Surprise, surprise – Monday at 4 p.m., LeBron “King” James of the Cleveland Cavs was named the NBA’s most valuable player. The season had been awash with whispers and speculations; some pointed at James, while others considered superstar Kobe Bryant of the Lakers and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat for the award.
All three made viable claims to the title. Bryant, the Lakers’ 11-time superstar, was awarded MVP for the first time last year and may have been aiming at two consecutive awards. The three were costars in the summer’s gold-winning Olympic basketball team, and they seemed set on outperforming each other nightly during the regular season. But by the end of the season, Wade found himself out of the running; although his stats were competitive, Miami’s poor record dropped his chances.
While Bryant may be a phenomenal player, this year has belonged to the King. For James, preparation for this season began last year, after the Cavaliers were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Goaded by his team’s game 7th loss in Boston – despite personally scoring 45 points - James approached his training with new vigor. He spent hours in the Cavs’ training facility lifting weights, honing his jump shot, and practicing finishing at the rim with his left hand. Once he involved himself in the Olympic Games, he sharpened his defensive abilities, guarding some of his opposition’s strongest players.
In the regular season, James proved himself an outstanding player. He started 81 games this season – a career high – and bested his own personal records in free-throws and field goals. According to ESPN’s John Hollinger, James’ efficiency was not only the best in his career but the best in the league. He became the second player to claim five consecutive seasons with a minimum of 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
Beyond his personal victories, James led the Cavs to a great season – at 66-16 and 39-2 at home, the Cavs finished the season at the top overall seed.
Not only has James had an incredible personal year, but his stats also beat out Bryant’s. James averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.2 assists in the regular season; Bryant averaged 28.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. James also outplayed Bryant defensively, according to the statistics. James averaged 1.7 steals per game and 1.1 blocks; Bryant is at 1.5 and .4, respectively.
At 24, James is among the youngest players to earn the MVP. The youngest was Wes Ensfeld at 23 during the 1968-69 season.
James accepted the award yesterday at 4 p.m. at his alma-mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School. The choice is hardly a surprise. It was at St. Vincent-St. Mary that the King exploded into the country’s view; it was where he won three state basketball championships, where he announced his plans to skip college in favor of professional basketball, and where he recently involved himself in a “60 Minutes” interview.
James is not the only Cavs member to win an award this year. His coach, Mike Brown, was awarded coach of the year last month. This is only the fourth time in NBA history that a team has claimed top seed, coach of the year, and MVP in one season.