It’s difficult once, but 2 or 3 times? KBL stars who won the MVP more than two times
The MVP Award is an award given to the player who performed the most valuable activity in a season. From October to March of the following year, he played an active role and led the team to victory, which is not an easy task. This is especially true these days when even small habits are identified and persistently harassed in six meetings. In that respect, the award of SK Kim Seon-hyung, who has won the trophy again after 10 years since his first award in 2013, seems more remarkable.
※This article was published in the May issue of Jump Ball, a professional basketball magazine.
Lee Sang-min_Leading the first KBL dynasty
The 1997-1998 season was the first season with the current round system. Each team played 45 games, and Daejeon Hyundai recorded the highest win rate (68.9%) with 31 wins and 14 losses. It was thanks to the establishment of a strong core that Hyundai, which had not even made it to the playoffs in 1997, just one season ago, the first year of its professional career, was able to change rapidly. Lee Sang-min and Choo Seung-gyun joined to complete the ‘Lee-Jo-Chu’ trio, and foreign player Johnny McDowell showed explosive power beyond expectations and swept the league. Lee Sang-min was the man who made McDowell dance. He gave the opposing team a headache with his combination play based on accurate and exquisite passing. Rebounding (5.0) was one of Lee Sang-min’s greatest strengths. Immediately after the rebound, he directed a quick attack and stabbed it in every corner.
Even the star was huge. He took on the role of raising the decibel level of the professional basketball arena, which was not successful in mobilizing spectators through the IMF. If there had been social media like it is now in those days, it would have produced numerous ‘memes’ from warm-up scenes to assists. Thanks to this combination of individual performance + team performance, Lee Sang-min became the MVP by unanimous vote (37 out of 37 votes) at the awards ceremony. Although the number of valid votes is much smaller than now (109 votes in total for the 2022-2023 season), it will be meaningful that it is the only unanimous vote in KBL history as there were many prominent stars at the time. After that, Hyundai took first place in the regular league for two more seasons. The 1998-1999 season was much more dominant than the previous season, and once again took the lead with a record of 33 wins and 12 losses (73.3%). The combination of McDowell and Jackie Jones was also powerful. It was evaluated that the low post itself was weak because he was not a traditional big man, but Jones’ baseball pass was another factor that added fun to the modern fast break.
Floor leader Lee Sang-min led the league in assists with 7.9. His 14.4 was a career high. The strongest rival in the awards ceremony was Kang Dong-hee of Kia, who closely followed Hyundai for two seasons in a row, but in the voting, he won by a large margin (56-8) and became MVP for two consecutive seasons. Usually, in order to win the MVP for two consecutive seasons, not only the team performance but also the individual performance have to be judged by more demanding standards, but in the case of Lee Sang-min, both records and performances were top-notch. Meanwhile, Hyundai also swept awards that season, including Choo Seung-gyun (defense), McDowell (foreign player), and Shin Seon-woo (director’s award), and Cho Sung-won became the MVP of the championship match. It was at this time that he solidified his nickname, “The Man of the 4th Quarter.”
Seo Jang-hoon_ The most powerful scorer in history,
‘Christmas Big Deal’ was a factor that changed the 1999-2000 season. With the addition of Jo Sang-hyun as Seo Jang-hoon’s partner, the power of each SK position has become more solid. Roderick Hannibal presented a match-up nightmare, and the energy of Hwang Seong-in and Cho Sang-hyun was also formidable. It was thanks to Seo Jang-hoon, a big man, that such a player composition was possible. Seo Jang-hoon was the only player to score 20+ points in 7 consecutive seasons after his debut. He also had a whopping 4 seasons with a 20-point-10 rebound average in point-and-rebound. The 1999-2000 season was one of them. His 24.2 points was second overall (Eric Eberts, 27.7 points in first place), including foreign players, and rebounds (10.0) were also the unrivaled leader among domestic rebounders. The double-double was 7th overall with 25 times, and except for Laguna, there was no other domestic player other than Seo Jang-hoon who recorded ’20 double-doubles in one season’ for more than two seasons. Although SK failed to take first place in the regular league, they threatened Hyundai, the regular league champion, throughout the season. When the season ended, the two teams were only one game apart. For the first three years after starting as a professional, the MVP went to the star of the first team in the regular league, but at this time, it was given to the star of the second team for the first time. Seo Jang-hoon won the first MVP of his professional career with 60 votes (89.6%) out of a total of 67 votes.
After that, it was in 2006, six years later, that he decorated the awards ceremony again. At the awards ceremony for the 2005-2006 season, co-MVP came out for the first time. They were Yang Dong-geun of Hyundai Mobis, the first team in the regular season, and Seo Jang-hoon of Samsung, the second-place team. In the 2005-2006 season, Samsung won 32-22, beating Dongbu by one game and took second place. It was the best performance since Seo Jang-hoon joined Samsung and the only direct pass to the semifinals. This season, Samsung played basketball ahead of the KBL trend. It was a team that had both height and firepower, such as the combination play of ‘2v2 Master’ Kang Hyuk and Olumide Oyedeji, Nate Johnson’s firepower, and Lee Gyu-seop, who had established themselves as a shooter. Seo Jang-hoon also played a big role in getting this color. In fact, the 2005-2006 season was the worst season since his debut if you look at Seo Jang-hoon’s ‘game dominance’. It was also the season in which he failed to average 20 points for the first time and only 5.8 rebounds.
Still, it was hard to deny that Seo Jang-hoon was still a formidable player, but it was because he maximized his strong point, the 3-point shot. Since he is 207cm tall and makes an average of 1.4 3-pointers (38.5%), it was difficult for opponents to block them. In fact, Seo Jang-hoon’s 3-point shot at that time was not only welcomed. It was because of the double standard. The mid-2000s was the time when the working staff and basketball players of the domestic basketball team were just getting acquainted with European professional basketball. They were always amazed at the 210 cm tall 3-point shot and raised their thumbs, but were critical of Seo Jang-hoon’s 3-point shot. The classic standard of ‘the center shouldn’t be like that’ was applied.
However, from Samsung’s point of view,크크크벳 there were Johnson who could attack the rim at any time, and Oyedeji, a double-double machine. Seo Jang-hoon and Lee Kyu-seop were able to utilize the space by making a wide spread. Although his record has decreased, Seo Jang-hoon still ranked first in scoring and second in rebounds among domestic players. This was the background in which he was recognized as a co-MVP despite being the second-ranked team in the league. At the time, Seo Jang-hoon’s expression looked rather complicated. He said, “(Yang) Dong-geun received an award that he deserved alone, so I’m sorry and I think I’ve caused trouble.” Still, he said, “I didn’t expect it because I was only nominated every year and it didn’t work out. He did not hide his joy, saying, “I am glad that he was honored and evaluated my hard work.”
Kim Joo-seong_Writing a new history of defense
From Wonju TG Sambo to DB, Kim Joo-sung’s team has always overwhelmed the opponent with ‘defense’. The drop zone that tied the opponent tightly was the representative weapon, and at the center of it was the absolute presence of Kim Joo-seong, who had the mobility. Since his debut season, he has recorded an average of more than 2 blocked shots, but regardless of how many blocked shots he made, his presence itself, which blocked the opponent’s movement with height and agility, with ‘partner’ Jamil Watkins, made opponents frustrated. A guard who dealt with them at the time said, “I couldn’t see the space in the left and right sides as well as the front.” TG Sambo recorded 70 points conceded for the first time in KBL history (2003-2004 season, 78.6 points), and in the 2011-2012 season, it also achieved (?) 60 points conceded. The lowest scoring game in KBL history is 41 points recorded by KGC, which was achieved on January 11, 2012 in Wonju.
As such, the history of KBL defense has been rewritten since Kim Joo-sung’s debut, and the beginning of the legend was the 2003-2004 season. TG Sambo won 1st place in the regular league with a record of 40 wins and 14 losses, and Kim Joo-seong became the MVP. The vote rate was a whopping 97.4%, with 76 out of 78 votes going to Kim Joo-sung. At the time, it was second in history after Lee Sang-min (unanimous vote) in the 1997-1998 season, and no player has ever recorded a higher vote rate than this. 95.4% of Choi Jun-yong (SK) in the 2021-2022 season is the narrowest record. His 18.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots all remain career highs.
But at this time, there is only one thing left as a blemish. It’s a combined win. TG Sambo met Charles Minlend’s KCC and lost with a 3-4 scoreline, missing the opportunity for a combined championship. The 2007-2008 season was the season that shed that regret. Dongbu went to the top with a record of 38 wins and 16 losses (70.4% win rate). This is the season in which Kim Joo-sung returned to the top of the block shots (2.2) after a long time since the MVP season. There was also no disagreement. The fact that 70 out of 75 votes went to him is also understandable.
Meanwhile, the 2007-2008 season was the last season in which Kim Joo-seong and the Wonju franchise won the championship. Afterwards, Dongbu reached the championship match in 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2018, but failed to win the title. Kim Joo-seong was also nominated for MVP in the 2011-2012 season, when he won the regular league championship with 44 wins, but this time, the title went to his junior teammate Yun Ho-young.
Yang Dong-geun_ The man who was most consistently ‘good’,
Yang Dong-geun, like Kim Joo-sung, went through the course of ‘Rookie Award → MVP’. He made his debut in the 2004-2005 season and became co-MVP with Seo Jang-hoon a year later. At this time, exactly 30 votes came out in the vote, and it is true that Hyundai Mobis has achieved remarkable growth, but there are also evaluations that Yang Dong-geun, who is still in his second year, is less weighty. However, in the 2006-2007 season, a year later, such words did not come out anymore. Yang Dong-geun, who led Hyundai Mobis’ overall victory, stirred the court with 15.7 points, 5.9 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals. His free throws made per game (2.6) along with the points scored were career highs. He worked tirelessly on the ball and water and radiated tremendous energy.
This performance also meant a generational change with the guards of the previous generation of basketball players. Many guards, including Lee Sang-min and Shin Ki-seong, struggled with Yang Dong-geun’s speed and strength. He modestly expressed, “I am a player who has nothing to lose even if I lose to my seniors,” but on the court, he stared at only his seniors with fierce eyes and chased them, making them sweat with breakthroughs and post-ups. In the end, he put Hyundai Mobis in first place for two consecutive years, and he was able to become the second MVP for ‘two consecutive years’ after Lee Sang-min. In the case of the 2006-2007 season, 70 out of 78 valid votes went to Yang Dong-geun (2nd place Joo Hee-jeong/5 votes). I thought about this one day. What if Yang Dong-geun hadn’t enlisted in the military? Wouldn’t Hyundai Mobis’ strength continue a little longer? Didn’t Yang Dong-geun also challenge for the regular league MVP for three consecutive years? In fact, this is an unpredictable problem. Because the foreign player tryout system was revived right after the 2006-2007 season, Chris Williams also had to leave.
It was the 2014-2015 season, eight years later, that Yang Dong-geun stood at the center of the stage again. This period was the ‘era of Yoo Jae-hak and Hyundai Mobis’. He won the championship for three consecutive seasons. However, the honor of MVP came back in the 2014-2015 season, which was the last season of ‘THREE-PEAT’. In the 2012-2013 season, Kim Seon-hyung, who led SK’s first place, and Moon Tae-jong, who led LG’s regular league championship in the 2013-2014 season, took it. In just two seasons, Yang Dong-geun was not mentioned as an MVP candidate, but the existence of Moon Tae-young, who joined the Hyundai Mobis victory march, could not be ignored. However, the 2014-2015 season was different. As Hyundai Mobis took first place in the regular league with 39 wins and 15 losses, the MVP became a ‘fight in the house’. Laguna (then Ricardo Ratliffe) and Yang Dong-geun became candidates. Then, as KBL revived the foreign player MVP, Ratliffe was automatically excluded, and Yang Dong-geun competed with Kim Joo-sung, the second-place team, and had the most KBL career and third individual MVP. He was consistent enough to win the ‘Player of the Month’ award three times in the 2014-2015 season alone, including winning the ‘Player of the Month’ award in November, December, and February.
As mentioned earlier, in order to be MVP for the second year in a row, you have to show something that is definitely better than the previous season. Yang Dong-geun was like that in the 2015-2016 season. After running fiercely until the last day of the season, Hyundai Mobis recorded the highest win rate in the regular league with 36 wins and 18 losses. However, he missed the regular league championship as he lost 2 wins and 4 losses in the match against KCC. Although the final ranking was second, the reason Yang Dong-geun was nominated for MVP was clear. First of all, with the departure of Moon Tae-young and La Gun-ah, who had three consecutive losses, the objective power was weakened. The strength of foreign players was Ira Clark and Cuthbert Victor, and compared to the days when Laguna was guarding, the weight was less. Nevertheless, it was thanks to Yang Dong-geun’s performance that he recorded the highest win rate in the regular league. Yang Dong-geun performed better than the previous season, ranking first in assists. However, the MVP voting was as fierce as in the 2005-2006 season, with only 49.5% of the vote. By only one vote, he overtook Jeon Tae-pung, who was the MVP contender, and became the MVP. I still remember the words of a KBL employee at the time, “I checked and calculated several times to see if this was correct.”
Now, Kim Seon-hyung is the only player with the record of winning two MVP awards among active players. For the time being, it will be difficult for a player to surpass Yang Dong-geun’s stronghold. He should think about how he built that stronghold. The media with the right to vote demanded a higher standard, and Yang Dong-geun met that standard by fulfilling his role as a leader and ace even in worse circumstances.
Kim Seon-hyeong_ Received the MVP trophy after 10 years
Yang Dong-geun waited for 8 seasons until 2015 after receiving the award in 2007. This season, Kim Seon-hyung became MVP again after 10 years longer than that. First award since the 2012-2013 season. In the 2012-2013 season, Kim Seon-hyung was the next-generation prospect to succeed the lineage of professional basketball stars. He was a solver who enjoyed clutch time and a performer who presented dynamic showtime. Together with Aaron Haynes, he led SK to the regular league championship and became the undisputed MVP.
After that, Kim Sun-hyung’s days rode a roller coaster with the team, but above all, the unfortunate injury that befell him in the 2017-2018 season was fatal. After the opening two games, he suffered a serious injury called a ruptured right ankle and underwent surgery. Fortunately, he returned in March and helped win the championship match, but the performance he felt himself was not very satisfactory. Kim Seon-hyung recovered his athletic ability after his hard work, polished his skills, and regained his skills. The 49 points against KT in January 2019 was the same as the starting point. In the off-season of 2020, when everything was stopped due to Corona 19, Kim Seon-hyung, who met me, was proud that he was recovering the condition of the days when he was ‘fluttering’, saying, “I don’t feel burdened with dunking now.”
However, looking at him in the 2022-2023 season, it seems that he is not ‘recovering’, but rather showing much better skills than when he was in his 20s. This is because they are putting opponents in trouble in various ways, such as euro steps, floaters, scoop shots, and 3-point shots. In particular, Ahn Young-Jun, who was the main champion of the previous season, enlisted in the military, and even MVP Choi Jun-Yong was unable to play due to injury, leading SK to 17 wins and 2 losses in the last 19 games. The number of points he scored after February 1st was 18.4 points, second in the domestic player (Lee Dae-seong, 18.5 points), and the assists were overwhelmingly 1st with 8.1. At the age of 35, he digested more than 34 minutes on average. On average, 2-3 minutes longer than players in their 20s such as Yang Hong-seok, Lee Jung-hyun, Ha Yoon-gi, and Byun Jun-hyung.
Such an overwhelming performance made him MVP of the season even though his team, SK, did not advance directly to the semifinals. On this MVP trophy, Kim Seon-hyeong said, “It seems to be a heavy MVP with joy, anger, and sorrow. That’s why I was more touched.” One day, Cho Seong-min said of MVP as ‘a precious opportunity that may come again in life’. This is because it is possible only when various factors such as maintaining team performance and performance in a rapidly changing league environment and receiving recognition from the media and fans are aligned. In that respect, the cases of Lee Sang-min, Seo Jang-hoon, Kim Joo-seong, Yang Dong-geun, and Kim Seon-hyeong, who stood on the podium several times with constant self-management, mentality and pride to become better, will serve as good examples.