At first glance, this is as straightforward as it gets. Although most single out Nikola Jokić as the favorite for the award, a case can be made for the Warriors superstar to win his third career MVP. And that's exactly what James did.
Just look what he's done this year. Everybody counted him out this year. Everybody saying now that Klay is hurt, can Steph lead a team on his own, can he carry a team into the postseason, can he keep a team afloat, he's done that, and more. If you're looking for MVP, if Steph is not on Golden State's team, what are we looking at? We get caught up in the record sometimes instead of just saying, 'who had the best season that year?' And Steph has had, in my opinion, the best season all year.
There is nothing odd about one superstar praising the other in the run-up to an important game. But when The King of Subliminals is the one giving praise, it isn't crazy to assume there's more to it than meets the eye. ESPN's Molly Qerim pointed that out during yesterday's First Take, exposing the potential hidden agenda behind LeBron's commendation for Steph.
Maybe it’s a little bit of a cynic in me. First, we had LeBron come out, and he said, ‘I’m not 100%, I don’t know if I’ll be 100% again‘ and now he’s saying Steph’s MVP. I think he is setting up the narrative like ‘Hey, when we beat Steph and the Warriors and we take them out real quick I beat the MVP.'
Molly Querim, First Take
If you think Molly's take is a bit of a stretch, let me remind you why it's not. How about the time James said winning the title with the Cavs in '16 made him the GOAT? Or, when he went on his former teammates’ podcast and said he's been a part of two teams that won the two hardest championships in NBA league history? How about when he demanded respect after winning last year's NBA title?
LeBron has always wanted to control his narrative - Brian Windhorst points out that James is meticulous about his media image and is aware of everything written and said about him. 18 years into his NBA career, the Lakers superstar is very methodical in how he speaks to the media and what outlets he uses when making such big statements. That's why Molly was right to read into his comments about Curry. It's also why Nick Wright was right to go one step further.
When he's like, 'oh, we get a little too caught up in the records, what would that team be without him,' that's him advocating for Steph, and also retroactively advocating for himself.
Nick Wright, First Things First
LeBron has said it himself he should have more than four MVPs. Nick is making the case James lost two for the same reason Curry is about to lose his third one.
In '06, when he finished second in voting to Steve Nash, LeBron led the Cavs to 50 wins and No.2 seed in the East, and his second-best player was Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He averaged 31.4 points, 7 rebounds, and 6.6 assists. In '18 -- the season filled with trades and injuries -- Cleveland reached the same winning threshold behind an incredible effort by 33-year-old James. He played all 82 games, led the league in minutes while averaging 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 9.1 assists, but also finished second to James Harden.
You could argue that in terms of winning, LeBron had a better MVP case in both seasons than Curry this year and that he did more with arguably an equal level of talent around him -- especially in '06. But just like the Warriors superstar, James lost the awards to better regular-season performers, despite him trying to advocate for himself retroactively under the guise of praising Steph Curry.