Defining MVP is thorny, even for LeBron

Defining MVP is thorny, even for LeBron

For the most part, we’re led to believe professional athletes don’t put much stock in winning individual awards. They insist the accolades are just “nice,” often selflessly sharing credit with their teammates, coaches and even family members.

What matters most, they say, is winning championships, going the distance with their chums to earn the label of best in the game for that particular season or calendar year.

Rings, count 'em, flash 'em, slip one on each finger if ya can. Rings matter because they are championship rings.

Take LeBron Raymone James, Sr., for example. He’s earned NBA Most Valuable Player laurels four times — twice with the Miami Heat and twice with the Cleveland Cavaliers. As rewarding as those four MVP runs were, chances are King James cherishes the banners he helped hoist in Miami and Cleveland a whole lot more.

Do you remember the way LeBron clutched that smudged Larry O’Brien Trophy after his return to Cleveland was finally complete? For that matter, do you recall Michael Jordan’s outpouring of emotion once his Chicago Bulls put the wraps on a sixth championship? MJ’s five MVP trophies were afterthoughts.

To be sure, “championships won” seems to be the ultimate measure of a modern-day athlete’s accomplishments. If you don’t believe it, just ask Daniel Constantine Marino, Jr., the Hall of Fame quarterback constantly reminded he never won a Super Bowl.

And that’s why the news that came out of “The Bubble” in Orlando earlier this week was such a contradiction to the norm. James went public with his beef about this season’s MVP selection, so obviously, the matter must have been more important to The King than we might have been led to believe.

In short, LeBron was peeved (not exactly the p-word he used to describe his feelings). Not that he didn’t think Giannis Antetokounmpo of the (playoff eliminated) Milwaukee Bucks wasn’t worthy of the award. He just wondered how in the world the voting turned out so lopsided.

Of the 101 MVP ballots cast, James got just 16 first-place votes, compared to the Greek Freak’s 85. James tweeted that “the voting scale is a little weird to me sometimes.” He went on to say, “I don’t know how much we are really watching the game of basketball, or are we just in the narration mode? The narrative?”

It’s understandable James felt a lack of respect because of the landslide numbers. After all, he’s at the age where proving to his critics that he’s not washed up yet remains a priority. Even more paramount is his quest to lead the Los Angeles Lakers back to championship-team status.

The rub is that James taking issue with the way an individual award winner was determined was more than surprising. It was just so out of character for an icon who has shown so much character over the course of his stratospheric career.

Make no mistake. James didn’t create the MVP monster. From the outset, it’s been an award that nobody is capable of defining. Most Valuable Player for who or what? A team? Most valuable to the success of the league itself? Most valuable because of unrivaled statistics? Most valuable based on TV ratings or commercial endorsements?

The definition of MVP is always subject to debate, so much so that one Cleveland sports radio talk show host suggested this week that the NBA should actually consider changing the name of the award. He suggested MOP, an acronym for Most Outstanding Player, which could be a lot different than Most Valuable Player.

The terms touch different nerves. And for whatever reason in this day and age, everything appears more vulnerable to interpretation. Very little is “cut and dried” or “black and white.”

Wouldn’t you like to know what the voters were thinking back in 1956 when power forward Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks landed MVP honors? How did they sort it all out when Bill Russell was a five-time MVP? Or Kareem a six-time recipient?

Antetokounmpo back to back? Kind of hard to argue with.

Just don’t hold it against LeBron, an individual who has every reason to be Most Valuable P-word.

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