In hockey, there is a rare but time-tested tradition of awarding the playoff* MVP to the best player on the team that loses the finals if he excels so much that the Professional Hockey Writers Association thinks he deserves it, i.e. he drags a team to the finals. (*In the NHL, the award is for the playoffs, not for the finals, as with the other major North American sports.)
This is aparently not so in basketball, where only one man has ever won the Finals MVP from the losing side, Jerry West, the man known as Mr. Clutch, one of the worst nicknames in NBA history – given his teams’ finals performances over the years. This was West’s line when he won it:
- 43.9 MPG, 37.9PPG, 7.4APG, 4.7RPG, .490 FG% (steals and blocks were not tracked back then)
That team featured Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain. Both were old and neither had a good series. But still. Elgin and Wilt were great players even when they weren’t at their best.
In this Finals, as you all know, LeBron did the following:
- 45.7 MPG, 35.8PPG, 13.3RPG, 8.8APG, 1.3SPG, .5BPG
- .398 FG%, .310 3P%, .687 FT%, .477 TS%
- 15.7 TRB%, 52.7 AST%!!!, 40.8 USG%!!!
Yes, LeBron shot poorly. But he was the entire Cavs offense. Look at that assist percentage. Look at that usage rate. They’re probably both historically great. LeBron didn’t have Wilt or Elgin on his team, he had Tristan Thompson as the second best player. In Game 5 (I think it was), LeBron scored or assisted on something like 80% of the Cavs points.
If MVP means the most important player on a team, as I believe it should – there is widespread disagreement – LeBron deserves this way more than anyone else on either team. As Hardwood Paroxysm noted the other day [article since moved] if LeBron didn’t win this MVP, that means that no player on the losing team in the finals can ever, ever win the MVP ever again. Ever. Seriously. What he did was historically great, as an individual performance. Jeff Van Gundy says he’s never been more impressed by LeBron.
The idea that Iggy (who I love, by the way) should win the MVP because he was on the winning team strikes me as preposterous as saying that the best player in the league in any year cannot win the MVP because his team doesn’t make the playoffs – which is why I’ve long advocated for two separate awards, a ‘best player’ and a ‘most valuable’, ahem.
(That being said, I am glad that Iggy won, because it shows a growing trend in recognizing defense in addition to offense. People will look at his line and say, “Well, Curry scored way more.” But Curry didn’t mitigate LeBron like Iggy did. Curry didn’t change the fate of the Warriors when he was inserted into the starting lineup.)
Anyway, consider this my non-official protest. The voters got it wrong. No matter how awkward it would have been to award it to a loser, LeBron deserved this MVP as much as any award he has ever won.