Skip to content

LeBron James’ 61-point game re-ignites MVP race with Kevin Durant

Mar 4, 2014, 12:02 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat Getty Images

LeBron James could barely muster the strength to lift his head.

He walked upcourt with his eyes to the ground, looked up to wave a dribbling Mario Chalmers ahead, and then dropped his eyes back to the court. The Miami Heat called timeout, and LeBron removed his facemask while dragging himself toward the bench.

Spent from the highest-scoring game of both his career and the Heat franchise – 61 points in a 124-107 win over of the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday – LeBron looked like he just need a seat, a towel and a rest.

But the celebration interfered.

He high-fived and hugged Chalmers. He shook hands with Ray Allen. He high-fived Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley. He hugged Chris Andersen. He high-fived Rashard Lewis, looked around and then high-fived Lewis again. He hit Dwyane Wade with a triple low-five, a double high-five and then a shoulder bump. He found Erik Spoelstra and hugged him. He waved to the crowd. He got a pat on the back from Chris Bosh.

As the game resumed, the deafening noise in Miami found purpose. “MVP! MVP! MVP!” the crowd chanted.

Suddenly, LeBron is back in the MVP game.

After spending half the season drifting in the celebration of his recent successes – back-to-back championships, MVPs and NBA Finals MVPs and four MVPs in the last five years – LeBron finally appears ready to challenge Kevin Durant for 2013-14 MVP.

Durant had become the consensus choice for the award, because he’s having a better season than LeBron. The MVP, after all, is an annual honor granted for play in a given year.

But pose the question a little differently. Who is the best player in the NBA? I bet most would have chosen LeBron, even before tonight’s career outing.

Carrying a larger load with Russell Westbrook out certainly bolstered Durant’s MVP case, but so did LeBron’s apathy. There was always a sense LeBron could reclaim his crown if he wanted to.

Monday, it sure seemed like he wanted to. He torched the Bobcats with purpose, making his first eight 3-point attempts and needing just 33 shots to score his 61 points.

This was the type of signature performance that can swing voters in a tight MVP race, but first, LeBron must make the MVP race tight. One fantastic night won’t wow enough voters, not when Durant captured the basketball world for a whole month with his 12-game streak of 30-point games.

Soon, the vivid memories of LeBron’s 61-point game will fade. He’ll need to bolster this performance with a strong close to the regular season the same way he strongly closed this game after exiting it.

Despite looking so exhausted before his celebration, LeBron never took a seat on the bench while his teammates finished the final couple minutes. Long postseason runs might have sapped LeBron of some energy earlier in the season, but they didn’t keep him down permanently.

On the floor in Miami after his historic game and in the MVP race, LeBron James is still standing.

Latest Posts
  1. PBT Podcast: Free agency’s winners and losers

    Jul 7, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    LaMarcus Aldridge LaMarcus Aldridge

    The Lakers were not free agency losers like some think.

  2. Report: Boston Celtics agree to trade for David Lee for Gerald Wallace

    Jul 7, 2015, 3:06 PM EDT

    davidlee Getty Images

    Look for the Warriors to waive Wallace using the stretch provision.

  3. Lakers anticipate signing D’Angelo Russell in time for Summer League debut vs. Timberwolves

    Jul 7, 2015, 2:44 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers Draftees Shoot Los Angeles Lakers Draftees Shoot

    Julius Randle, L.A.’s first round pick last year, missed the Summer League opener due to a contract issue.

  4. Lou Williams ‘disappointed’ Raptors didn’t want him back

    Jul 7, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    The reigning Sixth Man of the Year signed a free agent deal with the Lakers.

  5. Dwyane Wade cites his scoring average when asked how long he’ll continue to play: ‘I think I’ll stay around a while’

    Jul 7, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    wade Getty Images

    Wade was the third leading scorer in the East last season, but missed 20 games due to a combination rest and injury.

  6. Mark Cuban fined $25K for commenting on free agents DeAndre Jordan, Wes Matthews

    Jul 7, 2015, 11:31 AM EDT

    Squawk Box - Season 20 Getty Images

    Teams aren’t allowed to discuss deals during the moratorium period, which is still going on.

  7. Report: Kevin Garnett to re-sign with Timberwolves

    Jul 7, 2015, 10:52 AM EDT

    Kevin Garnett AP

    KG will be back for a record 21st NBA season.

  8. Report: Cavaliers ‘have not abandoned’ pursuit of J.R. Smith

    Jul 7, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One Getty Images

    Cleveland just added Mo Williams, but Smith (and Matthew Dellavedova) will likely be back.

  9. Jazz GM says he’ll have news for fans soon regarding contract issue with Trey Lyles

    Jul 7, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT

    Trey Lyles Trey Lyles

    The 12th overall pick hasn’t practiced with the Jazz, and remains unsigned. But the GM says “No worries.”

  10. Report: Players union to set up fund to help retired, destitute players medical expenses

    Jul 7, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Michele Roberts, the Executive Director of National Basketball Players Association Getty Images

    This is the kind of thing that all that new television revenue should go to.

  11. LeBron James says his legacy “will speak for itself” (also talks “Trainwreck” movie)

    Jul 7, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    All I have ever argued about LeBron’s legacy is that you can’t compare it right now to Magic or Jordan or Bird or whoever because he’s still playing at the peak of his game.

  12. Matt Bonner blames down shooting season on iPhone 6

    Jul 7, 2015, 12:17 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Four Getty Images

    Bonner claims a Spurs strength-and-conditioning coach supports the theory

  13. Report: Mo Williams signing with Cavaliers for most of their MLE

    Jul 6, 2015, 10:04 PM EDT

    Mo Williams, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving AP

    Cleveland fills its biggest need with its second-best roster-building mechanism

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (5956)
  2. D. Jordan (4052)
  3. W. Matthews (4002)
  4. R. Rondo (3504)
  5. D. Wade (3421)
  1. R. Hibbert (3397)
  2. D. West (3363)
  3. K. Bryant (3212)
  4. R. Lopez (3081)
  5. T. Harris (3013)