Individual Tournament Incentives in a Team Setting: The 2008-09 NBA MVP Race, pp. 208-221

Andrew W. Nutting

The 2008-09 NBA Most Valuable Player race is modeled as a tournament between LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade. Estimations show that James and Bryant significantly increased their scoring in response to Wade scoring more points in his most recent game, and that James also increased his scoring in response to Bryant scoring more points in his most recent game. All significant increases in scoring in response to an MVP competitor’s play were correlated with more free throws taken, suggesting the competitors responded to another competitor’s improved performance with more aggressive offense. Evidence suggesting that individual tournament incentives increased MVP competitor’s team winning probability seems stronger than evidence suggesting it decreased win probability.