The Most Valuable Player award is perhaps the most prestigious honor in team sports. While the ultimate goal is to win a championship as a team, individual players can distinguish themselves with a high level of play throughout a season, thrilling fans and etching their names into sports history.
There is rarely consensus about who should be named MVP. There are often seasons in which multiple players put up great stats and help their team make it into the playoffs. In other seasons, one player sets himself apart, posting record-breaking statistics and giving voters no choice but to name him MVP.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed historical MVP records, as compiled by the Sports Reference family of sites, to determine the MVP in each of the major American sports leagues by year. The list begins in 1946, the first year many players, like Ted Williams, returned from their World War II military service.
There was no NHL MVP in 2005 because the league was in a lockout. The NFL has twice awarded a joint MVP — to Brett Favre and Barry Sanders in 1997 and to Peyton Manning and Steve McNair in 2003. The NHL’s Joe Thornton was traded from the Boston Bruins to the San Jose Sharks in the midst of his 2005-2006 MVP campaign, the only player ever to be traded during an MVP season.
Certain teams, for whatever reason, have had many more of their players win the MVP award. There have been 22 seasons in which a New York Yankee was named AL MVP, the most of any team by far. Successful organizations excel at finding great talent and developing it, and this leads to championships, MVPs, and a large number of Hall of Fame inductees.
Baseball was the first sport with an MVP award. In 1911, a Detroit car company awarded a car to the player in each league with the highest batting average. The award led to suspect scoring decisions and other controversies and was discontinued in 1915. In 1931, the Baseball Writers Association of America began deciding the AL and NL MVP, a format still used to this day. Associations of sportswriters and media members now determine the MVP of each of the four major American sports leagues.