LeBron James wants one more MVP award. It's been eight seasons since his last. He was still in his 20s.
With the way this season is unfolding and the way he is playing, this might be the Los Angeles Lakers star’s best last chance – and last best chance – to win the MVP trophy.
Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant has missed too much time. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid is sidelined with an injury. Giannis Antetokounmpo – as well as he’s starting to play – won’t win a third consecutive MVP. Brooklyn’s James Harden is making a push, and Kyrie Irving’s season can’t be overlooked.
Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard is doing Kawhi Leonard things. Steph Curry will drag Golden State into the playoffs with his shooting, and Portland’s Damian Lillard has been spectacular. Denver’s Nikola Jokic is among the leading candidates for the award, and Miami’s Jimmy Butler may have missed too many games, also, but he has been outstanding.
And that leaves James, who at 36 years old is carrying the Lakers without injured Anthony Davis
The Lakers lost four of five games when Davis was ruled out with an Achilles injury but have won six of eight since, and James has averaged 26.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8 assists and shot 55.1% from the field during that span. Overall, his assists are down from last season but his scoring and shooting is up.
Even without Davis, the Lakers have remained the No. 1 defense in the league and have gained ground on Utah for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Following Los Angeles’ 116-105 victory over Charlotte on Thursday, James made his indirect pitch for his fifth MVP, telling reporters, “I should have more than four.”
He isn’t wrong.
Stumping for his teammate, Kyle Kuzma said James should have at least eight MVPs.
James has been the best player in the league for more than a decade. But that’s also not how MVP awards are distributed. Other players have great, incomparable seasons – such as Curry, Durant, Harden, Antetokounmpo and Russell Westbrook – since James last won the award in 2013.
James also added, “But I don't sit around thinking about it or crying about it or whatever the case may be. I bet a lot of the greatest that played this game feel like they should've had more as well if you ask any one of those guys.”
Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant among them. And sometimes, a player is competing against his previous best seasons, which impacts voting. James gave a similar answer in the bubble when he expressed his anger at the low number of first-place MVP votes he received in the 2019-20 balloting. After acknowledging he was pissed off, he said, “I'm absolutely great now. I'm going back to my room, drink some wine and sleep very well tonight. Let's not get it twisted. I'm great.”
He made his point. Just as he did after the Charlotte victory on Thursday.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar owns a record six MVPs, and Jordan is next with five.
James wants to join Jordan, and if we were to win another MVP, it would make James the oldest to win MVP, eclipsing Karl Malone who won it at 35 years and 284 days old in 1999.
It’s important to him and his legacy.
I dislike the idea of forecasting the MVP a quarter, halfway and three-quarters through a season. That builds a narrative and creates momentum for a player before taking the full season into account. It becomes a fait accompli. Likewise, I understand why it’s done. It’s content and fans are interested.
James has finished second in MVP voting four times, third three times and has been in the top five 14 of the past 15 seasons. That alone is remarkable.
Two months remain in the regular season, and the MVP race is compelling.
The door is open, and James is trying to block anyone else from walking through.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Should LeBron James have more MVP awards? Yes, but it's complicated