All hail The King!
I wrote that same lede once before, on May 31, 2007 when James had the first masterpiece playoff game of his career, scoring 29 of his team’s final 30 points in a Game 5 double-overtime victory at Detroit that gave the Cleveland Cavaliers a 3-2 lead over their nemesis, the Detroit Pistons, who they would go on to finish off in six games and advance to the NBA Finals … where they were swept.
The King was not treated as royalty in that NBA Finals, you may recall, because the refs swallowed their whistles when Bruce Bowen intentionally fouled him off an inbounds pass with 2 seconds left as James caught and shot the ball. It was the most egregious non-call I have ever or will ever have seen, and it would be five more years and one big Decision later before James would emerge from the NBA Finals as a champion.
James had a no-call go his way in Game 2 of the NBA Finals last June, but that was a ticky-tack type of foul that I argued was too close to call – especially when the play was live and it was not immediately clear if James had made contact with Kevin Durant – something that replays showed to indeed be the case.
James has been undefeated against the Thunder ever since … except in these rankings, where his No. 2 position a week ago prompted an extraordinary amount of debate. I defended my reasoning, columnist Chris Perkins took the other side of the argument, and then we had the Thursday night matchup in OKC, where LBJ left no doubt who was most deserving of the No. 1 ranking at this point in time.
Does this mean the award is his to lose? Maybe.
Lots of voters make up their minds on this award long before all 82 regular-season games have been played. Not me. So while these rankings are fun to write each week and provoke a healthy debate, let’s not forget that the rankings that truly matter are the ones that I send to the league office the morning after the regular season ends.
There are still plenty of games to be played, the league landscape could shift considerably this week as the trade deadline arrives, and LeBron could go into a slump. Yes, I know that sounds impossible, given what we have all been witnessing for the past two weeks. But a guy can’t keep shooting 60 percent and scoring over 30 a game forever, can he?
On to the ranks.