LBJ is MVP
By Paul Derek Nixon, Guest Contributor to Page 3
It disgusts me that I have to write this. The fact that everyone in the knowledgeable basketball world doesn’t believe that LeBron James is hands down the MVP of the NBA for the 2008-2009 season is a testament to the times. People don’t watch basketball games anymore, they just look at box scores. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Someone told me once that Kobe is the greatest of all time because he scored 81 points in a game. Someone else told me recently that he thought Lil’ Wayne was the greatest rapper of all time. We have really short memories. More and more we’re becoming an “out of sight, out of mind” society. We eat minute rice because Basmati takes too long to cook and Taco Bell because we don’t have tip a server. We drink soda because it tastes better than water, and we watch Sportscenter because we don’t have time to watch the game. Don’t get me wrong, I love minute rice, Taco Bell, soda, and Sportscenter, but at least I recognize a shortcut when I’m taking one. It is important that we do thorough evaluations of players and their seasons when we’re deciding these end of the year individual awards. That being said, let me explain to you why LeBron James is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player this season.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that different sports writers evaluate their season MVP based on different criteria. Some say it should go to the best player on the best team. The Cleveland Cavaliers have the best record in the NBA and King James is their leader. LBJ is MVP. Others say it should go to the player with the most impressive individual statistics, regardless of the record of his team. LeBron’s season averages are: 28.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 7.2 apg, 49% fg, 34% 3p, 78% ft, 1.7 st, 1.1 bl, and 1.7 pf. The league hasn’t seen numbers this balanced since MJ’s 32 8 and 8 season 20 years ago. If stats are your only criteria, then LBJ is MVP. Some writers think the MVP is the player who makes his team better. Daniel Gibson. JJ Hickson. Anderson Varejao. Delonte West. These players were all nothing before LeBron came along. LBJ is MVP.
Still others think the award belongs to the player that makes the most difference in the quality of his team. This is the tricky part. See, most people would put D-Wade above the King in this category. I concede that without D-Wade and LBJ, respectively, the Heat are a much worse team than the Cavs. However, it is much more difficult to take something good and make it great than it is to take something horrible and make it decent. Do you know who else makes horrible teams decent? Nearly every all-star on an around .500 team does it. Why not vote for any of those guys? I love Dwyane Wade, I really do, but all he does is make a putrid team decent. The Heat are still not a good team with him at his best, they are only decent. Kobe’s team is good with or without him, but LeBron’s team isn’t as good as sans LeBron as Kobe’s team is without their best player. LBJ is MVP. I’ve even read some sports writers’ opinion that the best teammate deserves the MVP. Have you seen a Cleveland game this year? Those guys love each other, and it all starts with the King. As the leader of that team, he holds his team to an extremely high standard of work ethic and performance, but he’s also the loudest cheerleader and the guy having the most fun. In this regard, he’s more Magic than Mike, and it has worked wonders for his team. Wade isn’t a bad teammate per se, but he’s certainly no LeBron. Kobe’s a bad teammate, pure and simple. LBJ is MVP.
Regardless of the method you use to evaluate the MVP, LeBron should be your vote. We can even go to non-basketball related areas to prove this point. How about marketability? Kobe isn’t even in this conversation. D-Wade has done a good job with his hilarious T-Mobile commercials and his reviving of the Converse line, but LeBron is still head and shoulders above him. LBJ has officially crossed over into mainstream, non-sports arenas of entertainment. He has graced the covers of both Vogue and GQ magazines, and despite his umpteen arm tattoos, has the clean-cut image that both KB24 (rape charges) and D-Wade (messy public divorce) lack. LBJ is MVP. He even has a cooler nickname than those other guys! History shows that sports nicknames work best when they fall in line with either a player’s first or last name: “Air” Jordan; “Magic” Johnson; Larry “Legend;” Wilt “The Stilt;” “Penny” Hardaway; Hakeem “The Dream;” Clyde “The Glide.” Heck, commentators (particularly Mark Jackson) even call Daniel Gibson “Boobie” more often than they call him Daniel because it works so well with his last name. I like D-Wade’s nickname (Flash) better than Kobe’s (Black Mamba), but they both pale in comparison to King James. LBJ is MVP.
But let’s put all of these reasons things aside for a minute. The main reason LeBron James is the Most Valuable Player in the NBA this season is because of the historical significance of the season. See, to all you microwave using, box score studying sports “fans,” LeBron’s season this year is a little worse than his season last year. His point, rebound, and assist numbers are all down. But this year, he played nearly 3 minutes less per game and shot a higher percentage in every category while also averaging fewer turnovers. He also played more games, with the only game he missed being the last game of the season, which he missed because his coach wanted to rest him; the team lost the game, by the way. It’s no coincidence that the same year LeBron plays a career high in games, the team set all sorts of franchise records in victories, types of victories, locations of victories, and margins of victory. LeBron had one of the most efficient seasons in the modern history of the league. The league didn’t record turnovers during Oscar Robertson’s triple double season or Wilt’s 50 ppg season (which, by the way, occurred in the same season), so we can’t accurately evaluate those. But since the ’73-74 season, LeBron had the third best season OF ALL TIME. Such a season must be rewarded with the highest individual honor the league bestows. It simply has to. Don’t believe? Check out this article by ESPN’s John Hollinger for irrevocable proof.
So there it is. Wins, stats, team achievements, historical significance, cool nickname, and crossover appeal. LeBron James is the MVP of the NBA, period (space, space).
Note: Our thanks to Paul for taking the time to talk about Lebron. Check out Part II by Terrell McCoy coming soon!