The "Return" of LeBron James
Writer: Caleb Akpan
The year is 2003 and it’s summertime, the week of June 29th to be exact. This is the Night by Clay Aiken (google him) is the number one song in the country, somehow. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is the number one movie in America, not looking good so far. TV is in the offseason, but the season before everybody seemed to be watching CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, we’ll let that one pass. What do all of those things have in common? They’re completely irrelevant in the year 2017, but there’s one thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet that’s stood the test of time. That week, on Thursday, June 26th, 2003, one LeBron Raymone James entered the NBA and well, the rest is history, but there’s a specific part of that history taking place as this is being typed: LeBron James is in his 15th NBA season, cemented as one of, if not the best, to ever step on a basketball court, and yet, you could easily argue he’s having the best season of his career.
25 games in, LBJ is averaging 28.2 points, 8 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game on insane 58.3% and 43% shooting percentages. To put that into perspective, Larry Bird’s best shooting percentages were 52% from the field and 43% from three, and LeBron’s already shot more threes this season than Bird did in most seasons of his career. This is the same Larry Bird many would call the best shooter of all-time. For LeBron personally, those numbers are far and beyond career highs and the last time he posted a slightly similar stat line, he was awarded his last MVP award to date in 2013. If he’s playing even better this season and eclipsing numbers of most of the greatest players of all-time, shouldn’t he add a fourth MVP title this season?
Some would be quick to say there are players more deserving than James for the award this season, but that might not actually be the case. James Harden is putting up insane stat lines in Houston, but even he isn’t topping James shooting percentages or assists numbers, and he barely tops the King in points. Stephen Curry is injured and even if he stays out for awhile, it seems unlikely that Kevin Durant would be allowed back into the conversation after his free agency move. Players left to carry teams like Kawhi Leonard and Blake Griffin have been injured way too much. Dominant players like Russell Westbrook and Giannis Antetokounmpo don’t seem to have the team success to support a win.
Ironically enough, James’ biggest competition seems to be the player that was playing under him just months ago in Boston’s Kyrie Irving, who currently has the Celtics at the top of the league with a 20-4 record. The problem for Irving is that with the C’s success as a team, Irving isn’t posting jaw-dropping numbers or even career bests. Plus, if James and the Cavs keep their 13-game win streak going, Cleveland could easily top Boston at the top of the east, and the top of the league overall. Even if not, LeBron has the stats to top Irving easily and team success should be close enough to give James the edge.
Whether he gets MVP or not, the greatness of LeBron James has to be appreciated even more at this point. Great players like Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, and Dirk Nowitzki have had long reigns of both personal and team success, but none could be even close to saying that they were having their best season 15 in. Some of the all-time greats didn’t even make it to a 15th season, but James has made it and doesn't even seem close to stopping. He’s barely been injured in his entire career, and has had such longevity that many are starting to talk about James possibly playing with or against his own son LeBron Jr., who is 13. With James dominance physically, that may not be out of the question, and neither is LeBron being crowned the most valuable player this season. Don’t leave him out of consideration for that award or for the title of the greatest ever, he’s showing he deserves to be thought of for both.