No matter what, LeBron is still MVP.
A mere week removed from the NBA Finals, there can be no disputes over the rightful and dominant champions that are the Golden State Warriors. Fresh off a 67-win season, one of the most dominant since the Michael Jordan era, and also, tied for the 6th most wins in league history, the Warriors were on top from start to finish. Steph Curry won the regular season MVP title, while Andre Igoudala walked away with the Finals MVP.
They won the title playing position-less, high tempo, and 3-point heavy basketball; a style of basketball NBA rhetoric assumes will crumble when the pressure is on. Throw in the fact this was Steve Kerr’s first year as a head coach, and you won’t find too many better title wins.
But we’re not here to bask in the glory of the Warriors which, by the way, is notably worthy of a hell of a lot of praise. But what about LeBron? Put simply, LeBron James is still the best player in the whole of basketball; period.
The 2014-15 season was one of savvy acquisitions for the Cavs, leaving them with a starting 5 of Kyrie Irving, JR Smith, James, Love & Mozgov for the playoffs. You could argue giving up Andrew Wiggins may turn out to be a mistake, but what LeBron wants LeBron gets, and for good reason. Put simply, in the LeBron era, no LeBron = no title for the Cavs, as is evident by the fact the only time they’ve made it past the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, ever, is with LeBron. When he left for Miami in 2010, the Cavs underwent a 4 year playoff hiatus, which was marked by an aura of fluke (they won the draft lottery three times in that span) that led to the somewhat kind conditions LeBron walked back into in 2014, considering the Cavs were re-building.
That starting 5 is nice on paper, sure, title-worthy even. However Kevin Love had his shoulder ‘deliberately’ messed up by the Boston Celtic’s Kelly Olynk. It’s fair to say the Celtics weren’t much of an appetiser anyway, even without Love, the a Cavs earned a 4-0 series sweep. Next was the Chicago Bulls, who are yet to see the same MVP Rose from 2011, but instead had the Most Improved Player, Jimmy Butler, in full-swing. Still, the King & his subjects had enough to dispatch the Bulls 4-2, costing Tom Thibodeau his job in the process. Perhaps more importantly, Kyrie Irving hobbles out of Game 6, casting an uncertain shadow over the Cavs title run entering the Finals. As expected, the Cavs hobble into the Finals vs the Warriors.
Game 1 of the Finals comes around, and King James explodes for 44 points, 6 assists and 8 rebounds, while Kyrie, in his own way, goes off for 23 points, 6 assists, 7 rebounds, as well playing some mean defence against the league’s MVP; Steph Curry. But Irving wouldn’t play again in the Finals. His replacement, Matthew Dellavedova, had his 15 minutes of fame helping the Cavs win Games 2 and 3, but for the series, Dellavedova, Smith and Shumpert shot a combined 28.4% from the field for the series, which is simply not good enough. In fact, the three mentioned above didn’t hit a single field goal when James took rare moments of rest across the series post Irving’s injury.
LeBron James pushed the Warriors to scrap and fight in a bout that shouldn’t have ever really been close. For the Finals, James put up NBA 2K15 numbers, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. It was one of the most historic Playoffs efforts by one player ever.
James is the first player in the NBA Finals history to lead BOTH teams in points, assists and rebounds for the entire series. He contributed the most points to his team in an NBA Finals ever, with his average of 57.7 points (scored or assisted), surpassing Michael Jordan’s 55.3 back in 1993. He scored like Jordan, rebounded like Shaq, and assisted like Magic, but still lost. Should it have been Irving or Love on their own, you’re looking at one of the most one-sided Finals ever. James did all of this while playing in nearly every minute of every Finals match.
When it came to the NBA Finals MVP voting, Iguodala won 7-4 in a straight battle against LeBron. The MVP Steph Curry didn’t even get considered. While Iguodala was spectacular in the Finals, LeBron put up numbers nobody has seen before, on the biggest stage of them all. He very nearly led an entire team to a Championship, in what was his 5th straight Finals. Granted, he’s lost 3 of those 5 Finals, but the King can only do so much.
The Cavs were 2 wins away from the NBA’s biggest prize, without 2 of their ‘big 3’. You can only imagine they will be in and among the mix of title-chasers come 2016. Plus, the emergence of Dellavedova, albeit temporarily, offers a slight bit more hope. With the future of Kevin Love uncertain, of course, the Cavs could look a very different outfit if Love signs elsewhere, or they don’t manage to recruit more reliable backcourt depth. Adding Mo Williams is one option, while Dwyane Wade’s dad wearing a Cavs t-shirt is by no means a stark indicator that Wade will follow James, and take his talents from South Beach to Ohio. But the Cavs definitely need someone else capable of creating their own shot, and taking a little attention away from LeBron, if that’s even possible.
What is clear, is that the Cavs, when healthy, are more than capable of forming a decent title run. Mark Jackson’s Warriors got knocked in the 1st round of the playoffs last time round. That same core, plus the emergence of the stat-stuffing beast that is Draymond Green, got a title this time round. Sure, the addition of a max-deal player, as Green has become, always helps, but the Cavs have 3 All-Stars, and if they add another playmaker to create scoring opportunities, King James may return to his throne sooner than expected.
But don’t take my word for it, listen to LeBron James himself tell you below that he is the ‘best player in the world’.
(Also featured on BespokeMag – http://bespokemag.co.uk/lebron-james-is-still-the-real-mvp/)