As the author of the bestselling The Book Of Basketball and someone who has made a tradition of quantifying the relative values of NBA stars with his annual "Trade Value" columns, ESPN's Bill Simmons was ready and willing to offer his opinion when offered the opportunity to case a ballot for the NBA's end-of-the-season awards for the first time in his career. The editor-in-chief of Grantland turned the process into a podcast, discussing his picks with friend Joe House and revealing them to his listeners. Like many, Simmons' pick for MVP is LeBron James.
"It feels like a mistake," Simmons said regarding his inclusion in the voting process during that podcast. "I feel like it's a joke or something."
While Simmons' love for basketball is no secret, neither is his love for wagering on sports. Despite the care that he seemingly took to make his picks and the power of the platform with which he shared them, the NBA will not be counting his MVP vote. As Business Insider initially reported, Simmons withdrew his MVP pick due to the conflict of interest arising from a bet he had made several months ago on James winning the MVP Award.
CLICK HERE for more from Business Insider on Simmons' withdrawal of his vote and the reaction from ESPN.
In a response sent to Business Insider and The Big Lead, ESPN issued an explanation:
Bill had never received a ballot before and didn’t find out he had one until two-thirds of the season had passed. By that time he had made multiple MVP bets, two of which he had discussed on podcasts. He ended up withdrawing his MVP vote to avoid the perception of any conflict.
During a podcast after the Super Bowl in February, Simmons and frequent podcast guest Cousin Sal stated that they had a joint wager on LBJ to capture the MVP Award.
With three weeks left in the season, Simmons wrote an MVP column where he named James as the frontrunner. He reiterated his pick in a mail bag a few weeks later.
In his April 3rd MVP column, Simmons attempted to change up the traditional MVP race and make it weighted "depending on the quality of the MVP race and the transcendence of the MVP's season." When it came to this lockout-shortened season, Simmons wrote that James deserves the award in a "piddling" MVP race.
When he reiterated his James pick in the April 20th mail bag, Simmons pointed out the Heat star's transcendent stats but again expressed his view that the race was not inspiring, going only as far as to say that it was "slightly better than the dreaded 'somebody had to win it' MVP season."
Simmons' other award picks as stated in the most recent podcast included James Harden for Sixth Man, Kyrie Irving for Rookie Of The Year and Gregg Popovich for Coach Of The Year. It remains unclear if his votes were counted for those categories or if he had any wagers on those awards.