Monday, May 4, 2009


I kept the MVP poll there for a while for two reasons:
  • To pump up the numbers even more. My hopes were that there would be some Yao Ming effect on the poll just to shamelessly gain traffic.
  • To wait for at least the NBA to announce the winner of the award, who was unsurprisingly, Cleveland swingman LeBron James.
What James has done this season, in fact, since his arrival in the league six seasons ago, has been nothing short of remarkable for a player whose pre-NBA hype was borderline insufferable back in 2003. While the basketball media has done what it could to put James in the Jordan mould with each point, assist and rebound, there is no question that he has met every challenge presented to him head on both on- and off-the-court to at least keep pace with the media and fan love he's received.

With each season, James has improved some aspect of his game to become arguably - let this be said again, arguably - the best basketball player on the planet. With the experience of two Olympiads, a humiliating NBA Finals and the state of Ohio on his shoulders, the man has proven to the world that he is capable of becoming more than

Yet, the Cavaliers were expected to be the best team in the Eastern Conference and possibly the entire league all season long. James ould have won the award each of the last two seasons (certainly when pushing his team through a regular season that lead to the Finals appearance in 2007). Yet, while he has had the superb numbers for much of the past few years, he did so with a more cohesive supporting cast (including a very strong guard combination of scoring guard Mo Williams and the underrated Delonte West) that has built upon the experience of the last two postseasons.

This is definitely a team that would fall apart at the seams without James as he is a unique talent who provides matchup hell for 2s (shooting guards), 3s (small forwards, his natural position) and guard/forward tweeners (players who can alternate between at least the shooting guard and small, if now power forward position). Yet, the basketball media felt that his expected performance provided more to the overall team's expected performance than another player's season that pulled his team from the lowest of depths.

In other words, how Dwyane Wade did not garner greater consideration for MVP than he was, is a bit baffling.

The Miami Heat were supposed to have been a lottery team again this season, chalking up losses in hopes of grabbing a big man dominant in the college ranks such as Blake Griffin or dump salaries and hit the reset button for the 2009-10 season. Yet, Wade took the on-court helm of one of the youngest rosters in the league (with a new coach and salary cap concerns, mind you) into the five-seed and within shouting distance of the Southeast Division crown for in the middle of the season. He and rookie Mario Chalmers had the top defensive backcourt all season while he was gunning for the scoring title. Yet, because the Heat were not as 'sexy' as the Cavs, it seems as if what should have been a close race for the league's top individual honor felt more like those required-by-law interviews for a job that's already been filled.

Even more strange was that Kobe Bryant was second behind James in MVP voting. The 2007-08 MVP was in top form himself, but in terms of individual and team expectations, not much differed in his campaign to that of LeBron's with the exception of a deeper bench.

While it may appear that this post is protesting James' capture of the award, it's more or less posing the same question as the poll that inspired it: what's in a Most Valuable Player? Is it about being the best player on what has been considered the best team in the league before and during the season as Tim Duncan had done in the early part of his career? Is it about having a statistically historic season, no matter how the team performs (as in Alex Rodriguez in 2001 for a lowly Texas Rangers squad or even Tom Brady for the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots in 2007)? Is it about tantalizing the masses while bringing a franchise back into the national conscious as Steve Nash did not too long ago? Or is it about taking a team on the way to nowhere and having it challenge contenders and preseason perceptions as Wade proved this season

According to voters in most sports, the V in MVP is always up for debate.

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