Every NBA season is filled with thrills, drama, and incredible performances from some of the greatest athletes in the world. So why does the discussion around the sport so often get reduced to just a few water cooler discussion points?
This year, it seems as though every single game is a pendulum swing for an MVP Award that won’t be handed out for months with about two-thirds of the season still to go. Here comes LeBron James with another clutch performance for the title favorites to take the MVP lead. Now here’s Joel Embiid, playing the best basketball of his career and launching the 76ers into title contention. But Nikola Jokic is nearly averaging a triple-double. Is Stephen Curry entering the conversation? What about Kevin Durant? Luka Doncic, Rudy Gobert, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard?
I’ve found myself becoming more and more frustrated by these discussions happening often on social media and being driven by sports debate shows and your favorite podcasts. It’s especially irksome when it pertains to James.
Here is arguably the greatest player of all time, in year 18, at 36 years old still doing incredible things on a nightly basis. He hasn’t missed a game, leading the Lakers to a 20-6 record. He’s added a devastating 3-point shot to become even more impossible to guard. I don’t say this to make an MVP case for the King. I say it to show how ridiculous it is to boil down these accomplishments into an award race that simply cannot exist so early in a season.
And look, I get it. Awards talk drives the basketball conversation. Talking about the defensive player of the year award can help more casual fans realize how dominant Myles Turner was for the Indiana Pacers before he got injured. Jerami Grant’s most improved player campaign gives you some insight into a Detroit Pistons team that is overshadowed and overlooked. And LaMelo Ball seems to be running away as the rookie of the year in Charlotte, although the Kings’ Tyrese Haliburton might have something to say about that.
But there’s so much more to enjoy about LeBron – and the other players in the running – than an MVP that frankly, even he seems to be gunning for. We can talk about James’ improvements and remarkable play as well as whether the Lakers should be concerned about all these close games without already blaming “politics” for LeBron not winning the award. Embiid and Jokic’s dominance as the two best true centers in the league is a huge story without cries of a “narrative” pushing LeBron to his first MVP since 2013.
This is just an extension of an issue plaguing the NBA alongside the hand-wringing about its ratings. When the focus is on the narratives, the drama, and the premature debates, there’s no one talking about the actual product on the floor, the basketball that we all presumably fell in love with.
In regards to LeBron, it is also a lack of appreciation for a sports icon that may be leaving the game in a matter of just a few years. Wouldn’t you regret spending the final chapter of his career either whining about him winning an award or not winning an award (months before it happens!) instead of just enjoying what he has left to the game?
I am a Lakers and LeBron fan. I want him to win MVP. I believe he is deserving of it at this point in the season. But more than that, I’m just enjoying the show he’s putting on almost every game. I suggest that everyone does the same.