But first, Frank Vogel re-iterated James’ GOAT case.
“He’s the best player that ever played the game, in my opinion,” Vogel said. “And he continues to prove it with his play. It’s just that simple. For him to do it this long through a change … stylistically, with the way the game is played now as opposed to even four, five years ago, to still be this dominant, to still be the best player in the league is just remarkable.”
LeBron finishes the first half one missed shot short of perfection 🔥
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) March 19, 2021
Alex Caruso echoed Vogel’s praise for James’ prolonged greatness.
“You could give him the MVP every year if you really wanted to,” Caruso said. “He’s just that good. He really is so valuable. That’s why you see years past, when he’s on the court, whatever the net rating of the team is really, really good, and then sometimes when he goes off it’s not as good. It’s because he’s that good of a player.”
The Lakers are 13.9 points per possession better with James on the court, per Cleaning the Glass — a substantial differential that would mark the seventh-best mark of his career.
On Thursday, facing the franchise owned by Michael Jordan — and featuring a rookie from L.A. who was borderline disrespectful to the King beforehand — James continued his months-long reminder of who remains the premier hooper on the planet. He shot 14-of-22 from the field, 4-of-9 from three-point range, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out six assists. He wreaked havoc on defense like no 18-year vet should be able to.
The King put on quite a show last night. 👑 pic.twitter.com/Sduw3Z0GRv
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 20, 2021
“His greatness … everybody witnesses it, night in, night out, year after year,” Caruso added. “He goes out there and does it every night.”
After triple-doubles on Monday and Tuesday, James is averaging 25.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 9.8 assists in the team’s four-game win streak since the break. With Joel Embiid sidelined, James has shot back into pole position for his first MVP since 2012-13.
“It’s a mistake on the voters part to go season after season without voting the best player in the league MVP,” Vogel lamented. “He’s been the best player in the league for as long as I can remember…And he should get it this year. He’s doing it every night, and no one is as deserving.”
James’ four MVPs are tied with Wilt Chamberlain for third-most all-time and put him one behind Jordan. Still, he thinks he’s been robbed of some hardware.
“I should have more than four, I believe,” he said. “But I don’t sit around thinking about it or crying about it … I just try to come in the next season and be the MVP and be talked about it again. I bet a lot of the greatest that played this game feel like they should have more as well, if you ask any one of those guys.”
James has occasionally downplayed the personal significance of the award rather than seize control of the narrative. Last summer, though, he openly voiced his displeasure with the voting tally before refocusing onto the bigger prize.
“I don’t think there was any big rally cry around it as a team,” Caruso recalled about the Lakers’ reaction after Giannis Antetkounmpo won the 2019-20 MVP. “LeBron might have had that partially within himself. But he doesn’t need any extra motivation chasing after a championship. He was already pretty locked in. We were already pretty locked in. That might subliminally lit a fire under him, although there’s already a fire under him every time you’re in the playoffs.”
Kyle Kuzma went a bit further.
“Bron should have been the MVP at least eight, nine, 10 times. Everybody knows that.”
We can play the Russell Wilson game with Kuzma’s hyperbole. In actuality, James has had an arguable case for the MVP award once since 2013, and that was last season — when he made a late push before the pandemic struck. Nobody sane would argue that James hasn’t been the overall most valuable player over the past decade — including playoffs.
2020-21 is different. James has valued the regular season from opening night, despite the historically abbreviated off-season. He’s missed one game and ranks ninth in minutes played.
LeBron said no way I’m going to Double OT again 😂 pic.twitter.com/RkVMQA0LNR
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 11, 2021
On Thursday, he admitted that another MVP would be a meaningful addition to his trophy room (house?).
“I’m not going to sit here and say it doesn’t mean anything to me. And for me to be able to win it a few times in my career is always been special. And being in the running, hearing my name with some of the best basketball players in the league this year again, it would mean a lot.”
James is striving to become the oldest MVP since Karl Malone (35) in 1999. Undoubtedly, the #WashedKing is proud of his production and physical well-being at 36.
“It would mean an unbelievable thing for me, especially at this point in my career. So, we just see where the chips may lay,” he acknowledged.
Following the Hornets win — James’ third-straight statement performance against a 2020 top-3 pick — James campaigned on his nightly commitment.
“At my age, what I’m able to do, what I’ve been doing this whole season, what I bring to the table every single night on both sides of the floor…I try to be that every night for my ball club. Being available to them and being the best player on the floor.”
'Bron with the leak out slam and he's got seven quick points 🔥pic.twitter.com/JeNSinbgGu
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) March 19, 2021
As long as James speaks publicly about the award (spawning articles like this one), he can steer the narrative momentum. The age factor and past “disrespect” from voters strengthen his case.
The Lakers star shouldn’t need to remind us with his words. His all-around impact is evident on the court and the stat sheet.
His offensive influence is as layered as ever. He’s the game’s most sophisticated orchestrator, a true chess player. His mind has evolved with time, enabling him to anticipate defensive action and conduct his team like Dudamel. Specifically, his pick and roll prowess has fueled L.A. since the break, providing Montrezl Harrell with a Klutch confidence boost. (Kuzma noted the Lakers have started using James as a screener, too, yet another illustration of his versatility.)
LeBron makes this pass look so easy. Perfect no look off the dribble to the corner. pic.twitter.com/UpfXIhqMqd
— Raj C. (@UnwrittenRul3s) March 18, 2021
If James needs to get buckets — like against a switch-heavy Hornets squad that restricts ball-movement — he still can, from anywhere.
James’ defensive performance has been the most persuasive factor in his MVP case. He’s been more dialed in on that end than anyone envisioned, rightfully generating All-Defense buzz. LeBron ranks first in Defensive Rating (min. 1,000 minutes) and defensive win shares. In AD’s absence, he’s become the essential cog and communicator for the top defense in basketball.
Good switch from KCP and LeBron but also good job on defending the inbounder from Matthews. Brogdon threw the pass to the wrong side of Sabonis but because of Matthews I don't think he could've thrown it anywhere else. pic.twitter.com/agoL4MAqC3
— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) March 13, 2021
“We’re the No. 1 defense in the league without Anthony Davis…largely because of what he does with his play and with his quarterbacking with his voice and obviously he has the ability to put up triple-doubles,” Vogel said. “He dominates the game, in any way that’s needed…He’s really doing it all for us.”
LeBron should be 1st Team All-Defense this season.
– Hounds Kelly Oubre at the point of attack
– Knows exactly what GS was running
– Tells KCP to switch
– Steph looks open and LeBron intercepts the pass like a safety
Absolute genius stuff 🐐 pic.twitter.com/8yltKKkxH9
— Josh Toussaint (@josh2saint) March 2, 2021
When James is bringing that level of energy against a non-contender in March, his teammates follow.
“I think Bron set a great tone for us saying, ‘It’s Go Time,’ post-All Star Break” Vogel said. “Our guys have really responded with really good play.”
Kuzma and Davis have labeled the MVP as a “political” award, referencing voters’ swayed by compelling narratives rather than hand the award to the best player.
Conveniently, James can play politics and utilize his voice better than anyone when he’s passionate about something. He can play basketball better, too.