A Myth About Valuable Players

There is a myth about valuable players. When debating who is the MVP of a sport, people often make this point: when the player is off the court/field or is injured for a period of time, their team doesn't perform as well. With this logic, you could say that a particular player is very valuable because he is very needed by his team. A similar type of logic is used when making an argument against a player's value. A person may say that since a team does fine when the player is off the court/field or when injured, this means the player isn't needed, and therefore isn't as valuable.

Sometimes this type of reasoning is correct and truly validates a person's argument, but sometimes it is incorrect and actually means the opposite. Just because a player's absence causes his team to perform worse, doesn't mean this player is very valuable. It could mean the opposite. To understand this, you have to consider to role of leadership.

Everyone knows that a valuable player helps make his or her teammates better. In basketball, this is shown by a player's assists and the team's success when he or she is on the court. But what people forget is that it is just as important to make your teammates better when you're not on the court. When you help your teammates improve so they can play better without you on the court with them, that's value. When you contribute to your team's culture, lead by example, and inspire your teammates to work hard and be good teammates, that's value. When you don't do these things, and just care about your own stats, that's not as valuable in my opinion.

So when a player is injured and his team doesn't miss a beat, does this mean that this player isn't valuable? Or does this mean he is valuable because he helped his teammates improve and become less dependent on him?
And when a player changes teams and his old team starts struggling without him, does this mean this player is valuable? Or does this mean he is not valuable because he didn't help his teammates improve? Perhaps his team struggles because they miss the player's leadership, but an even better leader would have helped his teammates become leaders so they could sustain the culture without him.

So when you evaluate a player's value, you have to think critically and think beyond their raw stats. You have to also consider their leadership and the less obvious ways in which they contribute to their team's success, not just in the present moment, but also for the future. When the media debates about who is the MVP, they mainly just see the stats. It is a player's teammates and coaches, who see how they perform, practice, and lead behind the scenes everyday, who truly know the player's value.