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The Heat say he did absolutely that. With nary a sign of a championship hangover, Miami went 66-16 in the regular season, including a 27-game winning streak, the second-best in NBA history. And since Feb. 3, when James plays, Miami is 36-1.

“We’re all in unison: We think he has earned it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has had an even more historic season than last year. The beauty of that, if he does in fact earn it, is the fact that probably most people didn’t necessarily think he could go to a different level, a higher level, after last season. Yet he reinvented himself and showed that he could.”

Forget that it’s rare in the NBA to win the MVP award four times. It’s rare in major sports, period.

In baseball, Barry Bonds is the lone member of the four-or-more-MVP club, winning seven. In hockey, it’s Wayne Gretzky with nine, Gordie Howe with six and Eddie Shore with four. In the NFL, only Peyton Manning has four MVPs.

“We never take him for granted,” Spoelstra is fond of saying about James.

When comparing James‘ per-game averages this season against the best years in NBA history, only Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and John Havlicek had ever averaged so much in points, rebounds and assists per game as the reigning NBA Finals MVP did in each of those categories this season, according to STATS LLC. And none had ever done so while shooting such a high percentage _ Jordan did it while shooting 54 percent, coming closest.

James‘ effective field goal percentage (a metric that takes into account 3-pointers being worth more than 2-point shots) this season was a career-best 60.3 percent, and he shot just over 40 percent from 3-point range, another career mark. The league handed out six Eastern Conference player-of-the-month awards this season, and James won five of them.

“I can see why he loves to play the game,” Wade said. “He can do anything he wants.”

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said near the end of the regular season James _ who also finished second in voting for this season’s defensive player of the year award _ might win this award many, many more times.

“There’s not a better player in the NBA than LeBron and he should win every year,” Rivers said. “He should win in a landslide. There are guys who had great years. Carmelo’s had an amazing year and so has Durant. But there’s no one that’s had the year that LeBron has when you figuring in rebounding, defense, everything, passing. And we’re going to be saying that until someone else comes along and takes the mantle. I don’t see that happening.”


AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Miami contributed to this report.