The honor was once again to the liking of lebron james. The superstar of champion miami was voted the most valuable player (MVP) of the north american professional basketball league nba for the fourth time.
Coaches, colleagues and officials celebrated him, then the high-flyer of the heat had the stage all to himself. "My ultimate goal is to become champions. That’s why i signed here in 2010 – not to win MVP trophies," james stressed during his acceptance speech at miami’s american airlines arena.
His teammates and coach erik spoelstra watched the ceremony casually in t-shirts and shorts, while the king was dressed festively for the occasion – dark suit, dress shirt, blue tie. Critics may resent the fact that he had both hands in his pockets when he spoke, but james has long learned to live with the envious. He thanked the voting media and his mother, gloria marie, who raised him in akron, ohio, without a father. "I never knew that we were growing up without much money, in an area that we simply called ghetto. Cause you kept it all away from me. I never felt underprivileged," james said, looking at his mother, who was visibly struggling with tears in the front row.
The 28-year-old has thus finally joined the elite circle of absolute NBA stars. Exceptional players like kobe bryant, earvin "magic" johnson, tim duncan or larry bird may have won more championships than james in their glorious careers, but none of them became MVP at least four times. Only kareem abdul-jabbar (6), michael jordan, bill russell (both 5) and wilt chamberlain (4) had ever done that in nba history. But none of them was as young as 28 when they were presented with the maurice podoloff trophy for the fourth time.
Even more: like boston celtics-legend russell, james won the four trophies in only five years. "I wish we had 15 of these trophies, because i’m part of a great group of guys that allow me to be MVP. Without my teammates, this would not have been possible," james said.
As in the vote twelve months ago, kevin durant (oklahoma city thunder) came in second in the poll, carmelo anthony (new york knicks) was third. "Hats off to lebron. He has played an incredible season," praised anthony. James received 120 of the 121 possible votes for first place from media representatives – only shaquille O’neal had won so clearly before in the 1999/2000 season. "That was probably a journalist from new york who didn’t vote for me," james said suffisantly. "But i understand that, there’s just a certain history between us and the knicks."
The award is already his third in twelve months. After insisting a year ago that he would gladly trade the third MVP trophy of his career for his first championship, james finally won the title with miami two months later – and was voted MVP of the finals series as well.
James has been more efficient in this NBA preseason than in any of his previous nine seasons. With a 56.5 percent shooting percentage from the field and 40.6 percent from the three-point line, as well as an average of eight assists per game, he achieved career-best marks in each case. He simply wants to be the best player on the floor in every game, explained james, who this season also became the youngest nba pro to break the 20,000-point mark. "God has given him the talent to be a very, very special player," highlighted teammate dwyane wade.
However, the roughest assessment came from pat riley. The 68-year-old team president of the heat once played on the court with wilt chamberlain and later coached legends such as johnson, abdul-jabbar and o’neal to five nba titles. "For 46 years, i’ve had the opportunity to watch and see some great players – and they’ve all gotten better over the course of their careers," riley said. Then he looked at james and added: "but in my humble opinion, i think the man here is the best of them all."