MIAMI (AP) - LeBron James was at his best this season, and the voters tasked with selecting the NBA’s Most Valuable Player took notice.
Every voter except one, that is.
The NBA still does not have a unanimous MVP, though no one has come closer than James did this season. The Miami Heat star was presented with the Maurice Podoloff Trophy for the fourth time in his career on Sunday after collecting 120 of the 121 first-place votes, with Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks picking up the lone remaining top choice.
“It was probably a writer out of New York that didn’t give me that vote,” James said. “And we know the history between the Heat and the Knicks, so I get it.”
A panel of 120 sports writers and broadcasters cast ballots in the NBA MVP voting, with a combined online fan vote also being taken into account.
Shaquille O’Neal got every first-place vote but one in the 1999-2000 season, when one person cast his ballot for Allen Iverson _ who finished seventh that year. This season, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder finished second, well ahead of Anthony, who was third and didn’t even appear on nine of the ballots cast. James was the only player listed on all 121 ballots; Durant was omitted from two, according to the results released by the NBA.
“I’ll take that vote,” Anthony said, adding that James was a deserving winner.
For months, there really had only been two questions about this season’s MVP race: When will James get the award, and would the results be unanimous? The first of those answers became known Friday, the other on Sunday, and even as he was on the dais to pick up the award the now-four-time MVP quickly started steering all of his attention back to the goal of helping the Heat win a second straight title.
Miami hosts Chicago in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday night, when NBA Commissioner David Stern will present James with the trophy, largely just for the benefit of giving Heat fans a pregame reason to cheer.
“My ultimate goal is to win an NBA championship,” James said. “That’s what I was brought here for. That’s why I signed here as a free agent in 2010. It wasn’t to win MVP trophies. It was to win a championship _ and win multiple championships _ and that’s still my No. 1 priority.”
James averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists this season, leading Miami to a league-best 66-16 record while shooting a career-high 56 percent. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six), Michael Jordan (five), Bill Russell (five) and Wilt Chamberlain (four) have as many MVP awards, only Russell won four in a five-year span, and only Abdul-Jabbar went back-to-back twice, like James did with trophies in 2009 and 2010 and now again in 2012 and 2013.
Sunday’s ceremony was filled with tributes and even some laughs, like when James’ younger son Bryce posed for photographers on stage while his father was speaking and older brother LeBron Jr. looked on _ and when James’ fiancee, Savannah Brinson, appeared on a congratulatory video and called him “Honeybunny.”
“I know you’re embarrassed when I call you that,” Brinson said. “But whatever.”
Over on the far side of the dais, set up on the floor of the Heat home court, James’ teammates roared in hysterics _ and Udonis Haslem made sure James knew that they were talking about Brinson’s pet name for her future husband. The 14 other Heat players were dressed casually in team garb, while James donned a dapper suit for the festivities.
As he did on Saturday, a day after it became widely known that the award would be his again, James thanked his teammates.