The Miami Heat’s 27 game–and counting–win streak is the talk of the NBA, as it should be. It’s one of the most difficult things to do in a team sport, and it should be cherished like it rightfully has been. They’re beating everyone, and even when it seems like they’ve let down their intensity–ahem, Cleveland–they still find a to right the ship and get the victory.
But they’re still six games away from tying the record held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who won 33-straight before falling to a Bucks team led by Lew Alcinder and Oscar Robertson (coincidentally, the Heat’s 34th game would also come against Milwaukee, but Larry Sanders is no Kareem and Brandon Jennings only wishes he was as good as late-career “Big O”).
The Heat are currently in the midst of a 4-game road swing that has them in Chicago Wednesday night, in New Orleans (a team, it should be noted, who ended Denver’s winning streak last night) on Friday and in San Antonio Sunday night. That tough road stretch could spell the end of their historical run. Read more…
This is just gorgeous. Throughout his career LeBron James has routinely played the part of “man” while his opponents were cast as “boys” and this move is a fantastic example why. I mean, isn’t Trevor Ariza supposed to be an above average defender? LeBron is literally toying with him here. For the few dozen people who still don’t believe he’s the greatest player in the world, please have a look.
On the surface, predicting who will win the NBA’s MVP award is extremely easy. Select a really good player on a really good team, then call it a day. But, unfortunately, as we travel through each new season, a subjective investigation is given to the word “valuable,” and all hell breaks loose. Is it designed to reward the league’s best player? Or should it go to whomever is most important to their specific team—the player most obviously carrying his team towards the playoffs.
If the world we lived in were strictly based on facts and statistics as a means to present logical evidence, the 2012-13 MVP discussion would contain seven players. Here they are, in no particular order: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, and Andrew Bynum. Read more…
For a majority of this lockout shortened 2011-12 season, LeBron James was a solid five or six strides ahead of everyone else in the always entertaining race for MVP. The Miami Heat looked unbeatable when they wanted to be, and the biggest reason for that was James’ consistent magnificence.
Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul joined him in early season conversation, but eventually LeBron simply pulled away, looking like a man on a mission. Playing in a condensed season that posed a lose-lose situation for both him and his team (the Heat could have gone 66-0 this season and nobody would care unless they won the championship), James began to put up historical numbers. When Dwyane Wade went down for an extended stretch, the question was posed as to whether Miami was actually a better team with LeBron running the show by himself. Wade is one of the league’s 10 best players on an off night. This train of thought was insane and intriguing at the same time.
I don’t recall anybody ever saying the Bulls were better without Scottie Pippen, or the early 2000 Lakers were better without Kobe Bryant. This was hard evidence for just how other-worldly LeBron’s season was earlier this season. There was a Bryan Cranston at the Emmys type of feel about LeBron and the MVP award this year. It was his to lose. Nobody was close.
Then March 20th happened. In a game against the Phoenix Suns, with the outcome already decided, James and Grant Hill crashed into each other diving for a loose ball. The collision was so violent, there was talk James might have suffered a concussion. Three nights later, he had a surprisingly subpar effort against Detroit, going 6-15 from the field for a puny 17 points. Granted LeBron had 10 assists, four steals, and his team won, but with LeBron the expectations are always higher than everyone else’s.
Two days later, in a much anticipated Sunday night matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder—and more importantly, prime rival MVP candidate Kevin Durant—both LeBron and his team floundered. The result was a seismic shift in the race. LeBron went head to head with Durant and was badly outplayed. For the first time, LeBron’s five fingers appeared to be slipping off the trophy.
Exactly one week later, the Heat were handed their worst loss of the season, and James recorded 0 assists (passing is the largest advantage his game has over Durant’s) while the Thunder handed the league’s best team (record wise) their worst beating in recent memory.
Between the win against Phoenix on March 20th and last night’s 41 point demolition of Philadelphia, Miami was 3-3, playing like an average basketball team at best. And LeBron’s MVP candidacy is on the ropes like a popular politician enduring a sex scandal in early October.
The trophy is officially up for grabs.
As we go into the three main components that decide who should be named MVP, it should be noted that for the rest of the season, this is a two horse race; it would be “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has been nominated for an Osacr” type shocking if either LeBron James or Kevin Durant did not win. They’re the two best players in the league, and until further notice, their respective teams are headed on a probable collision course this June.
But this column isn’t about them so much as it is the award’s selection process. Each year, or so it seems, the requirement to win is altered. One year it could be awarded to the best player, another year it could be given to someone dragging his team by the scruff of its neck into playoff obliteration. Is it too much to ask for a little consistency?
(Quick Tangent: It’s absolutely INFURIATING to hear former players, analysts, and reporters speak about the MVP on television as if it’s a little child swaying back and forth on a swing. When there’s a month left in the regular season it makes absolutely no sense to say one guy has “passed” another just because he outplays him in a single game. This award is supposed to validate an ENTIRE season’s body of work. Right? It doesn’t matter who you think should win, please, for the love of God, just present your case with some logical evidence and move to the next topic of discussion. Thank you.)
There are so many different paths that can be taken to receiving the MVP award. Here, in my opinion, are the three most important: Narrative, Statistics, and Value. Read more…
Last week, a latest chapter in basketball’s least colorful narrative (that is LeBron James’ steamy relationship with the fourth quarter) was written. It was written because Udonis Haslem missed a wide open jump shot. Because Udonis Haslem missed a jump shot, millions of theories and mystical explanations were concocted, then explained all across the internet. Because millions of theories and mystical explanations were concocted, then explained all across the internet, LeBron James will react by tweaking his relationship with the fourth quarter. When LeBron James tweaks his relationship with the fourth quarter, the next chapter will be written. And on and on the cycle goes.
Questions are being asked each and every day but there’s no real furthering of worthwhile development; no answers will be made available until June. What LeBron does nine times out of 10 on a basketball court can either be described as correct, smart, or amazing. Sometimes all three words apply. It’s fine to judge him for his disappearing act in last year’s NBA Finals, but to critique each and every end-game decision with a magnifying glass reserved for the postseason is annoying and pointless.
It’s strange to say, but the move seen above, in it’s late game context, poured a thimble’s worth of gasoline on the flames. Every time Dwyane Wade sees success, the national reaction instantly becomes “Where was LeBron while Wade saved the day?” If James produces his normal brilliance for 47 minutes and then misses a shot to tie or win the game with less than a minute remaining, the game’s story revolves around that minor detail as opposed to the bigger picture. We all know James will never shake the criticism until he wins a championship, but—with so many other/better story lines playing themselves out during the league’s current era of intrigue and athletically led grandeur—in many ways, both the league and the people who enjoy covering it, will feel immense relief once he does.
I would analyze this insane nifty move right now, but Beckley Mason over at HoopSpeak beat me to it yesterday. And a great job he did.
In due honor of “The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search For The Soul of LeBron James”, a book written by Scott Raab that I’m dying to plummet into as soon as it’s released, this post is half “Shook Ankles” half “Recommended Reading”.
If you saw its excerpt in last month’s Esquire, or just think the title sounds funny and want to know more, TrueHoop scribe John Krolik wrote an elaborate review that’s totally worth checking out. Forget about LeBron, the Miami Heat, or even basketball for a moment. If you enjoy reading good writing then this book is probably worth your attention. In the meantime, here’s my favorite LeBron crossover of all time. Enjoy.Follow @ShakyAnkles
In the grand scheme of what’s altruistically important in life, I believe it’s fair to suggest all teachers, doctors, surgeons, and members of the armed forces should be given financial compensation of equal or greater value to that of which is awarded professional athletes. Their actual impact on human life is indisputably greater, more important, and further reaching. Of course, they don’t (and never will) because the businesses they’re in don’t create the billions upon billions of dollars in gross revenue that the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL produce on an annual basis. They also have an uncountable number of members in their labor force, making each worker’s slice of pie much smaller than that of the athlete. Call it sad. Call it unfair. Call it horribly disproportionate. Call it the real world. Read more…
I know what you’re thinking: LeBron MUST’VE been in foul trouble here. He wasn’t.Follow @ShakyAnkles
Rising: Gordon Hayward
Every 20-year-old rookie in the history of professional basketball has had to prove himself. There are always different variables relating to hype, expectations, and ability, but at the beginning every single one of them must demonstrate why he’s on the team—to his coach, his teammates, and the fans. Not to make this a racial issue, because those are stupid, but like so many collegiate superstars who coincidentally happen to be white and adored by college basketball enthusiasts, television producers, respected analysts, and, most importantly, the millions of national audience members who ritualistically gather on the fringe when March rolls around, Gordon Hayward’s initiation into the NBA was especially uphill. Read more…