The National Basketball Association (NBA) has made Miami Heat forward LeBron James just the eighth player in league history to win a third Most Valuable Player trophy, placing him in elite company.
James now joins Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, Bill Russell and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, Moses Malone of the Philadelphia 76ers, Wilt Chamberlain of the 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson of the Lakers in claiming three or more MVP awards.
After a disappointing Finals appearance last year, James has responded with one of the best statistical seasons in NBA history, averaging 27.1 points per game, 6.2 assists per game and 7.6 rebounds per game. And while a championship this season – James' first if it happens – would finally push this season's MVP into an even more elite level, would it be enough to silence James' critics for good?
Sports writers Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk take on the debate.
Stephen D. Riley: Should James win a ring this year, he would undoubtedly have done the one thing that critics have said he couldn't and that's win a title. The MVP season was just part of a redemption campaign that James has been on since coming up short last June. And while this Heat team was compacted to run off a string of titles, just claiming one would, and should, be enough to cease James' hatred.
Perry Green: He's not getting off that easy. James is the one who predicted multiple titles and that's what he'll need to calm the criticism. And let's get one thing straight: there's no such thing as hatred for LeBron James. You just have a bunch of people who recognize how talented this guy is and they want him to live up to the potential that we've been pummeled with since his entrance into the NBA nearly 10 years ago. A player of James' talents is capable of at least three titles. I've seen enough of the regular season honors; I NEED to see him win a Finals MVP award before he silences this critic. Anything less than that and the criticism will continue.
S.D. Riley: Three MVP trophies and an NBA title is enough to say the guy lived up to his talent. Several great NBA players have come and gone through the league just winning one and having their position in NBA history etched in stone. Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati Royals, Milwaukee Bucks) and Julius Irving (Philadelphia 76ers) immediately come to mind. Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) might have been the most talented center over the last 30 years and he only won two. So with one ring, a host of All Star appearances and three MVP awards, James would have done enough.
P. Green: I understand it's not James' fault that the media tried to morph him from a super talented teenager into a ring-heavy icon but that's just the nature of the beast. And let's be honest here: Who have we seen with more talent than James since Jordan? The answer is nobody. I have yet to see a basketball player possess the talents of LeBron James step onto a professional court. We're talking rebounding, passing, scoring, athleticism and just sheer dominance. To add all of those traits up and place them into a 6-foot-8-inch muscle machine, we should expect a wall of championship trophies. One would be nice but for a player of his abilities, several would be fitting.
(Special to the NNPA from the AFRO Sports Desk)