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The Case For James: LeBron James is the most polarizing figure in all of team sports at the moment. The mere mention of his name results in passionate fans and irate critics to engage in lengthy discussions about his place in NBA history and whether or not the "Decision" will be the final judgement of his playing career. But there is no doubt that he has an an extraordinary first season with the Miami Heat. So much so that he would be my MVP right now, and here's why:
No player in recent NBA history has ever had to enter an NBA season with more pressure and wishes of failure than LeBron James. Every road arena was loud and angry and you could almost see the pitchforks and torches, even though they were not visible to the naked eye. Hundreds of "tough athletes" would have been broken by the pressure and hatred by now, but James has fed off of it better than any player I've seen.
Say what you want about his "Decision," tweets or other off the court choices, no player has endured this much verbal punishment and played this well. James is averaging 26.4 ppg, 7.3 apg and 7.3 rpg, despite playing with two solid scorers and rebounders in Chris Bosh and Wade.
Many felt that after the Heat's 9-8 start, that this team would implode and LeBron was facing imminent embarrassment by not making the playoffs. But following a team meeting after a loss to the Mavericks (still the only team to beat Miami at full strength since November), the team has been on a tear with him in the lineup, as LeBron rallied the troops to excel in the much hyped, but quickly forgotten, return to Cleveland when he scored 38, or his 51 against Orlando, or 41 against the Pacers, or his triple double against the Lakers.
I also credit James with contributing to the Miami Heat's identity. Sure, Wade, by most accounts, is still "the man" in Miami, but the Heat's ability to play through the anger and vitriol of the many road crowds can be attributed to James' "me against the world" approach. The Heat see one of their leaders take it on the chin and still excel, so that elevates their performance as well.
The Case Against James: The two most obvious ones are that he has won two years in a row and voter fatigue may be setting in and that while playing with Wade, his numbers have dropped and no one can agree on which is the Heat MVP, so they will split the votes. LeBron is not the most liked player in the NBA right now and the backlash could impact the voters. There is also the fact that Derrick Rose is having a breakout season minus his two big men for stretches of the season and voters may want to reward Rose for being the unquestioned leader on a top three seeded Bulls team.