Before the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended, one of the biggest developing stories was that of the Most Valuable Player award race.
Following James’ performance in back-to-back wins against Antetokounmpo’s Bucks as well as the Los Angeles Clippers, some were claiming that he may have overtaken Antetokounmpo. Regardless of who was actually in the lead, a race that was deemed to be over was suddenly neck-and-neck.
But in actuality, James may not have closed the gap as much as everyone thought. A recent survey of 70 NBA media members showed that Antetokounmpo still has a sizable lead over James, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN:
In a survey of 70 media members who cover the league, Antetokounmpo was the clear leader in MVP balloting, earning 60 of the 70 possible first-place votes to open a commanding lead over James, who had an equally commanding lead over the rest of the field.
This comes as a bit of a surprise as there seemed to be a good amount of media momentum behind James but to this point, it still hasn’t been enough. Antetokounmpo has a great case as he has somehow improved across the board after the 2018-19 and there is a reason why this race was deemed over for so long.
There are 121 media members who vote on this award so this represents more than half of the vote so in other words, James still has a lot of work to do to overtake Antetokounmpo should this season resume. When breaking it down by points, Antetokounmpo’s lead over James sounds just as daunting:
Using that rubric, Antetokounmpo led the way with 670 of a possible 700 points, as he was listed in second place behind James on the 10 ballots where he wasn’t listed first. James, meanwhile, was second with 514 points, and was either first or second on 68 of the 70 submitted ballots, finishing third on one and fourth on another.
One question many would likely have is who put James lower than second and what players were voted ahead of him. While many players are having great seasons such as Luka Doncic, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and even Anthony Davis, it’s hard to argue that any of them should be ranked ahead of James when it comes to the award.
Hopefully this season will ultimately resume and there can be a satisfying conclusion to this race. If it does, James apparently still has a lot of work to do to get to the top of the mountain.