At this stage of LeBron James’ career, winning the MVP title is not just about making a statement in the present. It’s about making history.
With another trophy, James comes after Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as MVP for the regular season (five) and is behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most MVPs in NBA history.
Speaking of Abdul-Jabbar and records, LeBron James joined Lakers legend Carl Malone in Thursday’s 35,000-point loss against the Brooklyn Nets in Los Angeles. In yet more star-studded seasons, James can solemnly overtake the all-time top scorer list. He probably won’t overtake Abdul-Jabbar as MVP, but another Maurice Podolov will certainly mean more to the King.
No one could stop LeBron James 😤 pic.twitter.com/jIUQOIm8QT
– LakeShow (@LakeShowCP) February 20, 2021
James took another step forward, but the Lakers failed the Nets for their first real test without Anthony Davis. Saturday night, the Lakers will be without Bam Adebayo (and Jimmy Butler) when they host the Miami Heat (12-17) in the revenge of the 2020 Finals.
If your glass is half full, you can bet that Davis’ latest “calf race” has a few good points.
On the one hand, it gives Mr. Davis at least four more weeks of rest. The All-Star has had to contend with several bumps and bruises this season, which Frank Vogel attributes in part to a shortened offseason.
Davis’ absence will also provide the Lakers with a deep and versatile rotation that could prove useful for the postseason.
“All these guys who will spend some time here will have more opportunities, have a better rhythm than they might not have had if we were at full strength,” Vogel said.
Finally, Davis’ injury undoubtedly reinforces LeBron James’ story as MVP.
You don’t have to read too much between the lines to know that the 36-year-old is looking for his fifth MVP title in his 18th season. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, James has publicly expressed his frustration with the MVP outcome several times during his career, including in 2016 (when Steph Curry won) and 2018 (when James Harden won).
Last season, after Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo won his second consecutive MVP title, James admitted he was “pissed off” about not getting first place.
Remarkably and surprisingly, James has played every game this season – and played them all like someone who is intentionally campaigning.
Even before the fall of Davis, LeBron James had taken control of the MVP narrative, existing largely through media and discourse. Earlier this month, James easily won first place in ESPN’s poll, which gathered excellent voters, and that feeling is still palpable.
In a recent episode of the Lowe Post podcast, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said that despite the fact that James is behind Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid in statistics, King is still in pole position for the award.
Last season James’ teammates openly defended him, but it is very likely that the presence of another superstar (Davis) has weakened his case.
The Lakers, the fans and, apparently, the entire sports media apparatus want to talk about the awards beforehand. So far, the discussion has been mostly about the MVP 2020 finals.
It’s understandable to hold the King to a story. While “voter fatigue” deprived LeBron James of several MVPs during his glory days, after an eight-year hiatus, voters need to be fresh again and vote for the best player in the game. Moreover, his performance on the bubble and his continued “greatness” have reminded the basketball world overnight that he is the best player on the best team, period.
“He’s doing everything he’s ever done,” Davis told reporters Tuesday. “He’s got a near triple-double average, he’s playing incredible basketball. I’m talking about something you haven’t heard about, but since the beginning of the season and so far, he’s shown why he’s in the race for the MVP title, and I think he’s number one in that race. He consistently plays at a high level for our group”.
James led the Lakers to a 22-8 record, three games behind Utah Jazz in the losing column. He averaged 25.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game and was generally involved on defense. He shot 37.2 percent from the three-point line, or 9.3 (!) attempts per game, a career record. Vogel blames him for opening up the team’s offense and helping the Lakers beat teams “from above.”
LeBron with the Cavs logo 👌🏽pic.twitter.com/WfuCgQgoKS
– ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) January 26, 2021
James’ value was especially evident during the tough times, which also allowed him to capitalize on the initial momentum of the MVP race. According to Lowe, LeBron James shoots 24-of-49 from the field in times of crisis (the last five minutes of this year’s close games), and the Lakers have a record of 10-3 and an elite +52.
This is getting ridiculous… pic.twitter.com/TThEJLFqIu
– Michael corvo (@_michaelcorvo_) January 26, 2021
More importantly, his leadership skills helped the Lakers through an extremely difficult season, and the example he set by not (openly) dealing with his workload after a championship game worked on the rest of the team.
“So he’ll probably be the MVP this year, carrying the offensive load and defending the quarterfinals – No. 1 in the championship – and taking on those tough assignments and making some long-range plays,” Vogel said on Thursday. He’s playing very well.
With Davis set to miss much of the season – and playmaker Dennis Schroder likely to miss some games due to health and safety protocols – James has a golden opportunity to further solidify his record with a series of showdowns on national television. For now, the Lakers are 4-2 without Davis, but 0-1 against good teams. There are five wins against lottery teams.
After the Heat game and a favorable match against the Washington Wizards, they will travel to Utah and then play at home against the Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns. They take on the Kings of Sacramento on March 3. Given the competition, it’s probably not surprising that five of those seven games will be nationally televised (six if you count the Wizards’ broadcast on NBATV), which should keep LeBron in the spotlight for the all-star game.
If LeBron James can continue to perform triple doubles and late heroics and the Lakers finish the first half with vigor, his hold on history will only grow tighter. If Davis returns, James could have the MVP award and focus on more important material, another Larry O’Brien trophy.
Frequently asked questions
Can LeBron win another MVP?
Only three players in NBA history have won three consecutive MVP Awards. Even Michael Jordan and LeBron James have never done that.
How many mvps does LBJ do?
He won four NBA championships, four NBA MVP awards, four MVP finals and two Olympic gold medals.
How did LeBron make history?
The LeBron James Lakers have become the number one team in NBA history According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, James’ 13 assists helped him surpass 9,000 in his career, making him the only player in NBA history with 30,000 points, 9,000 rebounds and 9,000 assists.
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