Tonight, in addition to the NFL Draft, the NBA Regular Season ends. It’s been a sprint, games piling on top of games, the normal pace of the NBA accelerated so that the financial effect of the lockout was as small as possible.
Heading into the playoffs, things are pretty much as they should be (i.e. the Bulls have their second straight Number One seed). In addition to finalizing the playoff matchups, the end of the regular season kicks off the NBA’s award season, when players get the bona fides that will eventually help to define their legacy. Much like with the Oscars, while the awards are supposed to be determined by what was accomplished in a defined period, people’s career and legacy also play into the decision (and should, in my opinion).
That’s why Dwight Howard’s insecure dithering will cost him his fourth straight Defensive Player of the Year, Gregg Popovich will win a second Coach of the Year over Tim Thibodeau (hard to argue with even for a Bulls fan, especially one who remembers that Phil Jackson somehow only won the award once), and Metta World Peace probably won’t repeat as the Citizenship Award winner.
However, even being a world-class dickhead won’t keep the Whore of Akron from winning his third MVP in four years.
At 27, LeBron will tie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the youngest three-time MVP winner. With the shortened season in the books, it’s hard to argue against LeBron, except on an emotional basis. He’s had an amazing season, with the added bonus of having no real competition (Kevin Durant was the most likely A.B.L. candidate, but fell off at the end… while it’s crazy that 33-year-old Kobe has a.) only one MVP, and b.) might be the sentimental pick in anything, he’s only shooting 43%).
Much like with Mitt Romney, all of the competition fell away, leaving an unloved winner. LeBron is a prodigy, one of the most talented basketball players of all time… he’s also a headcase who doesn’t show up when it matters and thinks he’s the bright, shiny center of the universe (in fairness, this applies to 90% of all NBA players). So, how does he stack up against the 7 other 3-time winners?
Number of Championships When Voted 3rd MVP:
Bill Russell: 4 (Won 5th that postseason)
Wilt Chamberlain: 0 (Won 1st that postseason)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 1
Moses Malone: 0 (Won 1st that postseason)
Larry Bird: 2 (Won 3rd that postseason)
Magic Johnson: 5
Michael Jordan: 1 (Won 2nd that postseason)
The big knock against LeBron’s immortality is his lack of championships. Surprisingly, two other members of the club also had no rings when they joined. It’s telling that they were also known for their physical prowess, playoff chocking and interest in things other than basketball (sound familiar?) Both also won their first title that post-season. Just what Bron-Bron loves… more pressure.
Of course, this isn’t just LeBron’s third MVP… it’s his third in four years, something that takes Moses and MJ off the list.
Three MVPs in Four Years (with number of titles in that period):
Bill Russell: 1960-’63, ’61-’64, ’62-’65: 4 titles
Wilt Chamberlain: 1965-’68, ’66-’69: 1 title
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 1971-’74: 1 title; 1974-’77: 0 titles
Larry Bird: 1983-’86, ’84-’87: 2 titles
Magic Johnson: 1987-’90: 2 titles
This award will make LeBron the MVP king of current players. It will also leave him and Derrick Rose as the only players in their primes with one.
Other Former MVPs Currently Playing (with career titles):
Tim Duncan (x2): 4 titles
Steve Nash (x2): 0 titles
Kevin Garnett: 1 title
Dirk Nowitzki: 1 title
Kobe Bryant 5 titles
Derrick Rose: 0 titles
That was what was so appealing about the Durant (or Chris Paul) candidacy. While LeBron is the most talented player in the NBA, it’s hard to argue in such a stacked league that he’s that far above anybody else. Of course, such thinking cost MJ the MVP in ’93 (to Barkley) and ’97 (to Malone). Homerism aside, though, that’s probably how it should be. The higher the number of MVPs, the higher the barrier to winning… all things being near equal, it’s better to spread it out (except to assholes like Karl Malone).
But evil usually wins in the end. All we can hope is that another playoff choke job will expose LeBron as the most impotent three-timer ever.