LeBron James has no one but himself to blame when it comes to the shortcomings of accolades. Why? He wins everything else too damn much. He’s been the most decorated player in the NBA over the last 10 years. LeBron’s got a gold medal, four NBA rings, and final MVPs. But he’s missing quite a few regular-season MVPs from the trophy case. This season, it’s looking like another empty spot on the mantle.
“It’s About Damn Time!”
LeBron took “pre-agency” to another level. The dream of fielding a team of complementary teammates and friends was something he achieved. In setting a new standard, it gave way to the wave of moves we see today. Kevin Durant shifted the league landscape and joined the Golden State Warriors. Paul George managed to leave the Indiana Pacers for the Oklahoma City Thunder. James Harden took the train to the Brooklyn Nets. All moves imprinted with James’ DNA. One of the moves, Durant, proved to be a deterrent in his pursuit for a title. But the game is the game, right?
Most Valuable or Most Outstanding?
My two cents on the MVP has always been in the name of the award itself. I get stuck on the term “most valuable”. I tend to tie the value of a player beyond their numeric contributions. I also think about their regular season performance streamlining into the playoffs. But largely, the MVP is an award that is one part each narrative, historical feat, and team success. In some cases, individual performance may hold more weight than team wins. This was the case of Russell Westbrook’s run. Other cases get wrapped in fatigue, which I will get into later in this piece.
Two things work against LeBron: responsibilities and the masterpiece he wants to put together when it all counts. When you talk about the Lakers being an elite squad, that’s him as the backbone. It’s always been him on every one of his most successful teams. His efforts create somewhat of an afterthought. We see him do his usual numbers with some big nights sprinkled in, but our minds know LeBron lives for the playoffs. He lives to make the ring run. That’s when you’re going to get the historic performances as he continues to age.
So let’s talk about his age — the infamous Year 18 that’s always quoted. This is the narrative. LeBron is the OG now. He’s Woody in Toy Story. No longer is he the fresh new shiny thing that’s getting the attention it deserves. Yet and still, he gives you a reminder on a nightly basis that he’s better than anything new on the market. A win over the Charlotte Hornets against budding rookie LaMelo Ball is a great example. You can see it in swagger. He dropped a light 37 points with little sweat being broken. A reminder to a young dog that he still runs these 94 feet. It was also a reminder to us that he’s got showcases still in his bag.
Afterward, he voiced his feelings on his value via the LA Times:
Well, for me personally, the MVP, I try to be there every night for my ballclub. And being available to them and being the best player on the floor every night.
LeBron’s curse spreads to everybody. Head Coach Frank Vogel gets it. General Manager Rob Pelinka feels the touch. They don’t get the award season love they deserve. Hell, just the general love is hard to come by. Vogel was marked to lose his job to assistant Jason Kidd. Pelinka was pretty much touted as in over his head.
We don’t recognize their unique abilities until the trophy is in the sky. Ultimately, I see the same end for James. I can’t say if that’s how this thing should go. What I can say is that LeBron knows how this thing works. It’s the king’s disease. The success that he has acquired since making the league. He’s as cursed as all the greats before his time.