In the 17 seasons LeBron James has played in the NBA, he’s finished in the top-three in MVP voting 10 times, and won the award four times. If James wins another MVP before his career ends, he’ll become just the fourth player in NBA history to win at least five MVP awards. Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan are the others. James would also join Karl Malone as the only other player aged 35 or older to win an MVP award.
All of these are hypothetical scenarios, but they’re relevant because James, at the age of 35, is a legitimate candidate for MVP. In the 60 games James has played for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, he’s averaged 25.7 points, a league-leading 10.6 assists, 7.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. James is the only player in the NBA that has averaged at least 25 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds and a steal per game this season, and if those stats hold, he’ll become the third player in NBA history to post those averages in a season. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are the others.
However, while James’ season averages will fluctuate in Orlando, they won’t count towards his MVP candidacy. According to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic on Friday, end-of-season awards will be based on games played through March 11, which means James’ season averages from before the season was suspended are what voters will go off of.
After practice on Monday, James said he hadn’t given much thought to how the NBA’s new parameters will affect end-of-season awards, but he did acknowledge that he’s looking forward to seeing the results.
“I think those awards are always great throughout this time of year to acknowledge the individuals that’s had great years,” James said. “Not only from a players’ perspective, but from a coaches’ perspective as well, so we’ll see what happens.”
Before the season was suspended, James was playing some of his basketball of the season. In the nine games James played after the All-Star break, he averaged 30 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game while averaging 35.1 minutes per game.
During that stretch, he led the Lakers to back-to-back wins over the Milwaukee Bucks, the team with the best record in the NBA, and the LA Clippers, the team with the second-best record in the Western Conference. It was evident that James was getting ready to ramp up his intensity, and with strong performances against the Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors and Clippers, he likely could have swayed a few more voters in his favor.
Now, James has to hope that whatever he showed in those two games was enough to prove that he’s the best player in the league — and if it didn’t, he’s okay with that too, because the results won’t change what he and the Lakers have accomplished this season.
”I’m not disappointed because things happen,” James said. “Control what you can control, and I can’t control that. As far as the MVP race, I think I’ve shown what I’m capable of doing not only individually but from a team perspective. Us being No. 1 in the West.
“There was a lot of conversation about ‘LeBron can do those things in the East, but if he ever came to the West, what could he do?’" James continued, pausing to laugh at the notion. "I heard all of that. To be able to have our team at the top of the Western Conference and playing the way we were playing at that time, and the way I was playing, that’s definitely a good feeling.”
James’ status as one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of sneakers is solidified. If he were to retire tomorrow, he’d be a first ballot Basketball Hall of Famer. He has nothing to prove to anyone.
But if his 17th season ends with a fifth MVP award, a fourth championship and a fourth finals MVP, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind — and I know Lakers fans wouldn’t, either.