When the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it left plenty of unanswered questions even beyond whether or not the league would manage a return this year.
Among the more notable storylines was the two-man race for the MVP Award between LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. After all, both All-Stars had made compelling cases for themselves before the unexpected hiatus and this will likely serve as the deciding factor, regardless of how the rest of the season plays out.
The consensus has largely been split given the eerily similar body of work both players have put forth this season. However, it seems the sample size provided by James has helped Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard make his decision.
Lillard said during an appearance on “Jalen and Jacoby” that while each player is equally deserving, he gives James the edge:
“If you said either one, I feel like nobody would have a problem with it. But, me personally, this season I think it’s LeBron. They’re the No. 1 team in the West. They’ve been consistent all year long. And for him to be at the age he’s at, with the amount of miles that he has on his body, how often he’s talked about the pressure they put on him and every little thing that he does. And the level he’s performing at, I feel like in my opinion, I think he’s the MVP. No. 1 in the West, leading the league in assists, I think he’s averaging 25 or 26 (points per game). That’s super impressive. I think this year he’s the MVP of the league.”
Although Lillard’s comments indicate that the longevity that James has displayed plays a factor in his decision, he still made sure to provide the more logical reasoning to his MVP candidacy. This includes the fact that he paved the way to the top of the Western Conference for the Lakers with a 49-14 record while leading the league in assists (10.6 per game) to go along with 25.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
The fact that James remains as one of the NBA’s elite players in his 17th season is nothing short of spectacular and while that factor has garnered plenty of respect from his peers, it is not necessarily something that will be considered when the ballots are cast.
There is no question that the suspension put a damper in James’ bid considering the Lakers had just started to click on all cylinders with quality wins over Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks and the L.A. Clippers in back-to-back games.
Only time will tell if perhaps that was enough to knock off the reigning MVP.