Though he is currently locked in a heated battle to claim his third straight NBA Most Valuable Player award, Miami Heat forward LeBron James has set his sights on a different piece of hardware: the Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra uses James as what he calls a "1-through-5," meaning he sometimes has James guard all five positions at some point during the game. He pulled off the feat in Miami's 116-112 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, guarding every Clipper from point guard Darren Collison to center DeAndre Jordan.
And, in James' opinion, that amazing defensive versatility makes him a deserving choice for the award. Per Windhorst: “That’s why I should be Defensive Player of the Year. No one has ever done this before.”
If James is concerned with individual awards, then perhaps he should focus on keeping Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant from stealing his MVP. According to Bleacher Report's Josh Martin, betting sites have now made Durant the 1-20 MVP favorite as recently as Feb. 3:
That degree of favoritism may seem preposterous, given that Durant plays in a league with LEBRON FRICKIN' JAMES, but considering where the race stands today, the fact that KD's got such a substantial lead shouldn't come as a complete shock.
But perhaps the Defensive Player of the Year award has become special to James. It is, after all, one of the few major awards he hasn't won. He has won Rookie of the Year, MVP (four times), All-Star Game MVP (twice), Finals MVP (twice), Player of the Month (26 times) and Player of the Week (45 times).
What else is left for James to win, really? He's been so consistently good for so long that he doesn't have a shot at the Most Improved Player award, unless he starts putting up absolutely ludicrous numbers (65 points, 29 rebounds and 18 assists per game, perhaps?). Maybe, if he gets really bored with winning all these titles and MVPs, he can come off the bench for an entire season and win Sixth Man of the Year. But that would just be ridiculous.
And so the Defensive Player of the Year award has become LeBron's white whale. In a season when the reigning victor, Marc Gasol, has been injured, perhaps he will finally win the one award that has eluded him.