LeBron James Joins Elite Three MVP ClubLeBron James just won the 2012 NBA regular season MVP, his third such honor in the past four seasons--and he really deserved the 2011 award as well, so he easily could have become the first player in professional basketball history to win four straight MVPs. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving and Larry Bird are the only players who won three consecutive MVPs. The NBA has recognized an MVP each season since 1955-56; Erving achieved his MVP three-peat from 1974-76 (sharing the 1975 honor with George McGinnis) in the ABA--which existed from 1968-76 but is wrongly ignored in most discussions of pro basketball records/accomplishments--and then he added an NBA MVP in 1981.
Pro basketball's three MVP club is an elite group that includes just nine players, each of whom--except for James--won at least one championship; in fact, the members of that club are better known for their playoff heroics than for their regular season productivity and they are instantly recognizable to all serious basketball fans by shorthand descriptions of their postseason greatness:
- Bill Russell: 11 rings, 10 fingers
- Wilt Chamberlain: Dominant player on two of the NBA's greatest single season teams
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Captain of the Showtime Lakers also led the expansion Milwaukee Bucks to the franchise's first (and only) title
- Julius Erving: Led one of the youngest championship teams in pro basketball history (1974 Nets), authored arguably the greatest championship series performance in pro basketball history and was an All-NBA First Team performer for the 1983 Sixers team that went a then-record 12-1 in the playoffs
- Moses Malone: Fo', fo', fo'
- Larry Bird: Led Boston to three titles in six years during the 1980s
- Magic Johnson: Five championships, three Finals MVPs, several indelible performances on the sport's biggest stage--including 42-15-7 in the series clincher as a rookie and the "junior, junior skyhook" in game four of the 1987 Finals
- Michael Jordan: Teamed with Scottie Pippen to lead the Bulls to a pair of three-peats.
James has also had many fine playoff moments but he has disappeared in key situations against elite teams several times and his glaring lack of any championship hardware separates him from the other triple MVP winners. James deserves each of his regular season MVPs but when a multiple MVP winner annually plays for a championship caliber team it is reasonable to expect for him to lead his team to at least one championship. If James fails to do so then his glittering Hall of Fame resume will contain a significant, indelible smudge--or, depending on which analogy you prefer, a prominent empty space; even the greatest players don't win a championship every year and some of the greatest players of all-time only won one championship but if James does not win a title then he will fall short of the standard set by every other triple MVP who came before him.
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posted by David Friedman @ 1:02 AM