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Objectivism v. Reality - LBJ for MVP

**This week on ETSF kicks off our annual MVP Series debate, where we gather our band of hooligans' thoughts to state a case for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy (MVP) in the NBA. The homie Phil Barnett kicks it off, stay tuned all week for the debate. Comment and discuss!**

We’re currently living in a world where the NBA landscape suggests that the Most Valuable Award isn’t what “most valuable” would seem to apply, mainly because no one seems to agree on how value is defined. MVP debates are always in a constant, never ending “rock-paper-scissors” style war in which advanced statistics trumps wins trumps intangibles trumps advanced statistics. And at some point, someone always invariably brings up the ultimate trump card, one that always seems to mean everything to everyone, or nothing no anyone, but it’s always a topic of conversation: emotion. It’s emotion that says Kobe can’t win it because he cheated on his wife and ran Shaq out of town. It’s emotion that says Derrick Rose is too young to win the award or that Dwight Howard isn’t a fun enough choice. No one wants to vote for the rapist in the same way no one wants to vote for the young boy or Goliath. It’s also emotion that says LeBron James isn’t the MVP of the NBA because he finally showed that the conjectural size of his ego proved to be much larger than the length between his eyebrows and hairline with the way he went about “The Decision.”

In fact, the general ethos of the audience that sat through Lebron’s decision and then through that pre-season public display of grandiose grandiloquence has, in turn, dominated the general view that he is now one of the least liked athletes in all of basketball. But how much does that matter?

The MVP race has become more of a cultural issue rather than a platform where we are able to discuss the league’s best, or most valuable player. Who we choose as our MVP tends to say more about us as individuals rather than what it should say about who we’re pulling for. These days, to suggest James is to suggest that you are heartless and generally have no use for terms like “loyalty.” And you know what, a lot of people feel that way -- but that’s exactly what’s wrong with the award. The objectivity is merely a sub-standard to voters, many of whom are paid just to be objective. Derrick Rose is what’s hot and Dwight Howard is the secret crush. Kobe Bryant remains in the conversation because he’s Kobe Bryant, yet LeBron get’s pushed to the back burner despite doing things on the basketball court that no one else in the NBA is, or has been doing for decades.

But “The Decision” seemingly forced us to decide, prematurely, that this man wasn’t going to win the MVP before the Miami Heat tipped off their first game of the season. Mired in all its irony, is the fact that the perceived mysticism that he decidedly lost while joining two all-star caliber ball players has only added a historical mystique to this season’s already bizarre narrative. Despite playing with a power forward who averages just about 20 points and 10 rebounds for his career AND a shooting guard who averages 25 points, six assists and five rebounds per game, LeBron James statistical metrics are right around where they were his two previous seasons, both of which he brought home the MVP in convincing fashion.

So what’s different this year? You decide:

08-09: 28.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 7.2 apg, 48.9FG%, #1 in PER, #2 in PPG
09-10: 29.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.6 apg, 50.3FG%, #1 in PER, #2 in PPG
10-11: 26.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7.0 apg, 51.3FG%, #1 in PER, #2 in PPG

So again, what’s different about this year?

Is it Derrick Rose’s 25 and 7 assists? Chris Paul has had two seasons that are statistically superior to Rose’s this year, and he’s never been rewarded MVP. Is it Dwight Howard’s improved offense? He’s averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds. Shaq didn’t have a season with a scoring average or rebounding average as low as Howard’s numbers until his 13th season, and Shaq only brought home one MVP trophy. There’s nothing new about Kobe, in fact, this is only Kobe’s seventh best season in terms of statistics. It seems that the only thing that has changed is our own inner-dialogue about LeBron James. We’ve seen, for two straight years, that the numbers that James put up this season is a winning formula for the MVP award -- or at least the winning formula that tags along with a winning narrative. We loved the LeBron who put a city on those broad shoulders and led the most hopeless collection of talentless basketball players to 65+ win seasons. Now, that he’s doing the same things post-decision, our ability to see him as the MVP that he is has become blinded by a moral conflict which is rooted in the fact that he may or may not have stabbed the most championship challenged city in all of sports. That’s a lot to chew on, but it has nothing to do what the man has done on the basketball court.

LeBron just isn’t playing great basketball, he’s playing historically great basketball. For the fourth time in his career, LeBron scored at least 2,000 points, recorded at least 500 rebounds and at least 500 assists. To put those numbers in perspective, only one other basketball player in NBA history has proved to have such a complete game for at least four entire seasons: The Great Oscar Robertson. It’s easy to take the Rose/Howard/Kobe routes because, well, they didn’t thrust a conjectural shank into the kidney of Cleveland. If “most valuable” means any more than on court production, than maybe one of those other guys deserves the award; but the reality of the award is that “most valuable” can mean whatever the voters want it to mean at season’s end. We shouldn’t be forced to choose between objectivism and reality, because they should be one and the same. But the reality of taking award away from James for that reason would be unjust, and a travesty that would paint the voters of the award just as morally criminal as James himself.

-I'm So Hideous

P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!


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