The Z Report
Lance Zierlein: Despite LeBron's strong finish, the MVP race isn't really that close
You are already starting to hear it and starting to read it. You didn’t really think it would be that easy, did you?
LeBron James appears to be gaining some ground on James Harden in the race for MVP thanks to a tremendous stretch of play that has been punctuated by some of the best statistical output of his career. That’s the thing… LeBron doesn’t like the notion that anyone else is considered to be better than him in any given year and it is one of the things that drives him to be great. He has ego. Ego in sports can be a very good thing.
But the truth of the matter is that no matter how much LeBron “gains” on Harden, it will just be a matter of closing the distance with the final vote total. The race for MVP is over as it should be. In the grand scheme of things, Harden’s legacy could hinge on how he performs in these playoffs, but taking home an MVP is the culmination of his journey with the Rockets.
LeBron is the darling of the national media. He’s the modern day Michael Jordan, but with 41.2 million Twitter followers. He embraces media attention and has since his days in high school. LeBron is never stagnant and wants to move the needle during the news cycle and the national media is eternally grateful.
You don’t have to be paying close attention to realize that many of the move visible and vocal basketball pundits and television talkers are unabashed LeBron fans. They don’t just admire him, they clearly enjoy their role in his life. They see themselves as more than media members covering him, they are acquaintances or even friends.
Make no mistake, I am in awe of the run that LeBron is on and he will be revved up to keep his consecutive trips to the NBA Finals streak alive. I just know that there will never be a time that the more visible media members won’t have LeBron’s back. That could even extend to an MVP vote.
James the Anti-Hero
The national media respects and appreciates the brilliance of James Harden. Don’t kid yourself - it’s true. Now there have been times that they’ve gone after him, but we have too and we were all in the right. Harden’s defense has been non-existent in the past. Harden has disappeared at inopportune times during playoff series.
James Harden dates Trina, Amber Rose, and Khloe Kardashian while LeBron is all about the family. Harden doesn’t subtweet his teammates flaws, he just tells them to their face - at the club. Harden doesn’t come in a nice, neat package that was meant to be marketed to children and fanboys. I’m sure the NBA is always a little leery about promoting Harden because he’s got a little more edge than they are used to.
Even though the national media would love to crown LeBron the “King of the League” again with another MVP, it’s not going to happen. The unwritten rules are already set and followed. The elite player on the best team wins the MVP. That’s how it works. This isn’t a handout to Harden, he earned it. He’s been in the driver’s seat all year. There hasn’t been any drama about where he plays next year, or discord in the locker room or long stretches of losing for his team. It’s been the opposite.
LeBron is great, but Harden is the King for this season. Now about those playoffs...