LeBron James seemed to downplay his feelings about last season’s MVP era after his Los Angeles Lakers win over Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. This is a far cry from what happened last year when the question was asked.
Although Los Angeles had the best performance in the West and led the NBA in the 2019-20 season, James received 16 of the 101 first-place votes, while the award went to Antetokounmpo for the second year in a row.
16 out of 101! Сool! I’ve got you.
– LeBron James (@KingJames) September 19, 2020
At the time, James made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the vote counting process.
Not to mention the fact that the winner didn’t deserve the MVP…. the MVP… But it bothered me, he said. And I finished either second in my career, with a championship, and now four times as MVP. …I never came to this league to be MVP or champion. I’ve always wanted to get better, every day, and these things will work themselves out. But some things are just out of my control and some things are out of my control.
Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists during the 2019-20 season, edging out teammate Anthony Davis for the defensive player of the year award.
I’m not going to sit here and talk about what the criteria should be or what they are, James said. Sometimes he’s the best player on the best team. Sometimes it’s the guy who statistically has the best season. …Giannis has had a great season, I can see that.
Of course, James won a championship ring and an MVP in the finals, two devices Antetokounmpo covets most.
On Thursday, at Fisherwoman’s Forum, James let his game speak for itself. Both stars brought energy to the playoffs, but it was the 36-year-old who showed why he remains the best – and most valuable – basketball player on the planet every night, regardless of who holds the MVP trophy in any given season.
In addition to the two games on the sidelines, James defeated Antetokounmpo 113-106 in Los Angeles. He was aggressive from the start and surpassed 30 points for the first time this season. In all, the four-time MVP scored 34 points on 13 of 25 attempts and added eight assists and six rebounds. His defense was solid and focused, especially when playing one-on-one duels with Antetokounmpo and Chris Middleton.
Like his entire team, James’ jersey was money all night. He made six of 10 three-point attempts, and his popular reverse fadeaway worked as well.
His approach was quite different from the previous presentation. On Monday, he scored just 19 points on six of 16 attempts in the Lakers’ historic loss to the Golden State Warriors and missed a three-point buzzer on the game.
On Thursday, James sank a deep dagger in nearly the same spot to give the Lakers an eight-point lead with a minute to go. He celebrated before the ball slid into the net by lifting three fingers in the air and turning to the Lakers bench (a recent theme). A double jump of 15.5 seconds sealed the victory once again.
LeBron James falls asleep pic.twitter.com/WS3fne8IXB.
– ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) 22. January 2021
Antetokounmpo was productive (25 points, 11-17 FG, 12 rebounds), but seemed a bit overwhelmed by the high-profile opportunity to prove last year’s MVP voters right. He committed an unfortunate nine times and walked away with numerous charges of reckless incursions into painting. He left at the last minute.
Davis brought in 18 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. The Lakers again benefited from a strong push by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who hit seven of 10 players within three points to score the most points of the season at 23.
James was not bitter about being voted MVP last year, but put his performance and that of his team on the line for a failed performance on Monday.
It was never about identity. It’s all about the success of the team, James said in his post-game comments. That’s the goal. …I don’t think we were happy with the way we ended the game against Golden State.
Davis also decided to focus on the present.
That was last season, he said, of the MVP and DPOY vote. Honestly, no one mentioned it. …our motivation was to not lose home tonight.
Maybe, but the Lakers’ star duo certainly played like they had something to prove against the MVP – on both sides of the ball (though their coach wasn’t particularly impressed).
Of course, Jared Dudley had the MVP award in mind after his teammate’s dominance.
– Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) January 22, 2021
The win allowed the defending champions to improve on their 12-4 record and extend their winning streak to eight away games to start the season. The Lakers will take on the Chicago Bulls on Saturday at the United Center in the second test of a seven-game road trip over 12 days.
Note that James’ teams are now 16-5 against the Antetokounmpo Bucks.