Kevin Garnett recently won the MVP award in the NBA after a stellar and very consistent season. He was awarded the trophy in a ceremony before last night’s playoff game, and then had a subpar performance. I recall this same pattern holding in the past when other players receive the award before games. The example of David Robinson comes to mind; he received the trophy and was promptly outplayed by Hakeem Olajuwon. I suspect the lesson is that approbational incentives always matter at the margin, and an MVP trophy makes it harder to motivate oneself for the single basketball game to follow the trophy award. A lesson for life lies therein. If nothing else, try to isolate your awards, triumphs, and conquests from your subsequent performance.
Addendum: Here is another quantitative method of measuring the marginal product of basketball players, the best I have seen yet. Kevin Garnett comes out as number one.