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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Winning makes LeBron James worthy of MVP

His performances with the Cleveland Cavaliers are all about the victories and not about the award.

March 11, 2009|MARK HEISLER | ON THE NBA

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Cleveland's star of stars and rightful MVP to Be Who Has Earned the Award 10 Times Over convened a news conference before playing the Clippers, feeling great about himself and the world around him.

So what if he missed 20 of 30 shots the last two games?

"I like to show people I am human, sometimes," said LeBron James, grinning in a way that suggested he doesn't really think he is -- which he may not be.

Meanwhile, Miami's Dwyane Wade, Who Has Also Earned the Award 10 Times Over, was back home, resting after Monday's spectacular 48-point performance when he stole the ball and hit a three-pointer to win the game as time ran out.

And New Orleans' Chris Paul, Who Has Earned the Award 10 Times Over Too, was in Washington, resting for tonight's game, having somehow kept the bedraggled Hornets on a 52-win pace.

And Kobe Bryant, the Reigning MVP Who Has Earned the Award 10 Times Over, was in Houston, getting ready to lead the Lakers' Texas Two-Step against the Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.

Why would anyone in the Wide World of Sports care about a silly award with nebulous criteria, based on a vote of media members?

I'm in the media, I know what it thinks, and it's only a notch above talk radio.

It's fine that someone is honored. The problem is the debate, diminishing the others who had to have been great players having great seasons to be in the discussion, so they could be diminished.

Like this one: Bryant, and Boston's Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and Orlando's Dwight Howard aren't worthy because They Have More Help.

And, Kobe Has Never Won a Title Without Shaquille O'Neal.

And, Wade Has Never Won a Title Without Shaq.

Paul and James Have Never Even Won a Title, with or without Shaq, although LeBron may yet get his chance.

This was generally thought to be LeBron's year, with the Cavaliers, who might not go .500 without him, right there with the Lakers and Celtics.

Then Wade went wild, and people began lamenting the fact that Nobody Mentions D-Wade as a Candidate.

People don't even lament the fact that Nobody Mentions CP3 as a Candidate, but if we're talking value to his team, no one has his.

Without LeBron, Kobe, D-Wade and CP3, the Lakers would finish first, the Cavaliers would finish second, the Heat would finish third and the Hornets might not finish.

Happily, I've never seen a player upset at not winning an MVP. Shaq got upset that year Fred Hickman kept him from being the only unanimous pick, but that was Shaq.

I remember Bryant at 22, coming off his first title, telling me before the opener in Portland the next fall that he wanted to win the MVP.

It was so wild, I didn't even write it down. Bryant subsequently announced he might have to leave to be all he could be, and engaged in a season-long feud with Shaq.

By the time Kobe finally won an MVP eight years later, he had learned what it's worth in the end: Nothing.

If he wins the next three MVPs and no titles, they'll say he was the most overrated player of all time.

If he wins the next three titles and no MVPs, they'll say he was better than Michael Jordan.

James, who's already 24 and has never come closer than No. 2 in the MVP voting, would like one. (Asked what he thinks about the media deciding, he said, "I love you guys.")

However, as close as he and Wade are, it never comes up. Instead, they're thrilled by each other's exploits, like Wade's in Monday's double-overtime win over Chicago.

"I sent him an e-mail after the game," James said. "Basically, he was playing games with himself.

"He won the game, and then lost the game, and then won the game, then lost it again, then won it again. He tied the game up at the end of regulation to send it into overtime. Then he missed four free throws in overtime, and then he had a wide-open layup that he never misses, that he would have made against us.

"He planned that [ending]. He said, 'Make sure that it's a tie game and Chicago has the ball and I'm going to steal it and hit a running three.' "

It's actually easy. Say your boss offered you a choice of a big shiny trophy for being the most valuable person in the office . . . or your paycheck.

James' joy would give way to dismay as his team fell 18 points behind, raising the awful possibility of blowing a chance to tie the Lakers and take a one-game lead over Boston.

So when LeBron led the Cavaliers back with 10 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter in a True MVP Performance, it had everything to do with winning and nothing to do with the MVP.

Life is earnest, life is real and it better have more important things than some award in it.

--

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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