memorial Trophy (NHL’s MVP) and was the third to do so at the time. He had a career-best save percentage of .931 and gave up just 2.11 goals per game, which would have been second in the league from a team perspective. He also posted seven shutouts, which was another career-high.

The Montreal Canadiens clinched a playoff spot, but despite their MVP-winner in net, they only went 36-31-12-3 and were the last seed in the Eastern Conference. 

never approached that level of performance again

Théodore also never approached that level of performance again in his career. His next-best save percentage for a season was .919, and his career average of .909 is considered below the league average. He also didn’t even make the NHL All-Star first team the year he won the Hart Trophy—instead, Patrick Roy made his way onto the list. 

Also, Jarome Iginla actually tied Théodore in total MVP votes. Iginla only lost out on a tiebreaker that focused on first-place votes despite leading the league in points (96) and carrying the Calgary Flames. 

Théodore only made the All-Star game one more time in 2004 and never made either of the All-Star teams again. This makes his 2002 campaign one of the biggest overachievements in sports history and signifies him as one of the worst MVP winners ever.

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