*This article was sent to me by Mike Scotch* (Mike Scotch prefers to remain anonymous)
With the NBA season looking more and more likely to return, talks have restarted in regard to one of the most highly debated questions in sports: who is the MVP? In order to properly preface my analysis, I believe it is fair to say that voter fatigue is and has been an issue in MVP voting in many sports. We saw it with Michael Jordan, and many will make the same argument now for LeBron and how both athletes deserve to win more MVPs than they did. But simply put, just because LeBron has one less MVP award in his trophy case than he likely should, does not do nearly enough to surpass the historic season of the Greek Freak.
Before moving into statistics, I have always found it interesting how the narrative of your supporting cast is shaped by national media. With the Milwaukee Bucks being one of the smallest markets in the NBA, their participation in the NBA finals, though it would be exciting, would in the eyes of the media, diminish income in comparison to L.A, NY, and other major markets. Therefore, I have become highly accustomed to flipping through sources like ESPN and FS1 to hear “NBA experts” declare that the Milwaukee Bucks do not have the manpower to win the NBA Finals as Khris Middleton is not a good enough second option. Middleton does have his flaws, but he is also very close to completing a historic 50/40/90 season. With that as a side point, as NBA fans, we have constantly been instructed by the media that the pieces around Giannis are not right to win a final, regardless of how good of a season they are completing. On the contrary, the Los Angeles Lakers, along with their counterpart the Clippers, have been viewed as the only potential options to represent the Western Conference in the finals. Whether the Lakers or the Clippers are picked to take part in the finals, the consistent analyst prediction aside from the occasional wildcard is the Western Conference representative will reign champion this season.
What begins to make this comparison a bit nauseating is the idea that analysts have presented the Lakers as likely finals favorites because they are a “more complete team”. I do feel the Lakers are a complete team, as I do with the Bucks and the Clippers, but it fascinates me that when the conversation shifts from who the Finals favorite is towards who the MVP is, the perception of LeBron and Giannis’ supporting cast change rapidly. For LeBron, his MVP narrative shifts to him carrying a team to the finals, similar to how he did in his early Cleveland years, except this time he is doing so at 35 years old, something we have never seen before. Though he is now 35, the biggest difference between his team now and his early years is Anthony Davis. AD is clearly one of the best basketball players in the NBA, and he has proven to be a remarkable pairing for LeBron. At his current clip of 26.7 PTS, 9.4 RBS, and 3.1 AST, on 51.1% shooting, he will likely finish this season in the top 5 of MVP voting.
Now any fan of the NBA would be absolutely insane to say that Khris Middleton is better than Anthony Davis, so why is it that when LeBron is being discussed for MVP, he is viewed as the leader of the best team in the NBA, but when Giannis is criticized, it is because his supporting cast is all of a sudden elite compared to LeBron’s. When Giannis is scrutinized, Brook Lopez gets labeled as a DPOY candidate, taking away from Giannis’ defensive greatness. But when the Bucks are discussed as a title contender, Brook Lopez lacks rebounding and his poor shooting from the three-point line will be hard to overcome.
The NBA, seemingly more than any other sport, relies on narratives. Prior to COVID-19, media outlets like ESPN and FS1 blasted the airways with talk that LeBron had caught up to Giannis and that he had closed the gap. This coming after a game where the Lakers beat the Bucks on March 6th, (bringing the series tied) and Giannis put up 32, 11, and 6. The two headlines that ESPN ran with after that game were, ‘LeBron gets the better of Giannis in battle of MVP candidates' and ‘LeBrilliant: James’ 37 points lead Lakers past Bucks 113-103’. LeBron was brilliant that game and I felt he was deserving of that praise, but what those headlines seemingly ignore is the fact that in that game Khris Middleton finished with 12, 5, and 4 on 5-19 shooting, while Anthony Davis had 30, 9, and 2 blocks in just 29 minutes. Once again, we see how LeBron and his brilliance are credited for defeating a top team, while the success of Anthony Davis is only brought to light when we are discussing why the Lakers will win the finals.
I also didn’t think this would be a fair discussion without pointing out some of the laughable points made by ESPN on their show The Jump.
Point 1: LeBron is the MVP because after backlash on his China comments and having to deal with the death of legend Kobe Bryant, he has simply had to overcome more than Giannis.
Counter: It would be hard to argue for many people having to overcome more than Giannis has to reach stardom. After growing up poor on the streets of Greece, Giannis eventually learned about basketball and began playing with his brother, Thanasis. During their games, Thanasis and Giannis would both share the same pair of basketball shoes and alternate throughout the game. Once Giannis transitioned into the NBA, he lost his father at the age of 54 to a heart attack in 2017. Then this past year