Feb 20, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) handles the ball while being guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry Kevin Durant, but LeBron is the True MVP


Michael Jeffrey Jordan is unequivocally the greatest basketball player of all time.  At the risk of committing the “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy, every sensible basketball fan agrees that Jordan is the GOAT.

From 1988 to 1998, there was not another player in the National Basketball Association that any team could rationally covet over Michael Jordan.  He won six titles during that span, and Jordan almost assuredly would have won another two but for a curious “retirement” from professional basketball and subsequent stint in minor league baseball with the Birmingham Barons.

To be sure, for effectively a decade Jordan was understood to be the best—so why did he only win five MVP awards?

The Maurice Podoloff Trophy is awarded annually to the NBA’s “most valuable player.”  No other qualifications are given.  As a result of such ambiguity, the subjective concept of “value” has devolved from being associated with arrant hierarchical greatness to seemingly just the performance of a surprising outlier.  Michael Jordan was named NBA MVP in 1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, and 1998.  He was the clearly the most valuable player in all of professional basketball those seasons.

He had to be; he was always the scariest dude in the entire gymnasium.

But wasn’t he also the top player in 1990 when Magic Johnson won the MVP?*  And would you be comfortable arguing that 1993 MVP** Charles Barkley was better than Michael Jordan?  What about when “the Mailman” Karl Malone was named Most Valuable Player*** over Jordan in 1997?  It would not take the oration of Clarence Darrow to demonstrate that Barkley and Malone were inferior to “His Airness.”

* Johnson: 22-12-7; Jordan: 34-7-6

** Barkley: 26-12-5; Jordan: 33-7-6

*** Malone: 27-10-5; Jordan: 30-6-4

In what bizarro world should being the “most valuable” differ from being the “best”  It’s almost nonsensical.  Pursuant to ratings, torrent seeds, and “buzzworthiness,” it is not controversial to argue that Game of Thrones is the best television show on HBO.  But in 2014, Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley has debuted to some fanfare and noteworthy critical reception.

Assume that Silicon Valley puts together a stellar eight episode first season.  Also assume George R.R. Martin’s tale of Westerosean lore kills off four two many likable characters during its fourth season and is perceived to take a nominal step backward.  Would Silicon Valley suddenly become HBO’s “best” show?  No!  And would Game of Thrones remain HBO’s “most valuable series?  Absolutely!  

I can play this game all day.  If Junot Diaz releases Monstro and it ends up being brilliant, are we going to automatically vaunt him above savant authors such as Haruki Murakami?  I think not.  If Rolling Stone, as unlikely as it might be without the services of Matt Taibbi, suddenly goes on a six month stretch of timeless and important journalism, will it suddenly eclipse The New Yorker?  Did the Philadelphia band The War on Drugs suddenly surpass Bob Dylan with their heralded 2014 release of “Lost in the Dream?”  I feel I should apologize to Dylan for even asking that rhetorical question.  It seems to me that as a society we are more interested in spurring abdication than we are embracing and enjoying status quo greatness.

Today, we look back on Michael Jordan winning just five MVPs as a historical absurdity—likely a product of NBA awards voters simply becoming bored with awarding the greatness of No. 23.  One of the many purposes to the study of history is to no longer repeat past mistakes.  Let’s learn from history and crown King James the 2013-2014 NBA Most Valuable Player over Kevin Durant.

LeBron James is on track to potentially become the second best player to ever play professional basketball.  At 29-years-old, he has won two NBA Championships with a third realistically on its way this postseason.  And while I am not a medical doctor, it appears as if LeBron’s back has fully recovered from carrying the likes of Donyelle Marshall, Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, and Eric Snow to the 2006-2007 NBA Finals.****

**** I have nothing bad to say about Marshall, Gibson, Pavlovic, and Snow.  They each were legitimate and reliable role players.  Problematically for the Cleveland Cavaliers, however, these players were counted on as “stars” purely out of poor roster construction.

With apologies to fans of Kevin Durant’s explosive offensive repertoire and swiss cheese-like one on one defense, Lebron James is absolutely the best basketball player on the planet.  Backing up that assertion, James currently has four MVP awards to his name—winning the Maurice Podoloff Trophy in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013.  But similarly to Michael Jordan, LeBron has already experienced voters questionably voting against him for the league’s Most Valuable Player award, despite LeBron clearly being the best player in the world.

In 2011, Derrick Rose won the MVP over James.  That year, Rose tallied 25-4-8 to LeBron’s 27-7-7.

As evidenced, the basic statistics give Lebron the slight edge over Rose in terms of performance, but you don’t even need statistics—would more people want Rose than James for an entire year in 2011?  The answer is a resounding “no,” and that is all you need to truly know about which player was the rightful MVP for the 2010-2011 season.  If Kevin Durant wins the MVP over LeBron James, it just might be another Derrick Rose circa 2011 awards gaffe.  Or 1993 Charles Barkley over Jordan.  Or dare I say 1997 Mailman over MJ.

The way I see it, there are three different variables required in gauging who should be the Most Valuable Player: (1) who would you rather have for a single season in a vacuum; (2) individual statistics; and (3) what their respective teams would look like if they disappeared.

The first criterion is rather telling.  Regardless of team and in a vacuum, would you rather have LeBron James—the 29-year-old freak athlete 4-time MVP & 2-time NBA Champion who has the ability to guard every position and singlehandedly bring an abysmally-coached, talent-lacking Cleveland Cavaliers squad to the NBA Finals—or Kevin Durant—the 25-year-old defensive liability skinny scoring machine whose teams have historically floundered in the postseason without Russell Westbrook?  I’m taking the better player; I am taking LeBron James every day of the week.  And in taking LeBron, I know this much: I can give him a cast of replacement level players and Anderson Varejao, and I can count on LeBron to somehow get me to the NBA Finals.

With Kevin Durant, however, I can give him one of the top 25 players in the NBA in Serge Ibaka and still expect to lose 4-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Semifinals.

LeBron wins decisively regarding criterion No. 1.

The second variable is less clear cut and in fairness might actually favor Kevin Durant. Statistically, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are each having post-video game type seasons.  Consider the numbers as of April 14, 2014:

Durant: 32 pts / 5.5 asts / 7.4 reb / .505 FG%/ 30.2 PER / 6.65 Real Plus Minus / 17.36 Wins Above Replacement

James: 27.1 pts / 6.4 assists / 6.9 reb/ .567 FG% / 29.45 PER / 7.72 Real Plus Minus / 17.27 Wins Above Replacement

It’s basically an exercise in futility to attempt to poke holes in the respective games of either player through statistics.  James and Durant are both phenomenal.  Durant might even be having a nominally better statistical season in totality than James.  But ultimately I must go back to defense not accounted for in these statistics.

In a last second scenario, I would trust LeBron to stop Steph Curry; I would not trust Durant.  I would trust LeBron to stop James Harden; I would not trust Durant.  I would trust LeBron to stop Paul Pierce; I would not trust Durant.  And I would trust LeBron to stop Tim Duncan; I would not trust Durant.

KD35 may have the slight edge statistically, but he isn’t going to give you elite defense on positions 1 through 4 in crunch time.  LeBron can, LeBron, has, and LeBron will.

Finally, the third criterion is virtually a wash.  LeBron James and Kevin Durant are 1a and 1b in the NBA, and they are equally important to their respective teams.  But at the end of the day, if you take James off the Heat, they’re still a playoff team led by Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.  Likewise, if you take Durant off the Thunder, they’re still a playoff team led by Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.  Neither LeBron nor Durant are in a situation quite like that of Goran Dragic— whose absence from the Phoenix Suns would take his team from a fringe playoff contender to a possible candidate for the #1 pick in the NBA Draft.

LeBron James is a reigning two time NBA Champion and the winner of the MVP Award four of the last five seasons.  By most accounts, he is best player on alive.  Kevin Durant might arguably have better total numbers than James this season by the narrowest of margins, but are we really dethroning King James as MVP based on Durant have a greater Player Efficiency Rating by a half a point?  I hope not.

In the words of the immortal Ric Flair, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man!”  You want to be the Most Valuable Player, Kevin?  Then how about getting your team to the NBA Finals and taking it directly away from King James.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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Tags: Kevin Durant Lebron James Miami Heat NBA Oklahoma City Thunder

  • BradAustin

    Durant: 2552 points (after 80 games)
    Lebron: 2168 points (would have with 3 more games played at avg. to make 80 games)

    Difference: 384 points (approx. points Kevin Durant will have scored above LeBron when James plays 3 more games to even them at 80).

    4.8 more points a game is not the slightest of margins. That’s more than the 3 point gap between Malone and Jordan that was used in the article’s argument for Jordan deserving it over Malone. And Malone even had better numbers in the other 2 stats. So yeah, I guess Malone did deserve it if Lebron does now according to the logic used here.

    Durant is currently scoring 31.9 points a game in 2013-14. Last time even 30 points was eclipsed was 4 seasons ago…2009-10 Kevin Durant with 30.1 ppg. Dwayne Wade did it in 2008-09 with 30.2 ppg. Lebron had 30.0 ppg in 2007-08. Kobe had 31.6 in 2006-07. Kobe Bryant also had 35.4 ppg in 2005-06. So at the current pace, Kevin Durant is scoring more points than anyone has since Kobe in 2005-06…8 years ago.

    Scoring more points than anyone has in 8 years (including scoring leaders Wade, Lebron, Kobe, and even Durant himself) is worthy of MVP. Especially since Durant and James split the other 2 categories…Lebron more assists, KD more rebounds.

    Lebron being the 2nd best NBA player ever is a debate that could last for days. lol

    • Phil Daniels

      I wrote out a reply to you, but I forgot to hit submit apparently. A couple of brief points of clarification.

      First, I don’t equate the MVP as a scoring title award. It is impressive that Durant scores 32ppg, but I also find it impressive that LeBron is playing wing and shooting 58% from the field. If LeBron wanted to, I have no doubt he could score 40 almost nightly. In fairness, the same could be said for Durant.

      Second, even if Malone had better stats than MJ in ’97, pursuant to my argument, this is not proof positive that Malone should have been awarded MVP. As I wrote above, “Even if Kevin Durant had a nominally better season than LeBron James, in my eyes that does not change who is “most valuable.” This is why I went on long tangents on hypotheticals such as Rolling Stone having a better six month stretch than The New Yorker, or Junot Diaz’s second novel being slightly better than one of Murakami’s several novels. Until proven otherwise, it is an outlier — not quite the equivalent of Brady Anderson winning the home run title, but curious data nevertheless. I personally am not willing to take someone’s title of “most valuable” away off an 80 game sample size. Now, if you argue that isn’t in the spirit of the annual awards, my counter would simply be there are no codified criteria for the annual awards aside from who is “most valuable.”

      Third, I would like to emphasize that I did not say LeBron was second best all time. I carefully said he was ” on track to potentially become the second best player to ever play professional basketball.” In my eyes, LeBron would need to win a few more titles and finish in the top 10 on several diverse statistics charts before he could take Bill Russell’s place on my NBA All Time list.

      • Authorisanidiot

        Maybe you should rethink the term itself, most valuable player, the heat would go on to win just as much without James, they would’ve won rings without James, they could still function as steam, again, without James. Durant is the sole leader on his team, they NEED him to score, and he has many ways to do so. Its not all about stats in the NBA as to who wins the awards, that’s why we watch games, not just wait till their over and go over stat charts to see who was “most valuable”. That is in no way how it works.

        • Patrick Allen

          No way would the Heat have won two rings with Wade and Bosh and no Lebron.

          • Phil Daniels

            Agreed. But a particularly funny piece of irony is the fact that if the Heat would have won those two titles without LeBron, they would have also defeated Kevin Durant and the Thunder 4-1 during the 2012 NBA Finals. And such a defeat for Durant against a Lebron-less Heat wouldn’t look so great for him.

            The simple assertion that LeBron should win MVP over Durant — something that a minority of voters will likely agree with — has brought about a tremendous amount of heated debate in these comments and on Twitter. The thing to keep in mind is if one thinks there is no rational argument that Durant should lose the MVP to James, then one should petition the NBA to refine their MVP Awards criteria. The Award currently doesn’t go to the guy with the highest PER, or the best overall stats, or even the best player on the best team over a single season sample size. The Award officially ambiguously goes to the “most valuable player” — nothing more, nothing less.

          • Simon Dike

            I don’t care what u say kd have MVP and he deserve it more than lebron u bam wager. Kd work hard to get MVP more than any nba player in the league. Do not say lebron deserve MVP more than kd, maybe if u watch basketball then u can read the stats who deserve MVP instead of lying to yourself u sad sicko

    • Anonymous

      FGA per game
      Kevin Durant: 20.8
      Lebron James: 17.6

  • http://www.offthebackboard.net/ www.offthebackboard.net

    For an attorney, you sure are terrible at writing persuasively. Most of your article was subjective and completely anecdotal, comparing things that have absolutely nothing to do with this current season.

    Kevin Durant has outplayed Lebron throughout this regular season. He carried the Thunder when Westbrook was out (which is a bigger blow to the Thunder than Wade being out is to the Heat), and has posted better stats. Its not voter fatigue, its recognizing that Lebron’s days of being the best player in the league are slowly but surely winding down (much like Lebron overtook Kobe in 2009). Also, LBJ is clearly conserving energy for the playoffs.

    • Phil Daniels

      Thanks for the comment — not so much the ad hominem. With respect, you seem to have completely missed my argument. When you say that I compare “things that have absolutely nothing to do with this current season,” that is actually the point. Even if Kevin Durant had a nominally better season than LeBron James, in my eyes that does not change who is “most valuable.” This is why I went on long tangents on hypotheticals such as Rolling Stone having a better six month stretch than The New Yorker, or Junot Diaz’s second novel being slightly better than one of Murakami’s several novels. Until proven otherwise, it is an outlier — not quite the equivalent of Brady Anderson winning the home run title, but curious data nevertheless. I personally am not willing to take someone’s title of “most valuable” away off an 80 game sample size. Now, if you argue that isn’t in the spirit of the annual awards, my counter would simply be there are no codified criteria for the annual awards aside from who is “most valuable.” As a result, I would not fault a writer for touting Goran Dragic as the Most valuable Player based on what he meant for his team.

      While I wholeheartedly agree that James is trying to pace himself for the playoffs (despite bizarrely not receiving a deserved Dwyane Wade-esque rest treatmen), I would actually disagree that Durant has definitively outplayed LeBron throughout the regular season. Durant has a better PER; LeBron has a higher Real Plus Minus. Both are hardly perfect, but both are telling statistics that paint a different story in terms of who is “best.” Regardless, as I have said, even if I concede Durant had a better year than LeBron, that does not require that he receive the MVP in my eyes.

      • J.R

        This argument is completely bias lol I’m going to give a fact check list, and we can read down it.

        Player Efficient Rating – Kevin Durant>LBJ

        Double Doubles – Kevin Durant> LBJ

        Triple Doubles – Kevin Durant> LBJ

        3p%- Kevin Durant>LBJ

        Plus-Minus – LBJ>Kevin Durant

        FG% – LBJ> Kevin Durant

        FT% – Kevin Durant>LBJ

        REB – Kevin Durant>LBJ

        PTS – Kevin Durant>LBJ

        Ast- LBJ> Kevin Durant

        STL- Even

        Not to mention –

        41 Consecutive Games Or More Scoring 25+ Points

        13 Consecutive Games or More Scoring 30+ Points

        Look man when you get the mvp it says Most Valuable Player of whatever year it was. So clearly that means -who was the best player that year. Don’t try and bullshit lebrons way out of this one, the True MVP is Kevin Durant! My God what does he have to do to be the TRUE MVP!

        • J.R

          Anyway, all the mvp really is a popularity vote….finally Durant is getting his recognition, maybe one day love and harden will finally get theres.

        • Phil Daniels

          Your argument is convincing. As I have told other people though, one of my key points is the NBA should just explicitly define what it means to be the Most Valuable Player. If the NBA doesn’t want people like me advocating for a de facto legacy vote in favor of LeBron James, then the NBA should actually write on the award ballot: “voters may only take into account current year performance. ‘Most Valuable’ is defined as the best player statistically for the season at issue.” Thanks for replying

          • Freelancer Jones

            If the MVP award is for the 2013-2014 season, why would anyone take into account anything other than the current year’s performance? If they want MVP of 2012-2014, I could see your argument, but I think the timeframe for which they consider candidates has been pretty consistent since the beginning. Durant won statistically and via narrative for the 2013-2014 season as J.R. and others have illustrated.

      • Simon Dike

        So because lebron won a championship and kd didn’t means that lebrons more valuable? U sound so stupid right now kobe worth more than lebron because he won more championship than lebron and he didn’t get MVP whether he is injure or not he’s not getting MVP because of these suck up but the point is who perform better this season not the rings… That what MVP is not the rings that’s the different u loser

  • Henry Liu

    Sorry to say this but whoever wrote this article knows absolutely nothing about basketball, or is just madly in love with LeBron. KD should be the MVP this year and it really isn’t even close. Whether you think LeBron is better overall or not is a personal opinion (I think Durant is the best player in the league) but based on THIS season alone, KD is the undisputed MVP.

    • Phil Daniels

      Hello, Henry. I wrote this article. I can assure you I know plenty about basketball. Your comment presupposes that Kevin Durant should be the MVP based on “this season alone.” The problem with that belief is the actual codified criteria for the MVP Award does not explicitly state that voters are only allowed to take into account the 2013-2014 NBA season as the sample size. The only instructions voters are given when voting for the MVP is to list the Top 5 guys who were “most valuable” for their teams. What is “valuable” is not defined, and voters are not forbidden from looking at past performance.

      As a result, one could argue that a guy like the injured Kobe Bryant is “most valuable” considering the Lakers performance this year compared to last year. I personally am sympathetic to arguments in favor of Goran Dragic being “most valuable” as the Suns would not be anywhere close to a fringe playoff team without him. Personally, I will go to bat for James, who has the more proven track record than Durant and who leads the NBA in Real Plus Minus.

      If you are convinced that Durant had the better year than James and wish for voters to keep their analysis to exclusive the 2013-2014 NBA season in a vacuum, I would suggest petitioning the NBA to modify and clarify their MVP requirements. And while you’re at it, have them modify All Star requirements so fans are voting for 2013-2014 performance as opposed to historic performance.

      • Tracy

        i’m thinking if the MVP was based on “past” achievments, they wouldn’t give one away every year. I think it’s implied that it is for the season only, otherwise Michael Jordan would still be winning it, you know for past achievments.

      • lbro702

        You are using flawed logic when you say that the nba doesn’t explicitly state that voters can only take into account the current season when choosing an mvp. The nba doesn’t need to explicitly state this. It goes without saying. The mvp is and has always been based off who was better and more valuable to their team in the current season. This is why Rose won in 2011. This is why MJ didn’t win every year. They would not choose this award every year if voters were supposed to take into account the player’s entire career. This season, KD was indisputably the best player in the nba and had the most impact on his team. KD had better stats than LeBron in all but a couple of categories. Also, he led the Thunder to a better record in a MUCH more competetive conference. Yes, LeBron has accomplished more over his career but Durant was without a doubt the most valuable and best player this year. It seems like you are looking for something that isn’t there by arguing since the nba doesn’t “explicitly” state that only the current season should be taken into account by mvp voting, then by default we should look at a player’s entire career instead. Sorry but LeBron is not the mvp this year. And honestly, I feel that his days as the best player in the league are over based off how Durant has been playing.

  • Vince Ferlita

    Phil why are you basing this years MVP on past statistics and biases? I look at it this way. Take away playoff team records, past stats, and past awards and make a vote (for the players). Statistically they both are very good. Durant though has been the first to do many things since Michael in the 80s and the early 90s. He was on track to be the first to avg. over 30 points and shoot .50/.40. He had his streak and he had over 400 assists this year and played strong defense when it mattered. I think both teams struggle greatly without them. Saying Durant has Ibaka means nothing when you have Miami that has an extremely deep roster. They beat two playoff teams this year without Lebron. Durant shined this year greatly when Westbrook was hurt and to be honest I think Miami should have won the number 1 seed but choked here at the end playing in a MUCH weaker conference. We are looking at the regular season. Durant averaged 4 more points than Lebron with similar assist, rebounding, and defensive numbers. He also played in more games and stepped up in bigger situations. His team was also more successful. You are being unbelievably biased and bringing in future scenarios that haven’t even occurred. You are basing your vote on career and playoff scenarios that have not even happened yet. Good sports writing should be neutral. Stick to the judicial system (Like I stick to medicine). This is garbage and stop trying to correct people and talk down to them when you can not even write a grammatically correct article.

    • Simon Dike

      Stole the words out of my mouth

  • Von-Dane Lambert

    While I understand the perspective from which the article was written, I’d just like to point out two things
    1) With the exception of 2011 season where Derrick Rose won MVP, the comparative analysis between when Jordan lost the MVP award to his counterparts in regard to Lebron and this season does not hold. This is simply due to the fact that there is a genuine argument that Jordan had better seasons than those he lost to. This season, it is unanimously agreed (inclusive of Lebron himself) that Durant has had the better season. That’s not voter fatigue. That’s a logical conclusion.
    Consequently this leads to the second
    2) The MVP is categorically a SEASONAL award based on PERFORMANCE in that particular season. It is not an aggregated award that takes into account previous accomplishments. The best player in the league is an REPUTED title; it is based on the reputation/past accolades/potential of player that extends beyond the current 82 games under scrutiny. Having that reputation does not equate to having the best season or having the most impact on team during the time period which is quite evident this season. In light of this, being the best player in the league (a title that is a culmination of a player’s career to that present point) cannot be the equivalent to the MVP of season. Note well that the award is given out every year and not held like a heavy-weight championship title which means you are MVP for a season and for a season only.

    • Phil Daniels

      I can’t really argue against point one. Th better argument is that, absent Real Plus Minus, Kevin Durant had a nominally better statistical season than LeBron. I can, however, argue against your second point.

      You say that the MVP is a seasonal award based on performance in that particular season. While I can agree that a lot of people interpret the award that way, this is not officially what the MVP award actually is (at least as I interpret the wording on the ballots). The way I interpret the plain language of the MVP criteria, the award is given annually to the league’s most valuable player. Just because an award is given annually does not mean that the evaluation for that award must be limited to only the current season. Does that make sense to you, or do you consider that reaching? Admittedly, my professional background consists in large part of finding and exploiting loopholes.

      The way I see it, the NBA should clarify the criteria for each of its post season awards. What does “most valuable” even mean? Why don’t second year players rarely if ever win “most improved” even though statistically players tend to grow the most between their rookie and second seasons? Perhaps most convincingly, how did Marc Gasol win Defensive Player of the Year but only make NBA Second Team All Defense? The defining requirements of these awards are in need of refining.

      The purpose of this article was first to point out the unfortunate ambiguity of NBA awards, second to illustrate how LeBron could reasonably be deemed MVP in light of that ambiguity, and lastly, encourage readers to demand that the NBA fix the ambiguity issues. If I were to re-write it, I would attempt to stress the ambiguity portion a bit more. I stated it early on and it basically became lost in translation — at no fault to readers.

      • Von-Dane Lambert

        My first statement was explicitly that I understood the perspective from where the article was written and I also meant to highlight the concept of ambiguity in the selection of the award. However, regardless of that fact, there are consistencies that are undeniable as to how the award is given.
        The first thing to note is that unless players are performing at a high level they will not be considered for the award. That’s a check for both Durant and James so we move on. The second is that players who are registered on a roster, irrespective of how good they are, will not be considered for the award if they do not play for the majority of the season. Case in point is Kobe Bryant.Now consider that he has played practically zero matches and the Lakers, inadvertently, wound up being the first team missing the playoffs by almost 2 months. Based on Kobe’s past accomplishments and the fact that he is slated to make a comeback, doesn’t this antithesis of an argument make him a MVP candidate? Of course not. Why, because we have no clue as to whether Kobe Bryant is going be performing at the same level he left in the latter part of the 2012-2013 season. That being said, the award has never been given out on hypothetical scenarios nor past activities and hence is based on current number of games played.
        The reason I made the heavy-weight comparison was due to the fact that a person who holds that title holds it until he is challenged and the title goes on the line. That may be one year to whenever years later; not so with the MVP, as that is relinquished. Whilst we can seek to quantify the word ‘valuable’, that leniency is not afforded for the time frame of the award clearly states the season for which the player won it. The biggest flaw with making the award subjective to the inclusion of past achievements is simply because the past does not equal to the present and need I say the future. Was James the best player in the league last yes. Did that equate to him playing that way this year? Err No. Of course there is no explicitly stated criteria listing that we can tick off as we go along in a season, but common sense dictates where we start our evaluation…and that is right at the beginning of each season

        • Phil Daniels

          Your argument is fairly convincing. I am willing to concede that IF the MVP award only allows us to look at a single season sample size in a vacuum without any knowledge of prior historic performances, then Durant should win the award. I would even concede that it is probably common sense that the MVP award should only take into account the season at issue. However, it is my personal world view that common sense does not trump what is said on paper. As such, the NBA should clarify what it means to be MVP. Thanks for responding.

          • Von-Dane Lambert

            No problem. You’re probably the first lawyer I’ve ever heard of conceding an argument…even if it is contingency based.

          • Vince Ferlita

            He’s writing a sports column he def isn’t a good attorney. My friends would never write a column like this. They are successful and wouldn’t waste their time away from their firms.

          • Vince Ferlita

            Stick to mediations and trials. Now you contradict yourself. You won’t even stand behind your words. The MVP is that way and always has been. I played sports all my life and there was never confusion. No clarification is needed. You are talking about wording on a ballot it’s ridiculous. This isn’t your profession it’s a hobby that you don’t put enough time in.

          • Simon Dike

            U tell him

      • Simon Dike

        Once again u prove your stupidity once more each MVP is base on each year performance whether u like it or not kd got MVP so accept defeat u suck up fool

  • dr.jim420

    Sorry, but you are wrong. Kevin Durant has a less talented team and has single-handedly kept them competitive. If you take Durant off the Thunder and Lebron off the Heat, the Heat are the better team especially given the injury to Westbrook. Lebron isn’t Santa Claus, you can get off his lap now.

    • Simon Dike

      U tell him

    • Anonymous

      So the only way a player has a shot at MVP is if the rest of his team sucks?

      • dr.jim420

        I don’t think I said that? Now that the season is over, the Thunder were the better and went 59-23 in a tougher Western Conference while the Heat were 54-28. If you take Durant off that team, they don’t make the playoffs. The Heat on the other hand, make the playoffs and are probably a 5 or 6 seed.

        • Anonymous

          The east is terrible so of course they still make the playoffs. And you said that taking lebron off the heat and Durant off the thunder, the heat would be the better team. Which implies that lebron shouldn’t be mvp because his

        • Anonymous

          Team is better. May not have been how you meant it but that’s how you said it

        • Dylan Perrin

          The Thunder would get along just fine without Durant. I think they could definitely make the playoffs with Westbrook and Ibaka. The Heat would struggle without LeBron. Westbrook as the ability to take over the team and score 30-40. Wade doesn’t have that ability. He cant control the offense and score at will. I think without LeBron or KD in a game between the Heat and Thunder, the Thunder would win.

          • dr.jim420

            The problem with that logic is that Westbrook only played 46 games this season. The Heat were 3-2 without Lebron with wins against the Knicks, Blazers and Bulls. Their losses were to the Celtics and 76ers. The Thunder played without Durant once this season, in Boston for a win. On top of all, Durant best his career averages in points, rebounds and assists while Lebron averaged less then his career averages in those same categories…great numbers but less then his career averages. Durant’s PER was also higher than Lebron’s, by .5 but still higher.

          • Dylan Perrin

            Durant has had the better season, but if I was picking someone to go one on one against Jordan I would pick LeBron. Wouldn’t you?

          • dr.jim420

            That sounds like a G.O.A.T. question lol I dunno Durant is the better shooter and scorer but Lebron is better on defense. I prefer to leave Jordan out of this because I wouldn’t want to see him get beat by either of them

          • Anonymous

            People need to let the PER go. That formula is far from flawless. It is heavier weighted towards offensive stats and neglects defense a little. And it also favors 3 point shooters. And the rest of the team shouldn’t be taken into account because a player doesnt decide who is on his team. But if you wanted to make that argument lebron led his team in points, rebounds, and assists whereas KD only led his team in points.

          • dr.jim420

            It’s not the best player in the league award though because it’s never given to players on awful teams. If that were the case, Steve Nash shouldn’t have won the MVP in ’05 or ’06 because a guy named Kobe was killing it in LA but Nash’s team had the better team and record.

  • Real M-Fing talk !!!

    The reason Lebron is the “real” MVP because he embodies the award…
    Lebron does “everything” for the Miami heat… Durant does NOT !

    -Lebron is the teams leading scorer………… Durant leads OKC
    -Lebron is the team leading rebounder….. Ibaka leads OKC in rebounding
    -Lebron is his team leading passer …….. Westbrook leads his team in assist
    -Lebron is his team best all defender… Ibaka (inside, rim), Sefo (outside) and others

    last time i check those were the important keys to winning, not 3pt %, number
    of 41 point games in a row, triple doubles, double doubles, and ALL THE OTHER CRAP, people grabbing at straws uses to persuade themselves… this is why the vote should only be in the hands of coaches, ex-players and G.M’s otherwise, it becomes the flavor of the month award and a guy looking to be in his 4 straight finals and the 4 time NBA MVP and back to back champion becomes runner up.

    Durant takes 22 shots a game ,goes to the line 10 times a game, attempted 300 more shots,150 more 3′s and 200 more free throws than lenbron… so its abvious why he lead the NBA in scoring, the voters get caught up in offensive stats why do you think Steve Nash had back to back MVP’s , frankly an embarrassment to the award, a guy who cannot play defense or rebound and did lead his team in scoring or carried his team anywhere, only because they run up and down the court… fast !

    the only reason why guys like NOAH and Dragic is not ahead of Durant in my books, because they will not win the championship

    Baseball had it wrong when the gave the MVP to a pitcher a guy who does not not bat or play defense and plays every 5th day, BUT they got it right when they gave the cy young to king Felix and pitcher with a sub .500 record

  • JJ Jones

    This is the most idiotic d*ck riding article I have ever read

  • Freelancer Jones

    I write for a living, often for others who offer projects I don’t totally believe in. Fortunately, I now have the power to turn them down, but in the beginning of my writing career, I accepted assignments from editors who required me to write about something ridiculous — and I basically had to come up with some way to support their ideas, even if I cringed while doing so. Not to knock you, as you could believe what you’ve written. But this smells like an article passed on by editors who were looking to linkbait (no better way to draw in readers than via controversial titles), leaving you in the impossible position of writing an article supported by ideas no one who follows NBA basketball and understands the MVP award could actually believe.

    • Patrick Allen

      I work with Phil’s editors. This column was his idea. We don’t make our writers write things they don’t believe.

      • Freelancer Jones

        Welp…I guess this article is his to own. He’s entitled to his opinion and at least he’s standing up for his beliefs. Good to hear you guys manage your writers better than some publications I’ve written for.

        One more question I’d love to ask Phil. Does he believe that Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, Coach of the Year and other awards are based on a total sum of work, or a single season? I just wonder why he believes a single season’s Most Valuable Player award would have a different set of rules? Can Rookie of the Year focus on a player’s previous body of work? Not at all. It just seems a little suspicious that he tried to create new criteria for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, in favor of “freak athlete 4-time MVP and 2-time NBA champion,” Lebron James (of course, championships are not considered for the regular-season MVP), as opposed to the (statistically dominant) “defensive liability skinny scoring machine,” Durant. Durant is four years and four seasons younger than Lebron. At age 25, Lebron had no rings and had only earned his first MVP one season sooner. Should Kobe’s 3 rings and previous MVP have been held in higher regard than Lebron’s more dominant season in 2009? Lebron had a less-impressive career at the time and Kobe was still deemed by many to be the better of the two, though Lebron was closing in, similar to Durant this year.

        In the end, why throw Lebron’s previous accomplishments out there when he’s had more years to play the game? It appears that Phil simply loves Lebron and doesn’t like Durant, which is fine. But even Lebron conceded this year, so it seems Phil’s only way to get around this was to include Lebron’s entire career to give him the edge.

        • Phil Daniels

          To answer your question, I absolutely believe that Most Improved Player, Coach of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year should embody in part the total sum of an individual’s work. Obviously, Rookie of the Year is a different story because the NCAA/Euro Leagues/ etc. are different entities from the NBA. Let’s put it this way: I don’t see how one could be a diligent voter and not look at historic performance.

          Consider the case of Steph Curry in 2013-2014. Off the top of my head, if I were ranking my personal MVPs this season, I would go (1) Lebron; (2) KD35; (3) Blake; (4) Noah; (5) Dirk. But then I would ponder the guys I left off that top five and eventually come to Steph Curry. I would look at Curry’s 2013 numbers and see that he averaged 24 pts, 4 reb, 8 assts., and a steal. I would then think… “I wonder what D. Rose averaged when he was awarded MVP in 2010?” The answer: 25, 4, 7, and 1 — virtually identical to Curry’s this season. I could then go as far as comparing Rose’s year-to-year jump between his MVP year and the prior year and Curry’s potential top 5 MVP year to the prior year and see that they too are almost exactly the same. In light of that precedent, even if I disagreed with Rose winning MVP in 2010, I would almost have to put Curry on my top 5 list.

          For me, I would not be able to vote for an MVP award without inherently, sometimes even subconsciously, taking into account past performances. As a guy who watched hundreds of games on League Pass per year over the past several seasons, I have a big enough sample size to know that LeBron is the best player on the planet — even if Durant outperformed him for one year. I simply can’t rationalize giving the MVP to the guy who is not the best player on the planet.

          For what its worth, my ideology is hardly unique. Bill Simmons recently wrote that LeBron is the best player on the planet, and it is almost impossible to justify giving MVP to the second best guy. Simmons writes:

          “On paper, giving an MVP vote to someone who isn’t actually the league’s best player — like Barkley over MJ in 1993, or Malone over MJ in 1997, or West over Reed in 1970, or even Nash over Kobe in 2006 — is one of the 12 best ways to make me irrationally angry. If you’re the best player, you’re the best player. There shouldn’t be any qualifiers or caveats. But here’s the difference with 2014 Durant: For six solid months, a pissed-off Durant in fifth gear night after night after night has been better than LeBron Shifting Gears Depending On The Night.”

          Ultimately, Simmons was able to bend his rule to craft an exception for Durant winning this year’s MVP. Personally, I am not a fan of exceptions. As a result, I would vote LeBron unless the MVP redefined the MVP criteria — forcing voters to utilize only single season sample size performance in a vacuum. In that event, I would not be forced to make an exception, and I would vote for Durant based on his PER edge.

  • anonymous

    All I can say is this is absolute trash. Get off Lebron’s nuts. Completely biased. “Player efficiency rating by half a point”. He’s leading him in more than that. Also, I’ve seen Durant guard Paul Pierce. Westbrook will guard Curry and Harden. Nice try though.

  • Simon Dike

    Hey whoever wrote this is junk like this article this person is one of those lebron suck up instead of a real basketball fan. Kd work hard to get MVP

  • Anonymous

    Not sure how some of you think that the mvp should UNDISPUTABLY be kevin Durant. It’s much closer than that or it should be atleast

  • Anonymous

    Averaging 4.8 more pts than lebron on 4.2 more shots per game is not impressive at all to me

  • Jwild

    There is no way you can make a case for Lebron being the best player in the league. He is the best player because of the rings but playing the best basketball *this* year? You are just a fanboy writing an article. This is poorly constructed and very biased. You’re disappointed because your favorite player nowadays is getting beat. Fair and square. So now you have to justify to yourself and use your (pretty limited) platform to voice your opinion. Go America and go freedom of speech but wow, you are not very good at constructing a fair argument without your bias and emotions for Lebron.

    • Valentine Xavier

      Name another player who the best defender on his team while leading it in points, rebounds, assists, steals, threes and field goal percentage. LeBron is only player in the league who can make that claim.

      Name another player who has a top 2 seed in his conference, while being the best defender on his team, who also leads it in points, rebounds, assists, steals, threes and field goal percentage.

      Not only is LeBron the best player in the league, but he also has the best MVP argument in the league.

    • Anonymous

      Can’t make an argument for lebron?
      Pts per game durant leads but lebrons average is far better. I take efficiency over mass points anyday. Durant wins rebounds. Lebron wins assists. Lebron wins overall defense.

  • Tracy

    If the Miami Heat was in the western conference, they would be # 4, #5, or 6th place tied with Houston and Portland, OKC is in 2nd place in the western conference, and 2nd place in the entire NBA, Miami would be at best in position #4, but probably 5 or 6. Eastern conference is weak, #8 seed in east (Atlanta) has a losing record at 38-44, #8 seed in the west (Dallas) is 49-33. No team below Miami in the east standings would even qualify for the standings in the west. The MVP award says “MVP of the 2013-2014 season, not MVP of past achievments. KD IS the MVP.

  • Justin McElhaney

    You and every other lebron lover are complete morons…1st KD is more valuable to his team then James is to the Heat..u take KD out of OKC and they would b battling just to make the playoffs whereas u take James out of Miami they would still b 1 of the top 3 teams in the East…2nd if u take KDs stats in the 7 years in the league and put them side by side with James’s stats his 1st 7 years u would see that other than assists their stats r identical even though James averaged 3 more min per game and that includes defensive stats as well…now James was a career 48% fg shooter then his final year in Clev he shot 50% while attempting 100 less shot attempts then after arriving in Miami he continued to shoot less while his fg% went up and now over the last 2 seasons he has attempted a few more shots then he did the previous 3 seasons but still nowhere near he did b4 arriving in south beach and his fg % has continued to rise and all this happened after acquiring more players to help him….not even Jordan had as much help as Lebron has had…when Jordan went on his 1st 3 peat he had only 1 other all star..pippen…Lebron has far more superior help then Jordan ever did…Lebron is a great player but he is not any better then KD and will never b close to Jordan and the sooner u lebron lovers realize it the better…

  • Greencar

    Total baloney, MJ is not even half as good as LBJ.

  • Greencar

    I agreed with this author on his points, except MJ is not better than LBJ.

  • Lynden Mazur

    I would maybe listen to what you are saying if you didn’t think your oponion was always fact. Just give your point in a strong manor then let people eat it up. You sound like a know-it-all that thinks he is always right and throws a tantrum when he’s not.

  • Hector Omar Corniel

    Hey like simmon s said . So kobe was the best player in the entire 2000 so why he just have 1 mvp… he should have at least 7

  • z1

    Justin mcelhaney is right lebron has too many excellent team mates who can also lead the team so the pressure is less on him, unlike durant or jordan in his time they only have 1 team mate that can lead the team too.

  • NeshaCakes

    OmG thank you for writing this article–I totally agree. I’m so happy that you wrote this. As a fan of the game I feel robbed – Lebron is the real MVP hands down. I mean the playoffs prove KD should not be MVP and I know MVP is for the regular season but now we seeing the real story and that’s KD is not good enough to be MVP. But they did the same thing to MJ didn’t want to give MVP to him too many times. Now the MVP race is a joke!

  • Dr.Petey15

    The MVP award is given to the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER TO HIS TEAM. This is poorly written article that makes one argument using statistics that disprove such an argument and actually strengthens the opposite. You attack Kevin Durant’s defense when the defensive metric statistics this year favor Durant over Lebron James. Durant joined Elgin Baylor, Wilt, and Jordan as the ONLY other players in history to post 32-7-5 in a season; James has not posted 32-7-5. At the end of the game you say you would rather have LeBron playing defense then Durant and while that’s all good and dandy, I would give Durant the ball for the final shot over LeBron any day of the week and that’s not even close; that argument goes both ways. Your argument is purely based on the overall resume James has created for himself over the years, and in this situation you are completely wrong. This award is not a lifetime achievement award, it is a seasonal award that goes to the player who meant the most to his respective team over the course of that particular season. This season that was Kevin Durant, without Westbrook in the lineup Kevin Durant went on an absolute scoring tear and became completely unguardable, not only keeping his team relevant in the western conference but at the top of it. Not to mention the fact that Durant played in a vastly superior conference and still posted better numbers then James. Your claim that “most valuable” and “best” are synonymous is just flat wrong. Rose won the award over James because he meant more to the bulls that year then James did to the Heat, who just so happened to have two other superstars playing for their team. This year is no different, Russell Westbrook missed virtually half of the season leaving Durant with Serge Ibaka as his next best teammate and yet Durant still carried the thunder much like the way James did with his Cleveland teams.
    Also just a side note, this kind of an argument loses a lot of effectiveness and merit when the guy you’re arguing for concedes to the other before the season is even over…

  • TrevG1

    Interesting article Phil. Given the fact that MVP is an “annual” award though, voters are looking at the best player for that season alone. A better foundation to launch from will serve you well for future articles. This was an an entertaining read for sure, but fundamentally flawed through failing to understand what annual actually means in respects to this award.

    I’d absolutely be comfortable arguing that voters got it right choosing Barkley over Jordan in 1993 by the way. But I’ll withhold my opinions and just stick to the above core fact. Thanks for the post, and I wish you the best in your research for future opinion pieces.

  • Greencar

    Numbers do not tell the whole story, LBJ is much better and valuable than KD, PER nearly identical, but LBJ plays much better defense, plays the passing lanes better, sets better picks and screens, blocks out better, sees the ct better, much better passer, controls the tempo of the game better, much more physical than KD and wears out the other team better, better leader, respected by both players and coaches, shoots for a higher percentage in fgs et al.

  • Greencar

    No ifs or buts LBJ is the most valuable. He is a complete bb player and KD is not.