Most valuable player
In team sports, a most valuable player award, abbreviated 'MVP award', is an honor typically bestowed upon an individual (or individuals, in the instance of a tie) whose individual performance is the greatest in an entire league, for a particular competition, or on a specific team. The purpose of the award is recognize the contribution of the individual's efforts amongst a group effort, and to highlight the excellence, exemplariness, and/or outstandingness of a player's performance amidst the performance of their peers in question.
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The term can have different connotations depending on the context in which it is used. A 'League MVP' is the most valuable player in an entire league, and refers to the player whose performance is most excellent in the league. Similarly, a "Team MVP" is the most valuable player on a team, referring to the player whose team contribution is greatest amongst their teammates. In many sports, MVP awards are presented for a specific match—in other words, a player of the match award. This is particularly true for high profile matches like championship games. For example, during a finals championship series, a 'Finals MVP' award would be bestowed upon the most valuable player in the finals game(s).
Ice hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, has been named MVP more times than any player in the history of the other three North American major professional leagues (MLB, NBA, and NFL). He won the award a record nine times during his career, eight consecutively. Barry Bonds is second, having won the MVP award seven times in the National League of Major League Baseball (The American League also awards an MVP), although until the 1930s baseball players were only permitted to win the award one time which limited the number of times Babe Ruth could win. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the NBA MVP award six times, and Michael Jordan won the award five times. Peyton Manning won the NFL MVP five times. Only five players have won as many as three: Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers.
An important distinction is that the MVP is not be conflated with the most winningest player. Although the two are usually somewhat correlated, there are several (albeit rare) prime counterexamples. For instance, in professional basketball, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar won the 1975–76 MVP award even though his team did not qualify for the postseason. Additionally, several other NBA players in history have been awarded MVP, and proceeded to lose in the first round of the postseason. In another instance in professional basketball, Jerry West was awarded the 1969 NBA Finals MVP Award, despite having lost the finals. In the sport of professional football, Johnny Unitas won the 1967 MVP award, despite not qualifying for the playoffs. Likewise, O.J. Simpson won the 1973 MVP award, despite not qualifying for the playoffs. Similar to Jerry West in basketball, Chuck Howley in football won the 1971 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award despite having lost the Super Bowl V. In 1960, Bobby Richardson won the World Series MVP Award, but lost the World Series. In ice hockey, three players, Al Rollins in 1954, Andy Bathgate in 1959 and Mario Lemieux in 1988 each won an NHL MVP award, but did not make the playoffs. Also, Reggie Leach won the 1976 NHL Finals MVP award while breaking the league record for most playoff goals, but lost the finals. In baseball history, several MVPs have not made the playoffs, and in 2021, all six MLB MVP finalists did not make the playoffs.
The term is most common in the United States and Canada. In most other countries around the world, "player of the year" is used for a season-spanning award and "player of the match" for individual games. In Australia, Australian rules football clubs and leagues use the term "best and fairest", while those playing rugby league use "player of the year", such as the Dally M Medal.