Word has come out today that should surprise very few NBA fans, LeBron James will win the 2012-13 NBA MVP Award. LeBron James, as absurd as it sounds, has continued the development of his game and taken it to yet another level this year. James remains a force driving to the basket but now is showing the shot selection from the outside and the skills in the low post to make him nearly unstoppable. This year James is averaging 26.8 ppg, 8.0 rpb and 7.3 apg while shooting career highs in both field goal and three point field goal percentage. He has increased his shooting percentage in every season but one (a .04 drop between the 2005-06 and 2006-07 season. This year LeBron James has become linked with the word efficient. You can hardly read any story on him without “efficient” being used. Now I could go on and on about his numbers and his dominance but I would like to talk more about him as a whole.
This will be James’ fourth MVP award in his career joining Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. It is also his fourth in five years, with the 2010-11 season being the only thing preventing him from a historic five-peat. And that is where we will begin this discussion of King James. That 2010-11 I will argue should have also resulted in an MVP award for James. I said it back then, so this is not revisionist history.
James should have won over Derrick Rose. James’ numbers were better; 26.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7.0 apg, 1.6 spg with a 51% shooting percentage and .244 win share percentage compared to Rose at 25.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 7.7 apg, 1.0 spg with a 44% shooting percentage and .208 win shares. People will say well LeBron also had Dwyane Wade to play with so Rose meant more to his team. Well one of the sabermetric peoples favorite stats, points per 100 possessions; the Bulls production dropped only 2.44 points per 100 possessions while the Heat’s dropped 10.32 points. So why did James not win the MVP Award? The media.
Remember that the 2010-11 season was the first year for LeBron and the Heat. They were still suffering the backlash from fans and from the media. The media loves to dictate and tell fans what is going on, what the important stories are. The media heaped criticism on James for “The Decision”. Let’s not forget that the media helped create this problem. They covered James since he was a high schooler. They propped him up as the “Chosen One”. They televised his announcement. It was not just James and his people’s idea. But as is the case in the media they love to build up and tear down. Combine this with the fact that the media loves to cherish “the good old days”. Some members in the media actually felt that James should not win his third MVP in a row because only Larry Bird had accomplished that feat and James was not up to Bird’s legacy yet. The media had a new darling in Derrick Rose and crowned him the MVP, robbing James.
What I want to talk about is not just about James’ continuing and developing game, his dominance over his peers, the elite historical company he is joining. I want to focus on the path of James in the media. Last season after winning his first NBA title many people talked about the remarkable year James had put together, winning an NBA MVP, Playoff MVP, NBA Title and Olympic Gold Medal. I think one thing was overlooked. His re-birth in the media and his aura.
James went from a choke-artist, cocky player who everyone hated back into the most revered player in the game. One series in June 2012 changed the perception of him. That is the power of the media. James came into the league as a phenom, he was a fan favorite in Cleveland. He was a scoring machine, leading a horrid Cavs team to the NBA finals against an experienced and hard working San Antonio Spurs team. James took heat for not winning the title then. Look at that roster he played with and tell me that just getting there wasn’t an impressive feat. Then came his choice to chase a title and join his friends in Miami. He took less money to go after something every player wants, a championship. How is that wrong? Well the media would have you think that lessened him. He redefined his game. No longer caring about what people said about scoring. Still critics bashed him when the Heat failed in their first year falling to a red hot Mavericks team.
James had gone from the phenom kid and fan favorite to most hated. Yet in 2012 he and the Heat won the NBA Title. The media changes their tune and now everything is good. I think this is what makes James’ accomplishments even more remarkable. He has had to fight scrutiny all of his life. The jealous people, the nay-sayers, the media’s yo-yo feelings. James had to learn who he was as an NBA player, not a scoring title chaser but a true playmaker at both ends of the court (although he could likely capture a scoring title any season he wanted). Through all of this he has joined the NBA’s all-time elite. James is still just 28 years-old, the youngest of any of the aforementioned Hall of Famers with four MVP’s. He is chasing, and appears undoubtedly headed towards, a back to back NBA title.
For the most part the criticism of James has subdued since winning the title. But people still want to compare him and Jordan. I hope that the media and fans can simply put those comparisons aside for now and enjoy what LeBron James is doing. He has re-invented how to play the game; so much so no other player may ever be able to accomplish his feats. He dominates on both ends of the floor. He can score inside, on the fast break, driving to the hole and now outside and he does it with efficiency. Enjoy LeBron James for what he is, a once in a generation player just like Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson before him. The only thing is….James takes the best of all three of those players and has incorporated it into his game. LeBron James….long live The King!!