All things considered, Tuesday was a pretty good day for LeBron James, what with his Miami Heat cruising to a 107-86 Game 1 win over the Brooklyn Nets in which the all-universe small forward became only the eighth player in NBA history—and the youngest ever—to hit the 4,000-point playoff milestone.
Except, you know, that thing about that other guy from that other team winning that thing.
Naturally, LeBron was asked about losing out on an MVP three-peat. His remarks were…interesting, to say the least.
LeBron on MVP: "I think I played well enough to win it, but I don't think our team played well enough to win it."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 7, 2014
.... "We had too many up & down stretches throughout the season, and if my team's not winning, then I shouldn't be the MVP."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 7, 2014
Obviously it took about three nanoseconds for everyone and their mother to jump down LeBron’s throat for throwing his teammates under the bus.
We have enough of a rap sheet of LeBron interviews to know that’s probably not what he intended. At the same time, it’s a little strange to chalk up you losing the MVP to the fact that the other guy won five more games—a healthy amount, to be sure, but certainly not deal-sealing.
Indeed, even if the Heat had tied OKC’s regular-season record, it’s hard to imagine the powers that be choosing differently. That’s how silly KD’s exploits were.
Heck, LeBron even stated as much as recently as Monday.
Not that it was always a foregone conclusion. When James dropped 61 on the Charlotte Bobcats on March 4, he had—in a single game—swayed public opinion back in his favor.
Then KD did this thing where he scored 25 or more points in 41 consecutive games and, well, that was pretty much it.
At that point, everyone knew Durant would take home the gold. SB Nation’s Tom Ziller, however, laid out precisely how KD did it.
Durant has been an ultra-elite scorer since 2010. He'll win his fourth career scoring title on Wednesday night. His ability to get buckets has never been questioned. He's also been a strong rebounder at small forward for his entire career. But look at how much he's improved in setting up teammates. Even up to 2011—just three seasons ago—he lagged behind even average playmakers at his position. Now he's one of the best set-up men at either forward spot, trailing perhaps only LeBron himself. Durant's assist rate this season is 26.6 percent. LeBron's is at 31.9 percent.
Of course, it’s easy to imagine all of this fueling LeBron with added octane, lending his outwardly curious postgame remarks a slightly more strategic quality.
James is, after all, the Heat’s leader. And while his teammates certainly won’t lose any sleep over King James missing out on the MVP trifecta, you better believe part of them—however minor—might take it a little personally.
Besides, where would you rather be if you were LeBron: up 1-0 with home-court advantage for the next two rounds and a pair of rings to your name, or down 1-0, fresh off of a Game 1 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers and, oh yeah, here’s another trophy for your individual accomplishments?
Take it away, Shaun Powell!
Sorry KD, but the highest individual award in the NBA is the Finals MVP. Because the trophy comes with a ring.— Shaun Powell (@Powell2daPeople) May 7, 2014
Say, I have an idea. How about these two settle this thing on the court? Say, in a seven-game series sometime in June?