It is still early in the grueling endurance race that is the NBA season, but barring serious injury, Lebron James is, and should be acknowledged as, the league's most valuable player for 2012-2013.
And for me, it's an obvious, and easy call.
But last Thursday evening, I heard a different point of view from sportscasters analyzing the MVP possibilities before, while, and after Kevin Durant led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a come from behind win over this year's mediocre edition of the Dallas Mavericks.
Durant was awesome, as usual, and his performance evoked comparisons to James -- the other basketball star of stars staking a claim to this year's MVP honors. Other players sometimes mentioned as MVP possibilities -- Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Kobe Bryant -- all fall short, in one way or another, of the near perfect credentials credited to Durant and James.
During that Thursday telecast, it was suggested that -- since the MVP contest was too close to call -- the award should go to Durant because James is already a three-time MVP. Another idea presented was for the two super stars to share the award.
Neither solution is viable, because neither solution is fair -- to Lebron James. The MVP title is not meant to go to a valuable player -- it is intended for the most valuable player -- and that is Lebron James.
The accolades accorded to, and the MVP support shown for Kevin Durant are understandable. Thursday evening was just another of many occasions when he repeatedly thrilled a deafening hometown crowd with amazing feats of derring-do. He soared high above the rim for jaw-dropping dunks and he made good on three-point bombs from well beyond the arc.
But Durant's inside, outside scoring proficiency is no more incredulous than the all-around game of Lebron James. He can come into the paint with unstoppable power that has defenders thinking runaway train, and his long-range marksmanship is equal to that of Durant. Both shoot threes at a lofty mid-forties percent.
To go by the stats is to see Kevin Durant and Lebron James as basketball equals -- both equally worthy of MVP honors. But to go beyond the numbers; to dig a little deeper; to consider intangibles, is to see Lebron James, at this juncture, as the more valuable of two probable future hall of famers.
Lebron's commanding presence and basketball IQ have evolved him into a floor leader who keeps the offense flowing,. This ability is something Kevin Durant lacks at this point in his career.
Defensively, Lebron is a freak of nature -- physical gifts allow him to guard any of the five positions on opposing teams. He is aggressive -- equally adept at getting steals and blocking shots -- and he does it without getting into foul trouble. Earlier this week, Lebron completed a run of six consecutive games without a personal foul. Kevin Durant has become a good defender, but he is not yet on a level with James.
Both Durant and James are leaders -- Durant by example and James by something more. That something more is a willingness to get in the face of a teammate when necessary. He has done that in the past to the benefit of the team. Durant has been reluctant to do the same.
Then there is head to head competition to consider. The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat are two of the elite teams in the NBA -- picked by many to meet again in the Finals. Lebron's Miami Heat has won five of the last six meetings between the two teams.
It's an easy call. The MVP crown should remain with King James.
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