Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
“Nobody impacts winning more than LeBron James,” Vogel told reporters. “I do believe that he should be MVP this year.”
The MVP race had been reduced to a head-to-head battle between James and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won the award last season, in the final weeks before the campaign was halted March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
James, a four-time winner of the league’s top individual honor, was making serious headway with tremendous performances in victories over the Bucks and rival Los Angeles Clippers in the final week before play stopped.
The 35-year-old Ohio native recorded 65 points, 17 assists, 16 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 72 minutes in those contests.
“It’s a really good weekend for us, playing against two of the best teams, the top two teams in the league with us as far as record-wise,” James said at the time.
James had previously downplayed the importance of winning MVP:
Whether his late surge was enough to surpass Antetokounmpo is up for debate. The Greek Freak led Milwaukee to an NBA-best 53-12 record before the shutdown.
Here’s a look at how their individual numbers stack up:
- James: 25.7 PPG, 10.6 APG, 7.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 49.8 FG%
- Giannis: 29.6 PPG, 5.8 APG, 13.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 54.7 FG%
The NBA informed teams the shortened eight-game finish to the regular season won’t be considered in award voting, so neither player will get to make a final statement.
Both players would likely sacrifice the MVP award to secure the NBA championship, which could come down to a different type of head-to-head battle between James and Antetokounmpo.