Bay Area sports fans have been blessed with an abundance of MVPs in their own backyard.
Since the Giants moved to San Francisco from New York, a member of the team has won the MVP award 10 separate times. The A’s haven’t been as individually dominant, but they’ve won four MVP awards during their tenure in Oakland.
The 49ers have accounted for five MVP awards, while the Raiders have two to their name — not including the one Marcus Allen won while in Los Angeles. The Warriors have two, while the Kings are still looking for their first. Both San Jose teams — the Sharks and the Earthquakes — each have one.
Yep, there has been no shortage of historic individual performances on Bay Area teams. Several of them currently exist as one of the standard-bearers in their respective sports. But, it begs the question: Which individual Bay Area MVP stands above the rest? How would one even decide?
Well, allow me to take a shot at it.
NBC Sports Bay Area compiled eight former Bay Area MVPs in a tweet Saturday, asking fans to choose their favorite in a “March Madness”-esque bracket. Some head-to-head battles were easier to decide than others, and arriving at an overall winner was like splitting hairs.
Who’s your pick? 👀 pic.twitter.com/hANNkaw79o
— NBCSAuthentic (@NBCSAuthentic) March 28, 2020
For the first round, let’s start in the top right corner and work clockwise.
Curry vs. Wondo:
Apologies to Mr. Wondolowski, but this was the easiest choice of them all. The MLS’ all-time leader in goals scored brought home the only MVP award in Earthquakes franchise history back in 2012 when he scored 27 goals across 32 matches in leading San Jose to the championship.
Those are fantastic, MVP numbers. But they’re not worthy of being unanimous.
There has been only one unanimous MVP throughout the history of the NBA, and his name is Steph Curry. He won it in 2015-16 after producing arguably the most impressive season by a guard in the history of the league — which one-upped the MVP award he won the prior season.
Wondo will go down as one of the best scorers in MLS history. Curry literally changed the way the game is played, and did something no other MVP ever had.
Bonds vs. Thornton:
One guy was ridiculously left off the league’s list of the top 100 players in the sport. The other is the most prolific power hitter in the history of baseball, and yet still somehow undeserving of the Hall of Fame. Baloney.
Joe Thornton has been overlooked and underappreciated throughout much of his career, but that was impossible to do when the Sharks acquired him in a trade with the Boston Bruins during the 2005-06 season. His sheer talent lifted the entire team as soon as he arrived, as Thornton led San Jose to the playoffs and was named the league’s MVP after totaling a career-high 96 assists and 125 points.
While Thornton absolutely deserved to be named MVP that season, it remains the only one he has ever won. Barry Bonds, meanwhile, won five with the Giants — in addition to the two he won with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Mays vs. Young:
This one’s tough.
Steve Young won two MVP awards in a span of three years, and might have won more had he not been stuck behind Joe Montana (we’ll get to him in a moment) for the first part of his career. His mobility and passing accuracy were a deadly combination, particularly with the greatest player in NFL history, Jerry Rice, on the other end of many of his passes.
Young is one of the greatest players in 49ers history. But he’s not on the shortlist of the best ever to play his sport.
The same can’t be said for Willie Mays. A prototype for the modern five-tool player, there wasn’t any weakness in his game. In addition to being a two-time MVP (although only one came in San Francisco), Mays was a 24-time All-Star and 12-time Gold Glove winner. His legendary over-the-head catch at the Polo Grounds remains one of the greatest individual plays in the history of baseball.
Mays advances, though Young got unlucky with the bracket.
Montana vs. Henderson:
Rickey Henderson won the MVP in 1990, and was liable to steal any others that were left hanging around. Despite retiring following the 2003 season, Henderson’s 1,406 career stolen bases are still 468 more than his closest competitor. But he wasn’t all speed, clearly. The season he won the MVP, he tied a career-high with 28 home runs. He literally led the A’s to the World Series that season, where they fell short and were eventually swept by the Cincinnati Reds.
Joe Montana was named the NFL’s MVP in back-to-back seasons in 1989 and 1990, both of which culminated in the 49ers winning the Super Bowl. For that reason, Joe Cool advances.
The Final Four
Curry vs. Bonds
Holy moly. This one is impossible.
Both Curry and Bonds revolutionized their respective sports. During their MVP seasons, both struck more fear into the hearts of their opponents than any other player in the league. Bonds made splash hits into McCovey Cove a thing. Curry literally splashed his way into the NBA record books. In terms of sheer talent and prominence, I’d argue both Curry and Bonds belong on the Bay Area’s Mount Rushmore.
Despite his best efforts, Bonds was never able to push the Giants over the top. He came very close, but that damn rally monkey …
Not only did the Warriors win a championship in one of Curry’s MVP seasons, but he will forever be the poster child for ushering in a completely new — and successful — era of Golden State basketball.
Curry advances to the finals.
Montana vs. Mays
Legend versus legend. San Francisco icon against San Francisco icon. Talk about a toss-up.
From an individual statistic standpoint, Mays might be the pick. But he never won a World Series in San Francisco. In fact, when he won the MVP in 1968, the rival Dodgers won it all. Yuck.
Winning is fun, and it matters — and Montana did a lot of it. Those Lombardi trophies talk.
Montana to the finals.
Curry vs. Montana
Like I said, splitting hairs. When you get this far down the line and are forced to choose between such legendary players, there’s no wrong answer.
And yet …
Montana left the 49ers. Granted, it wasn’t entirely his choice, but he finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, and that left a sour taste in many fans’ mouths.
Curry is the Warriors’ homegrown savior. He personifies the franchise’s transition from laughingstock to perennial contender, and breathed basketball life into a region that had been subsisting off life support for oh so long. While nothing is written in stone, here’s betting that Curry remains a Warrior for life.
That shouldn’t be the deciding factor in this bracket, but with so many great Bay Area MVPs to choose from, you’ve got to draw the line somehow.
Favorite Bay Area MVP: Steph Curry
Which is your favorite? Make your voice heard, and respond on Twitter.