HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Let’s be clear about one thing, there is no shame in the MVP game of Heat star LeBron James.
He knows that he could very well be on the cusp of joining one of the NBA’s truly elite groups as a three-time winner of the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, becoming just the ninth player in history to win it three times.
James opened up to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com about the potential of joining Hall of Famers like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and Moses Malone in becoming a three-time winner:
“It would mean a lot, honestly, it would mean a lot,” James said. “If I’m able to win it this year it would be very humbling knowing the caliber of guys who have won it three times.”
“I remember me being a little, scrawny guy from Akron, Ohio, and watching so many greats either watching live or watching games, knowing and loving the history of the game and seeing the guys who have paved the way for myself. I’ve always respected that. I’ve always respected the talent that came before me.”
The difference between those players and James, of course, is that all of them had won championships by the time their careers were over. [Chamberlain and Malone both won their third MVP in the year they got their first championship.
But that lack of a title to this point may not affect how the voters who select the MVP view James. In a sampling of veteran NBA journalists and broadcasters who vote, none said historical context would play a role on how they would vote on the award this year.
James’ case is reasonably strong. He’s averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. He’s also posting career highs in shooting, 3-point shooting and rebounding. The Heat are performing at a slightly higher pace than they did last year in terms of winning percentage. And the team is 11-1 when James plays and Dwyane Wade does not.
“LeBron, to me, is the (MVP) favorite every year,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said last week. “If he doesn’t win it, it’s because people are tired of voting for him.”
We just had a robust debate about James, Wade and their complex on-court dynamic and relationship on Episode 75 of the Hang Time Podcast. And James has been at the very top or right near it on the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder all season long. So it should not surprise anyone that he is speaking on the topic now.
What’s unclear right now, though, is how much of the LeBron fatigue Rivers spoke of in play when the ballots are being filled out. Based solely on his regular season performance, James is an almost impossible candidate to knock. He shows well in every category.
But this award is never just about the performance. There are so many other layers since there is no set guidelines the voters are required to consider when casting those votes.
We’ll know soon enough if James gains entry into that elite club of three-time winners. And in a few months we’ll find out if he can add that other piece of hardware they all have as well.