Both big guys led their teams to the best record in their conferences. Shaq had a first-team All-NBA teammate in Penny Hardaway, Robinson had Dennis Rodman to help him do the dirty work on D. In all the statistical measures at B-R.com, Robinson outscores Shaq. It appears the voters made the right choice. (Although Olajuwon led the Rockets to the title with one of the great playoff performances of all time, knocking off teams led by Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Robinson and Shaq in the playoffs and averaging 33.0 points per game along the way).
In his first three seasons, Shaq missed a total of just five games. In his final year with Orlando, Shaq sustained his first major injury and played just 54 games (he still finished ninth in the MVP vote, with Jordan winning in his first full year back from retirement).
Shaq signed with the Lakers as a free agent, joining rookie Kobe Bryant on a team that had won 53 games in 1996. The team improved to 56 wins, but Shaq again battled injuries and played just 51 games. Karl Malone edged Jordan in one of the closest MVP votes (63 first-place votes to 52) while Shaq tied for ninth.
Shaq averaged 28.3 points and 11.4 rebounds and was ranked as the most efficient player in the NBA by B-R.com. This was arguably Shaq's peak year of ability, before he started putting on all the extra weight and combined youthful athleticism with veteran experience. The Lakers featured a convoluted lineup of young Kobe, quick-trigger Nick Van Exel, Rick Fox and Elden Campbell. They won 61 games, and Shaq might have won the MVP but played just 60 games. He finished fourth in the voting behind MJ, Malone and Gary Payton which seems generous considering he missed a quarter of the season.
The screwed-up lockout year, when the Knicks finished eighth in the East and still made the NBA Finals with Ewing hurt. Only four players averaged 22 points per game. The Spurs won the championship by routinely winning playoff games despite scoring less than 80 points. Just a disgraceful time in the NBA. Shaq was healthy again and played in 49 of 50 games, but was just sixth in the MVP voting. He went 26.3/10.7 and finished behind Malone, Mourning, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and Jason Kidd. You can make a case for Shaq as MVP, but you can just as easily make a case for the others.
No contest. Shaq led the NBA in points per game and field-goal percentage and was second in rebounding. He even finished seventh in minutes played. The Lakers went 67-15. Shaq picked up 120 of the 121 first-place votes (Iverson got the final one).
First: Iverson, 31.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.6 apg, 42.0% FG, 71 G, 56 team wins
Second: Duncan, 22.2 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 49.9% FG, 82 G, 58 team wins
Third: Shaq, 28.7 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 3.7 apg, 57.2% FG, 74 G, 56 team wins
Who would you vote for? Iverson won in a landslide, pulling 93 of 124 first-place votes. Shaq received just seven first-place votes. This was a classic case of sportswriters acting like lemmings and the Iverson landslide took over, similar to the Nash bandwagon in 2005. Shaq wasn't a clear MVP choice, but the voting certainly should have been closer. Anyway, Shaq got his revenge in the playoffs as the Lakers went 15-1 and beat Iverson's Sixers in the Finals.