The Awesome MVP Race
The script keeps changing…….. if you would’ve asked any pure basketball fan on the planet in 2007-2008 who the best player in the world was, I bet a lot of people would have taken Kobe Bryant over LeBron James. At that time LeBron lacked the ‘killer instinct’ that the Mamba had. His Cleveland teams were entertaining, fun and won a lot of games in the regular season, but come playoff time they fell apart.
But from 2010 until last summer the basketball god has without a doubt been LeBron James. Multiple MVPs, back-to-back championships, gold medals, adorable TV commercials. His stretch of dominance was so complete and absolute, the gap between him and everyone else was so vast, that you had to start to wonder, how many MVPs could championships could he actually end up with? That “not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7” line was so now starting to sound extremely accurate. If you’re talking the pantheon (or Mt. Rushmore) of NBA players you’re talking Michael Jordan (5 MVPs 6 titles), Magic Johnson (3 MVPs 5 titles), Larry Bird (3 MVPs 3 titles), Bill Russell (5 MVPs 11 titles) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6 MVPs 6 titles). Those are the guys (and maybe a few others, LOVE YOU KOBE) that everyone is going to stack LeBron against. With 4 MVPs and 2 titles already, who or what was going to stop him from getting there?
Kevin Durant has spent the last 3 years being second best. Like LeBron here is a guy who has no peer when he steps on the basketball court most nights. A guy with that size, shooting range, ball handling, who could be better? Only one other guy, and not only did most people think LeBron was better, they thought that Durant was at best a distant second. They went head-to-head in the 2012 Finals…LeBron won in 5 games. They were teammates during the Summer Olympics that same year. On a team full of alpha dogs (Kobe, Chris Paul, Carmelo, etc…) LeBron was clearly the best player. When Durant’s teammate Russell Westbrook went down in the playoffs and placed everything on KD? His Thunder team struggled at time against the 8th seed (though a pretty good 8th seed) Houston Rockets and then lost in 5 games in the next round to the Memphis Grizzlies.
When LeBron’s best teammates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh decided not to show up during most of the playoffs, his game only looked better. LeBron averaged a 29-7-5 and shot 51% against the Pacers in a 7 game series in the Eastern Conference Finals. He put up an epic triple double (32-10-11) in that incredible Game 6 against the Spurs in the NBA Finals and scored 37 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to win the title in Game 7. It was some of the most complete basketball I have ever seen played in my life. Watching LeBron hold up both the Finals MVP trophy and the World championship and boldly proclaim “I ain’t got no worries” and it certainly seemed like he had none at the moment.
Then January happened. Kevin Durant averaged 35 points while shooting 54%, and with Russell Westbrook hurt he also became the primary playmaker for the Thunder, averaging nearly 7 assists. Oh and the scoring streak. 12 straight 30+ point games (which included games where he scored 54, 48, 46, and 41) put him in some pretty rarefied air. There was also a matchup with Miami Heat. The result was a 112-95 beatdown, where not only did Durant look like a better player at times, the Thunder also clearly had the better team.
The script has changed once again. That gap between LeBron and everyone else is closer. If Kevin Durant isn’t there right now, he’s damn sure breathing right down the King’s neck. MVP trophy? Well it looks like he might get his first one. Whether it’s because everyone is tired of LeBron winning everything or they actually do think KD has been better this year it’s most likely going to happen. The talking heads are quick to point out how much his defense has improved, and wow look how great of a teammate he is! All the qualities of an MVP! This is KD’s year!
Of course then LeBron lead the Heat to this comeback against Phoenix and hit this shot against Golden State in back to back nights. It was a wakeup call, kind of a reminder. “Hey I’m still the best in the world” (no disrespect to CM Punk). Tonight, Miami is playing Oklahoma City in their final regular season matchup. Russell Westbrook is expected to return, does that mean that Durant will get less shots and opportunities to do what he has been doing? Probably, but at the end of the day, the Thunder NEED Westbrook to accomplish their ultimate goal…And that’s win the NBA Championship . So until then, watching these two compete for the MVP trophy will be the best we get