On Saturday afternoon, LeBron James was presented with his third MVP award in four years.
He might not have the championships yet, but he has proven three times over that he is the best player in this league of brilliant players. The championships will almost certainly come eventually, though.
When James was awarded his third Most Valuable Player award in the eighth year of his NBA career, the topic of conversation wasn't about his body of work; it was about the hardware he can't stop thinking about. The accomplishment that remains unchecked on his to-do list.
James is thankful for his MVP award, but he'd like a championship, please.
In a departure from the usual confident but reserved responses, James spoke openly about his burning desire to get a ring.
He didn't mince words, either.
Via the Associated Press, here's how James wrapped up his speech:
"Heat nation, we have a bigger goal," James said. "This is very overwhelming to me as an individual award. But this is not the award I want, ultimately. I want that championship. That's all that matters to me."
After seven seasons of James being calm and collected, he has let down the barriers and gotten real over the course of this season. Whether it was disappointed tweets after failing to come up in the final moments of a big game or sitting down with Sports Illustrated to talk about the pain and disappointment that came along with being denied the championship by the Mavericks last season, James has stopped trying to pretend he's so powerful that the criticisms don't hurt, stopped acting like he's above the frustrations that come from failing to accomplish your goals.
Since last June, James has started to allow us to see him the way his friends, family and teammates see him: as the best basketball player that this league has, but also as a young man who desperately wants to win and will continue to work and train harder and to play smarter until he has hardware for his hands to match the MVP trophies that he keeps earning.
James also got extremely personal in talking about what drives him each and every day, taking his time to get the words out without letting his emotions get the best of him.
"I see my two sons, I do what I do and I try to perform at the highest level every night, and a big part of the reason is those guys. I don't want to let them down," James said, pausing for a brief moment as he looked at fiancée Savannah Brinson and his sons. "Secondly, my teammates, like I said. The reason I'm up here today is because of those guys. If those guys don't sacrifice what they sacrifice every single night...I wouldn't be up here."
With James opening up, acknowledging his shortcomings last season, enduring the pain that came from failing to achieve 12 months ago, speaking to the assembled media about his family and then about his teammates—who truly seem to be another family of his—you see the strength that James has gained by working through the whirlwind that followed his decision to go to Miami.
With a stronger resolve and with his ultimate goal spoken aloud for all to hear, James is putting it all out there. He isn't trying to be anyone else, nor is he worried about how he will be received. He's realized none of that matters. He'll be judged and both loved and loathed whether he wins or loses. It's as though he's finally grasped the strength that comes along with accepting that the only people any of us ever really have to answer to are the people that we care about.
James is the league's MVP for the third time in eight years. Ask every teammate he's had over those past eight years and they would say he's been their MVP each of those years.