Barring disaster in Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo is well on his way to a second straight NBA MVP award.
Coincidentally, LeBron James doesn’t care about the MVP trophy.
James is having another remarkable season and deserves the bulk of the praise coming his way, especially considering what he’s doing at 35 years old. But recent arguments that he’s a legitimate MVP candidate aren’t grounded in reality.
As Yahoo Sports’ Ben Rohrbach eloquently laid out, there’s not a reasonable statistical case to be made for James.
Why LeBron isn’t the MVP
Antetokounmpo is logging a 35-point, 16-rebound, 7-assist pace per 36 minutes for a team on track for 71 wins. He’s averaging 29.6 points, 13.8 rebounds and and 5.8 assists in just 30.8 minutes per game as he regularly sits late in blowout victories.
James is sporting a 26-8-11 pace per 36 minutes for a team on track for 63 wins. Those are outstanding numbers. They’re just not Giannis-outstanding.
Meanwhile Antetokounmpo is on track for All-Defensive team honors and is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. The Bucks are the best defensive team in the NBA and are putting up historic numbers in terms of point differential. He’s in a league of his own.
Las Vegas agrees. The latest MGM odds place Antetokounmpo as an overwhelming MVP favorite at -1000. James comes in second, but isn’t close at +900.
It appears that James agrees as well.
The four-time NBA MVP responded to a question about the award on Thursday. Apparently it doesn’t much matter to him.
‘MVP has never motivated me’
"Regular season MVP has never motivated me. … to be the best to ever play the game has motivated me and it’s resulted in me being able to be league MVP a couple of times.”— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 5, 2020
LeBron says being the greatest ever is what motivates him. pic.twitter.com/c8J9TQBHV9
“It’s never motivated me,” James said. “Regular-season MVP has never motivated me.”
So what does motivate James?
“To be the best,” James continued. “To be the best to ever play the game has motivated me and has resulted in me being league MVP a couple of times. I’ve never gone into the season saying ‘league MVP is what I want to be.’”
Let’s get this straight. MVPs don’t matter. Being the best ever does. Never mind that MVPs are indicators of who the best players of all time are, a contradiction James pointed out in the same sentence he uttered it.
LeBron’s motivational tactics
But at this level of competition, players dig deep for motivation. In November, James blasted critics who called him “washed” when literally nobody of repute had uttered that criticism.
Now, with 25-year-old Antetokounmpo supplanting him as the game’s most dominant force, James is digging for more motivation against a potential NBA Finals opponent.
It goes something like this: You’re the MVP, Giannis? Fine. Come talk to me when you’re in the GOAT conversation. Meanwhile, I’m gonna hang out here with Mike.
As Zion Williamson’s recently witnessed, James finds another gear when faced with competition threatening his mantle.
If the Lakers and Bucks do both advance to the Finals, it’s going to be a battle.
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