When speaking on the NBA MVP award there are two types of people; those who think it should go to the best player in the league and those who think it should go to the most valuable player to their team. That distinction is important and will be the guiding principle in what is to follow.
Is LeBron James the best player in the league right now? The answer is yes by a wide margin and nobody can deny that. However, the MVP award is not meant for the best player in the league, at least it’s not supposed to be because if it was then James will win it until he retires. No, the MVP award is meant for the player most important to his team’s success and that’s why I agree with Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, the only one to vote against James as the MVP of the season. He voted for Carmelo Anthony who ended up finishing third in voting and I don’t blame him.
What did the Heat accomplish last year? They won the Championship, and the year before they went to the Finals. This team is acclimated to victory and has been in the top tier of the Eastern Conference since 2008. So what’s new with the Heat? The answer is nothing. James is doing the same thing he has done for the past two seasons with the Miami Heat and the same things he has been doing since entering the league…dominating. I’m not arguing against it and I’m not going to try because it would be silly to attempt.
Now let’s look at Anthony; he signed with the New York Knicks in 2010 when the Knicks finished as the 6th seed in the East and were eliminated in four games by the Boston Celtics. The year before they were the 11th seed and before that they were the 14th seed; see the pattern? The pattern is that the Knicks were bad up to and including the year they signed Anthony. Even in 2011 they claimed the seventh seed in the East and were ousted in five games by the Heat. This season was different though. This season they claimed the second seed and won their first playoff series since 2000 as they defeated the Celtics four games to two.
This turnaround is due to their coach Mike Woodson, sure, but it is due to Anthony’s performance on the team. As Washburn said, Anthony is the most valuable player on his team and to his team. Without him their team would still be the laughing stock in the East.
The MVP award goes to the player who holds the fate of his team. Without Anthony, the Knicks would not be anywhere near where they are today. But if the Heat didn’t have James they would still be in the upper tier of the East. Maybe not the first seed, but they would still be in the top three. This fact alone is why James should not have won the award and Anthony should have.
You may be thinking “What about Kevin Durant?” My answer is this he is valuable, but he has All-Star Russell Westbrook by his side. Anthony does not have any consistent All-Stars on this team. His supporting cast is solid but not stunning like the Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder.
Still not convinced? Okay, let’s take a ride back to 1993 where Michael Jordan lost the MVP award to Charles Barkley. During the season, Jordan was leading the league in points per game (32.6) and steals (2.8) while Barkley was averaging 25.6 points per game. This season also saw Jordan win the Championship for the third time in a row. Ironically, the Chicago Bulls beat Barkley’s team (Phoenix Suns) to win the ring. So despite everything going for Jordan that season, he still lost the MVP award. Why? The answer is because Barkley brought his team to the Finals for the first time since the 1975-1976 season. Barkley was more instrumental and more valuable to his team despite Jordan being the best player in the league. Barkley won because of this fact, and Jordan also lost the award in 1997 to Karl Malone for the same reason.
I agree that James is the most dominating player in the league, but that doesn’t make him the most valuable. Hopefully voters and writers will adopt this mindset next season and give the award to who really deserves it.