LeBron James never did it. Neither did Magic Johnson nor Larry Bird, nor Wilt Chamberlain nor Bill Russell. Even Michael Jordan never did it.
But on Tuesday, Stephen Curry did. After a record-breaking season, he became the first player in National Basketball Association (NBA) history to be elected Most Valuable Player (MVP) by a unanimous vote.
Curry revolutionised the game this season, pouring in a record-shattering 402 three-point shots while leading the Golden State Warriors to an all-time best 73-9 record.
He heralded his selection by coming back from injury on Monday night with 40 points, including 17 in overtime, in a win against the Portland Trail Blazers.
All 131 voters chose him as the MVP. Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs came second and James of the Cleveland Cavaliers came third, based on second- and third-place votes.
Before Curry, two players – James and Shaquille O’Neal – came within a single vote of the elusive unanimous MVP.
In 2013, his third season in Miami, James led the Miami Heat to a 66-16 record. He got 120 votes, but one voter opted for Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, who had led the league in scoring.
In 2000, O’Neal’s only MVP title came within a whisker of being unanimous. His Los Angeles Lakers were 67-15, and he led the league in scoring. He also took the support of 120 voters, with one opting instead for Allen Iverson.
The only one of Jordan’s five MVPs that was especially close to unanimity came in 1996, when four votes went elsewhere, one each to Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone and two to Anfernee Hardaway.
Last season, when Curry had only 286 three-pointers, he got 100 of 130 votes, with 25 seeing James Harden as more valuable, and five choosing James.
Other sports have varied MVP voting systems, some of which have changed over time, so direct comparisons are a little unfair. Still, 17 baseball players have won unanimous selection, including Bryce Harper last season. Tom Brady was a unanimous pick for The Associated Press’ NFL MVP in 2010.
In 1982, Wayne Gretzky became the National Hockey League’s only unanimous MVP, getting all 63 votes. It is a tougher task now, as more than 150 voters currently cast ballots.
No one has ever unanimously won a Heisman Trophy – the college football equivalent of the MVP award – which has a large number of voters.
In 2014, the highly lauded Marcus Mariota received 788 first-place votes, but wide receiver Amari Cooper of Alabama received 49 and running back Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin 37.
It is possible that some NBA MVP voters have until now been reluctant to anoint any athlete as a unanimous choice for fear of singling out that player as the greatest. It is commonly assumed that when superstars fall short of unanimity for the Baseball Hall of Fame, as Ken Griffey jnr did this year by three votes, it is because some voters, while considering them worthy of the honour, do not want them to be the first ever unanimous choice. (Victor Mather/Sydney Morning Herald)