In the ’10/’11 season, LeBron averaged what we now know as “a LeBron” – 27/7/7. He was at the height of his athletic power at the age of 26 and already had enough experience to dominate the league. But, that summer, he was on-air telling the world he was “taking his talents to South Beach.” It was a disaster, and LeBron’s approval rating was at an all-time low.
At the same time, a young kid in Chicago reached superstar status. Derrick Rose led the Bulls to a 62 – 20 record, blew our minds with his athleticism and raw energy, and was a Chicago kid playing for his hometown team. The parallels were obvious. Rose became the youngest MVP in NBA history, and LeBron never forgot that one.
To this day, reporters say he doesn’t want to talk about it and is upset every time it is mentioned. Rose was spectacular that year, but LeBron seems to be convinced not winning that MVP was mostly about punishing him for “The Decision.” Everyone was waiting for LeBron to get a real opponent in the East after teaming up with Wade and Bosh. The Bulls seemed like the team that would answer that call. It was LeBron’s chance to show everyone who the MVP was.
The two teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls won Game 1, their only win in the series. The Heat won the next four games to make it a gentleman’s sweep. Did LeBron prove he should’ve been the MVP? Here are his averages for the series: 25.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists. 44.7% from the field, 38.9% from behind the arc, and 86.4% from the charity stripe.
Rose was excellent in the series as well: 23.4 points, 4 rebounds, 6.4 assists. But unlike LeBron, he wasn’t efficient – 35% from the field, 23.3% from behind the arc and 81.3% from the charity stripe. Here we have to take the limitations of individual comparisons in mind. Rose didn’t have Wade and Bosh on his team (with due respect to Deng and Boozer). He had to carry a much bigger offensive load, meaning force the issue sometimes.
The eye test confirmed what the numbers told us – that year, LeBron was the superior player. Still, his main frustration with that MVP wasn7t directed at Rose, but at the media who LeBron felt punished him for “The Decision.” The Heat went on to lose to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals, and we now know that was the last healthy season Derrick Rose would have in his career.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com