Add James‘ 53 percent shooting and 1.9 steals per game into the mix, and the club gets even more exclusive. Only Jordan had a season with numbers exceeding what James did this season in those categories — 1988-89, when he averaged 32.5 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and 2.9 steals on 54 percent shooting.
“It’s amazing to think about it in that sense — three in four years,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “And there could have been one last year. It just shows how great of a talent, how great of a player that he is. Obviously, as an organization, we’re excited, especially coming off of last season and everything that happened and was said.”
Many in the Heat organization thought James should have won the award a year ago as well, when he dealt with constant fallout from “The Decision” to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent and sign with Miami, where he, Wade and Chris Bosh formed a “Big Three” that has been celebrated at home and reviled in just about every other NBA arena.
James has said he played more out of anger and to silence criticism than anything else last season. So this season, his mindset changed, with him trying to revert to old ways, first as a superstar-in-waiting at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, then during his seven seasons with the Cavaliers.
“I wanted to get back to who I was as a person,” James said.
It’s the first time the Heat hosted an MVP celebration.
Shaquille O’Neal won his only MVP award before coming to Miami, and James won the 2009 and 2010 trophies with the Cavaliers — receiving 225 of a possible 244 first-place votes in those seasons.
The NBA MVP trophy is named for Maurice Podoloff, the league’s first commissioner. Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo won the award for the Buffalo Braves in 1975.
McAdoo said James had to deal with “absolute hate” last year over his decision to leave Cleveland sign with Miami, and some believe the repercussions kept him from getting as many MVP votes as he may have deserved a year ago.
That’s no longer a problem.
“He’s already a Hall of Fame player. That’s in the bag,” McAdoo said. “If you ask him, a world championship or an individual award, he’ll take the world championship every time.”
“I’d give all three of them back for an NBA championship,” James said. “It’s all I care about. It’s all I know.”