Now that the NBA regular season may be over, it’s time to acknowledge that LeBron James, not Giannis Antetokounmpo, has earned the right to be the MVP.
Life without basketball is hard. Even beyond the loss of Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and all of the other things we love about the NBA, I think we all have learned over the last few weeks just how extensively basketball has permeated our lives. And this crisis has quite literally taken it away from us.
But there is one hidden basketball blessing in all of this: Time. We finally have the time to evaluate what we have seen on the court to this point without the constant onslaught of new information that comes with the pace of the regular season and the allure of postseason basketball.
Just over five weeks ago I wrote an article wondering why everyone was in such a rush to give the MVP trophy to Giannis with over a quarter of the season remaining. I wanted the voters to consider all of the available data before submitting their ballots, and I thought it was unprofessional to do anything different.
I was passionate about this because I noticed that the Los Angeles Lakers were only four games behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the loss column at the time, and I thought LeBron was on the precipice of one of his patented late-season runs.
I was proven correct when just five days after I wrote about it, LeBron improbably rejoined the conversation by notching emphatic victories against both the Bucks and the LA Clippers, looking very much like the best player in the process.
According to an anonymous poll conducted by Matt Moore of The Action Network after that weekend, five official MVP voters said they would vote for LeBron for MVP. This may not seem like much, but that’s a sizable shift from the unanimous buzz Giannis was getting just one week prior. We responded to new information. And at the time the season was suspended, the Lakers and Bucks still had 36 basketball games to play.
But any chance for LeBron to gain further ground with the voters was cut short by COVID-19, and now we are forced to make up our mind with the 128 games the Bucks and Lakers have managed to play.
I am going to make the MVP case for LeBron James. I thoroughly expect Giannis to win the award because of the strength of the narrative behind him, but it is my hope that anyone who reads this will at least understand why those of us who would vote for LeBron came to that conclusion.