BOSTON — The finalists for the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player Award were revealed Friday, but there was one glaring omission on the list.
While Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard all had tremendous seasons and deserved to be named MVP finalists, LeBron James not being a finalist was a bit of a head-scratcher. In fact, it’s the first time James has been outside of the top three in MVP voting since 2008.
But one thing James has over each of those players is that his team still is competing in the postseason. And the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t just competing, they’re dominating.
Cleveland’s postseason onslaught continued Friday night at TD Garden as the Cavs cruised to a 130-86 shellacking of the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. James had a game-high 30 points and helped Cleveland extend its winning streak to 10 games.
James was informed about his MVP finalist snub following Friday’s game, but the star forward made it clear that he values team success over individual accolades.
“My only job is to try and be the MVP for this team every night, put my teammates and the franchise in position to be successful and compete for a championship,” James said. “For me, I know what I bring to the table. The league knows what I bring to the table. That’s for you guys to write about. It’s not for me to be concerned about.”
James seemingly has become a victim of his own success. The 14-year veteran has been dominating the league for more than a decade, to the point that stellar seasons are expected of him. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is well aware of his star player’s exceptional talent, and likened James to a dominant player from the past.
“I look at LeBron like Shaquille O’Neal; I think every year he’s the MVP and you can give him the award every year if you wanted to,” Lue said. “When guys have incredible seasons like James Harden did and Westbrook and Kawhi, then you kind of credit those guys and give those guys the nod. But to me, LeBron is the MVP, just like Shaq, you can give it to him every year if you wanted to.”
Missing out on the MVP award won’t be any sweat off James’ back, especially since he’s already claimed the honor four times in his career. So while James is out of the running for the MVP, he’s still very much in contention for the highest honor the league has to offer: an NBA championship.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images