At the end of the last regular season, LeBron James joined Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain and Moses Malone, in the list of players who can boast of having at least 3 regular season MVP awards. Is LeBron going to take another step up this list this year, and surpass Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Moses Malone, by winning his 4th regular season MVP award?
LeBron James made it clear last season that he would gladly exchange all his individual accolades, if that meant finally winning an NBA championship. Following last year’s success, James will finally be able to add a championship ring to his rich collection of individual awards. Now that the pressure is somewhat of his shoulders, could we see James take down not only a few more championships, but also regular season MVP awards?
When the big three got together in Miami, one could hardly predict James winning more MVP awards, as it was still Dwyane Wade’s team, and sharing the spotlight would inevitably put James out of serious MVP contention. Last year the hierarchy changed and James excelled in what was one of the best individual seasons in NBA history.
As Derrick Rose struggled with injuries, the only two players who were really contending for the MVP award were Durant and James. James was the clear front-runner for the majority of the season, but after Oklahoma City dismantled the Heat in their first regular season meeting, Durant took the lead in the race. Durant clearly out-dueled James, and most critics leaned towards Durant as the favorite for the award. James would eventually regain the lead in the MVP race when the Heat beat the Thunder 98-93 at home. James dominated the game on both ends of the floor, scoring 34 points and dishing out 10 assists.
LeBron’s 2011-12 numbers were astonishing – he averaged 27.1 points, 6.2 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game, while posting career highs in field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage. Having added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to the team this off-season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see James average even more assists. At 27-years old James is in his prime and could very well top what he did last year.
The MVP award is a hard one to predict before the season gets underway. In a way, you usually see the same familiar faces in the list of candidates, but then again Derrick Rose went from not even being on the list of candidates in 2010 to winning the award in 2011, following an exceptional season.
The only two realistic candidates last year were Durant and James, and we can very well expect the two to be the main contenders this year. Kobe Bryant will now be sharing the spotlight with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, and it is hard to see any of the three to be serious contenders for the award. Chris Paul is an amazing leader and always a contender, but he will have to do a lot more scoring to pose any kind of threat in the race.
A player who I think could be the dark horse in this year’s MVP race is Deron Williams. Williams is more than capable of putting up spectacular numbers, while also involving his teammates. While I don’t think Brooklyn are serious championship contenders yet, the team undoubtedly got better in the off-season, and that could very well help Williams’ case.
All in all LeBron James should be the favorite for the MVP award this year, but Kevin Durant might very well be on his way to his first one. Durant is only 24 years old and has taken enormous steps towards becoming a complete player every year. Either way it will be very interesting to follow the always exciting MVP race in a full 82-game season.