LOS ANGELES — LeBron James has been awarded the NBA’s MVP award four times in his career, tied with Wilt Chamberlain for the third most all time, but one of his teammates, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, says James should have double that. At least.
“The NBA MVP is a very political award,” Kuzma said after the Lakers’ 116-105 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday. “Bron should have been the MVP at least eight, nine, 10 times. Everybody knows that.”
James’ team officially started the campaign for the 36-year-old, now in his 18th season, to win his fifth after he dazzled with 37 points on 14-of-22 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists in the victory over the team owned by Michael Jordan, one of only three players in history with more MVPs than James.
When asked about Kuzma’s claim, James admitted he felt he has been snubbed in the past, but he wouldn’t specify how many he felt he deserved to win.
“I should have more than four, I believe,” James said. “But … I don’t sit around thinking about it or crying about it, or whatever the case may be. I just try to come in the next season and be the MVP and be talked about [for] it again. I bet a lot of the greatest that played this game feel like they should have more as well, if you ask any one of those guys.
“This is another opportunity for me to able to be recognized as the best player for that particular season, and this season. So, hopefully, I can continue to just play great basketball and see what happens at the end.”
The win over the Hornets lifted L.A. to 4-0 since the All-Star break, with all of those wins coming without Anthony Davis, who has been sidelined for more than a month with a calf strain and tendinosis in his right leg. In those four games, James put up a double-double against Indiana, back-to-back triple-doubles against Golden State and Minnesota, and the aforementioned monster stat line against Charlotte.
“He’s playing every night, setting a great tone, I think, for young players and the whole league that, if he feels good, he’s going to be in there and he’s going to compete at a super-high level and dominate the game,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s the MVP of the league, in my opinion, thus far because of that mindset and what he’s doing for our team and he just wins the game in so many different ways. … He’s really doing it all for us.”
It has been eight years since James last won the award after the 2012-13 season, his third season with the Miami Heat.
“It’s a mistake on the voters’ part to go season after season without voting the best player in the league MVP,” Vogel said. “You know what I mean? That’s the simplest way to put it. There’s been other players that have been deserving, but he’s been the best player in the league for as long as I can remember. Maybe since his second, third year in the league. It’s just one of those things that’s unfortunate. It’s not right. And he should get it this year. He’s doing it every night and no one is as deserving.”
Last season, when he finished second for the award for the fourth time in his career — finishing with just 16 first-place votes compared with the 85 first-place votes that the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo received — James admitted the result “pissed me off.”
A month later, he won his fourth championship and earned his fourth Finals MVP in the process.
“That might’ve subliminally lit a fire under him, even though there’s already a fire under him every time you’re in the playoffs,” said teammate Alex Caruso. “People vote for stuff, at the end of the day, players recognize greatness. … I think the best player in the world, today, yesterday, has been LeBron.
“Obviously, I might be a little biased being his teammate and playing with him, but that’s just how I feel.”
Without outright proclaiming his right to the Maurice Podoloff Trophy for this season — averaging 25.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists while missing only one game so far — James admitted the award is something that’s on his mind.
“It is something,” he said. “It means something, for sure. I’m not going to sit here and say it doesn’t mean anything to me. And for me to be able to win it a few times in my career has always been special. … Being in the running, hearing my name with some of the best basketball players in the league this year again, it would mean a lot.
“At my age, what I’m able to do, what I’ve been doing this whole season, what I bring to the table every single night on both sides of the floor, it would mean an unbelievable thing for me, especially at this point in my career.”