LeBron James didn’t play nice and didn’t mince words when the subject of the 2019/20 NBA Regular season MVP came up, he let loose with both barrels:
“Pissed me off. That’s my true answer. It pissed me off, because out of 101 votes, I got 16 first-place votes. That’s what pissed me off more than anything. You know, not saying that the winner wasn’t deserving of the MVP. But that pissed me off. And I finished second a lot in my career, either from a championship, and now four times as an MVP.”
And LeBron James, the greatest player of his generation and arguably the greatest player of all time, has hundreds of reasons to be angry; and all have to do with what he sees as a lack of respect from the same people that fawn over him as he breaks one record after the other.
Imagine this: LeBron has won four Regular Season Most Valuable Player titles – he was back-to-back winner in 2009 and 2010, skipped 2011, and again snagged the award two straight seasons in 2012 and 2013. The MVP awards dried out after that and the ridiculousness started.
The next three times he will come up short in the MVP voting at the final hurdle, his name had appeared only to just serve as prop up to the eventual winner: in 2018, James Harden finished in top spot with LeBron second, 16-time All-Star and 16-time All-NBA finished 227 points behind James Harden. In 2005-06, the gap was wider; he ended up 236 points behind Steve Nash…and it got even bigger in 2013-14, when he was 341 points behind Kevin Durant. In fact, the 209 points that separated him and Giannis Antetokounmpo was the closest he had been when finishing in second spot.
But even that offers little comfort for the three-time NBA Finals MVP. Because this time, it was supposed to be different; the race was supposed to be even closer than the (just) 16 first place votes and 209 points suggested.
King James, at 35 years old had led the Lakers to the Number One spot in a tough Western Conference, and had led the League in Assists for the first time in his career. Also for the first time in his career, he averaged double digits in another category apart from scoring, ensuring that he finished the season with a double-double average in two categories for the first time ever. The 67 games he played and the 34.6 minutes per game he logged, were more than the total of The Milwaukee Bucks superstar.
Antetokounmpo, whose vow to ‘become the best player in the NBA’ caused knowledgeable people to snicker when it was made, had a monstrous season. In the 2018/19 season when he won his first MVP award, he became only the third man in the history of the league, as per Basketball-reference.com, to average at least 25 PPG, 10 RPG, 5 APG, 1 BPG and 1 SPG in a season. The last person to achieve it was Larry Bird in the 1984/85 season, the first person to do it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1975/76 season; Giannis bettered his averages of last season in points and rebounds.
Then, the Greco-Nigerian added the flavor of joining Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in NBA history to annex the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honours the same season. Another LeBron beef.
In 2013, the last year he was named MVP. He was second in the DPoY voting, that award was won by Marc Gasol, who ended up in the Second Team NBA All-Defensive, LeBron made the first team. Maybe that wasn’t strange: the previous year (2012) Tyson Chandler was DPoY while Serge Ibaka finished second; Ibaka also made first team NBA All-Defensive while Ibaka was named in first team. Those were two of only four times in NBA history it happened.
The question is; is LeBron James worth more than the 16 first place votes he received, as against the 85 snagged by Antetokounmpo? The answer is yes. James already admitted he is not as upset with the quality of the man named winner as the disparity in the votes; that a man whose legend and Hall of Fame status is confirmed, and who contributed so heavily to the progress of his team should get so little consideration is baffling.
But that may also be the voters tipping their hats to greatness; the voters are so used to what he does day in day out, that when he does them, they are ‘normal’ but look extra-ordinary when someone else does it.
So, LeBron loses the chance to annex another Regular Season MVP award, but maybe a bigger prize, and another MVP may be just over the horizon.