January 03, 2011
When LeBron James(notes) took his talents to South Beach last summer, he did so knowing full well that he would not be the only star in town. That was the logic behind the decision he gave to the media, at least: This is about winning rather than individual glory.
As James knows, that approach has some negative byproducts. For instance, it might be difficult to win a third-consecutive MVP award. From Brian Windhorst at ESPN.com:
"When we decided to come together our Most Valuable Player chances kind of went out the window," James said before the Heat played the Golden State Warriors Saturday.
"I think they classify it as an individual award. They look at it like the less help you have, the more numbers you have then the better chance for you to win that award."
The argument here makes a certain amount of sense: You can't be the most valuable player in the league when your team has another of the top-five players. So tough luck, LeBron and Dwyane: You'll just have to settle for team honors and spots on the All-NBA team. What a sacrifice!
Except LeBron's logic doesn't recognize the fact that MVPs are overwhelmingly members of good teams, not ones with a lone superstar. For proof, just check out these recent winners before LeBron's last two trophies: Kobe Bryant(notes) (with Pau Gasol(notes)), Shaquille O'Neal(notes) (with Kobe Bryant), and Michael Jordan (with Scottie Pippen). LeBron was actually something of an exclusion in this case -- most MVPs play with another superstar. So it may not be best to take his comments as an argument for why he won't get the award.
Instead, look at them as a statement of priorities. As James has said all along, he's now interested in winning above all else; never mind that he said the same thing when he was with Cleveland. The Heat are a team built to win championships, not individual accolades, and they're approaching the season with that goal in mind. You know it's true because they keep saying it to everyone who will listen.
There appears to be some amount of media game-planning here, so take everything the Heat say from now on with a grain of salt. Even if that's the case, though, that doesn't mean a championship isn't their top priority for this season and beyond. They are top-level basketball players, after all.