LeBron James took his talents, and value, to South Beach
What is surprising, at least to anyone with respect for the NBA game, is that LeBron James was completely left off nine ballots.
For those of you unfamiliar with the MVP voting process, 120 members of the sporting media across the country are given a ballot and asked to allocate their top five candidates in order (the 121st ballot is voted on by the fans).
Assuming the fans voted LeBron in the top five, we are left with nine members of the 120 media personnel who bare the audacity to leave their MVP ballots LeBron-less.
LeBron James left Cleveland this summer and endured perhaps the most intense and vicious scrutiny of any athlete in American history. Analysts and fans alike from all over the country mercilessly ridiculed LeBron's decision and handling of his departure from his hometown team, stating that his "collusion" with Bosh and Wade had stained the game.
LeBron's response? Try leading his new team to an 11-win improvement over the previous season.
What makes this especially remarkable is that the Heat had to learn to play together and become cohesive on the fly while playing under a blinding spotlight. The 11-win improvement helped the Heat to the No. 2 seed, three spots higher than the No. 5 seed earned by last year's Heat squad.
Yes, he is playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but there is no arguing LeBron's impact on a team that was put together with the intention to win, and to do so immediately. It would be foolish to give LeBron full credit for the team's improvement, and it would be equally asinine to discredit his positive effect on the Heat's success completely.
Thankfully, John Hollinger's advanced metric dubbed "Estimated Wins Added" or "EWA" allows us to imperfectly gauge a player's impact on his team's success. According to the metric, LeBron's EWA was 25.7, the highest in the NBA.
Conversely, LeBron's former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, officially secured the NBA's most recent first-to-worst season after finishing dead-last in the Eastern Conference with a dreadful 19-win season, a mind-boggling 42-game drop-off from last season.
Cavaliers fans will argue that this has more to do with injuries to the likes of Anderson Varejao and Antwan Jamison than with the loss of Akron-native LeBron James. Granted, the Cavs did endure serious injury problems this season, however, those injuries wouldn't have been nearly as devastating had LeBron stuck around.
That, in itself, proves his irreplaceable value. Also, keep in mind that the Cavs didn't even acquire Jamison until last year's trade deadline, so his impact on Cleveland's back-to-back 60-win seasons was extremely limited.
So, LeBron James' old team stinks and his new, All-Star laden team is really good—no surprise there.
But LeBron's value surely had to have taken a dip after joining his high-usage buddies in South Beach, right?
LeBron led the league in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) for the fourth consecutive season despite sacrificing shots to his co-stars while relinquishing the ball-dominating privileges he was given by Mike Brown in Cleveland. Moreover, PER measures just that—a player's efficiency—and it doesn't take a genius to realize that being able to play 40 minutes a game at the highest level of efficiency is a talent of unparalleled value.
The list of credentials that prove LeBron's value is never ending. For example, LeBron possesses the rare and coveted ability to play any position on the court offensively and defensively, seemingly seamlessly. One would be hard-matched to find another in the NBA who can boast that feat.
The opposition might respond by arguing that LeBron's success stems from his God-given athleticism. Though the opposition is entitled to their opinion—albeit a highly dogmatic one—it carries no weight in the argument of value. Why or how LeBron does what he does is irrelevant in this debate; all that should matter is what he does.
What LeBron does is bring an incredible amount value to his team each and every time he steps on the floor (it's no fluke that LeBron led the NBA in +/- this season).
Sure, as a writer you are entitled to your opinion that LeBron stained the game with his antics regarding the decision. It's also perfectly fine to vote for Derrick Rose for MVP—you'll find no argument here.
But to leave the two-time defending MVP off the five-man ballot after offering a season that was statistically on par with his MVP seasons, to snub the NBA's most efficient and most versatile player from even the futility of a fifth-place vote is criminal.
More than that, it's downright irresponsible.
While LeBron, himself, may not be upset by the nine ballots without his name on it, those who believe in giving credit where credit is due should—and if that's too much too ask, then those who believe in the sanctity and credibility of the MVP award should.
Nine people who have "earned" the privilege to vote on the NBA's most prestigious award inexcusably, and seemingly deliberately, left LeBron James off their ballots. However, to no surprise, zero of those people have come out and admitted it was he or she who left him off the ballot.
Apparently, a voter's audacity goes out the window when their credibility is called into question.