LeBron James has been carrying the injury-riddled Cavaliers in the N.B.A. finals with one heroic performance after another. Now, down by three games to two, undermanned Cleveland may finally have run out of gas.
If the Cavaliers do lose, are James’s feats still enough to earn him the series’s Most Valuable Player Award?
The prize, which is decided by a small panel of news media members, usually goes to the star player of the winning team: Michael Jordan took home the trophy all six times his Chicago Bulls captured the championship, and James won the award as the Miami Heat claimed titles in 2012 and ’13.
There was one exception: In 1969, Jerry West became the only N.B.A. finals M.V.P. from the losing team. As was widely reported, James’s 40-point triple-double in Game 5 on Sunday was the first in the finals since West’s in Game 7 that year.
James’s numbers in the series so far are certainly prize-worthy: He leads all players in minutes played, field goals, free throws, defensive rebounds, assists and points. Is that good enough?
West’s Lakers lost the 1969 finals to the Celtics in a series in which the home team prevailed in every game until Game 7, which Boston won memorably, 108-106, at the Forum. West scored a game-high 42 points.
West led all players in the finals in field goals, free throws, assists and points. His teammate Wilt Chamberlain led in rebounds. West averaged 38 points a game.
The best candidate for the award from the winning Celtics was probably John Havlicek, who averaged 28 points a game, 10 fewer than West. But Bill Russell also had a great series, leading the team in rebounds and assists. Perhaps with neither player clearly the outstanding one, voters turned to West. It was also the first year of the award, and the unofficial “rules” were not yet set.
Finals M.V.P. awards in every sport have been heavily tilted toward the winning team.
SOURCE: VICTOR MATHER
The New York Times