Jayson Tatum: James Harden Was Robbed of 2018-19 MVP

Michael Shapiro

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum appears to have taken a side in the simmering rivalry between James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Tatum discussed the 2018-19 MVP race in an Instagram Live video on Tuesday, claiming Harden should have won MVP over the Bucks' forward. 

"James Harden should have won MVP last year," Tatum said. "He definitely should have won back-to-back MVPs."

Antetokounmpo won his first MVP in June 2019 as he received 78 of 101 first-place votes. He is likely to win the award again in 2019-20 as he looks to fend off LeBron James. 

Harden is accustomed to second-place finishes in the MVP voting. He finished second behind Antetokounmpo last season, and he placed second behind now-teammate Russell Westbrook in 2016-17. Harden also nearly snagged the MVP in 2014-15, but he finished second behind Steph Curry. Houston's shooting guard could secure his sixth top-five MVP finish in 2019-20. 

There has been a minor rivalry brewing between Harden and  Antetokounmpo over the last year. Antetokounmpo said his team targeted James Harden defensively in the 2020 All-Star Game, and Harden fired back at Antetokounmpo two weeks later. 

"I wish I could just run and be 7 feet and just dunk. Like that takes no skill at all," Harden told ESPN's Rachel Nichols. "I gotta actually learn how to play basketball, how to have skill. I take that any day."

Harden and Antetokounmpo are in the midst of All-NBA seasons, though Tatum could enter the MVP conversation sooner than later. The third-year forward is averaging a career-high 23.6 points per game this season, shooting 39.8% from three.