In what many in the media had already assumed was a foregone conclusion, Cleveland Cavaliers F LeBron James was awarded today with the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award. At the ripe old age of 24, LeBron received 109 out of a possible 121 first-place votes in just his sixth NBA season, making him the youngest to win the award since Moses Malone in the ’78-’79 season, and the 2nd youngest player ever. He averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game to become the first member of the Cavaliers to win the award in team history. With frequent comparisons to the great Oscar Robertson over the course of the season, it seemed all but inevitable that James would be the recipient when the award was finally announced.
LeBron was dominant on both ends of the floor this season, tallying career highs in field goal percentage (49%) and free throw percentage (79%). Yet arguably the reason he pulled away from the field in the MVP race was his consistent commitment to defense. Highlighted by several highlight-reel blocks throughout the course of the season, James climbed up to 2nd in the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year voting. He also led the Cavaliers to easily their best season in franchise history. The Cavs’ 66-16 record bested their previous team record by 7 games, and their 40-2 home record was also a franchise record. Perhaps best of all for Lebron, however, was the free Kia that he won by claiming today’s award. Wow, what a prize!
Of course, I would be remiss to not mention the competition that LeBron had along the way. In fact, the MVP race had become a virtual three-way tie entering the final three months of the season. Kobe Bryant finished just slightly ahead of Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat for second in the voting. Bryant had another stellar season, as he lead the Lakers to a runaway #1 seed in the Western Conference. The Lakers are still considered by many to be the favorites to win the NBA Championship, and with good reason; after coming up just short in the ’08 Finals to the eventual champion Celtics, the Lakers fired back with another excellent season. They were 2-0 against Cleveland during the regular season, including the only legitimate victory that the Cavs suffered at Quicken Loans Arena all year. Finishing 3rd, Dwayne Wade’s numbers were also phenomenal this season. And while there is certainly no doubting his ability to take over games, he is surrounded with little other help in Miami. This resulted in the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, and a first round defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks.
It seemed fitting that LeBron accepted the MVP award back at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary high school, in the gymnasium where he declared that he would be bypassing college to enter the NBA draft. Never one to dwell on individual accolades, James reiterated again today that this was a team award, and that individual honors are not what is important. And while this is certainly only the first of many MVP awards that will one day sit on LeBron’s mantle, he reiterated today that while this award was nice, there’s another more important award that’s currently 12 more victories away.