Mar 4, 2014, 12:02 AM EDT
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.
Jul 7, 2015, 4:10 PM EDT
The Bulls are getting the band back together.
Jul 7, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
The Lakers were not free agency losers like some think.
Jul 7, 2015, 3:06 PM EDT
Look for the Warriors to waive Wallace using the stretch provision.
Jul 7, 2015, 2:44 PM EDT
Julius Randle, L.A.’s first round pick last year, missed the Summer League opener due to a contract issue.
Jul 7, 2015, 1:57 PM EDT
Exum looked great, the injury did not.
Jul 7, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year signed a free agent deal with the Lakers.
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 was the third leading scorer in the East last season, but missed 20 games due to a combination rest and injury.
Jul 7, 2015, 11:31 AM EDT
Teams aren’t allowed to discuss deals during the moratorium period, which is still going on.
Jul 7, 2015, 10:52 AM EDT
KG will be back for a record 21st NBA season.
Jul 7, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT
Cleveland just added Mo Williams, but Smith (and Matthew Dellavedova) will likely be back.
Jul 7, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT
The 12th overall pick hasn’t practiced with the Jazz, and remains unsigned. But the GM says “No worries.”
Jul 7, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Okafor had some impressive moments.
Jul 7, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
This is the kind of thing that all that new television revenue should go to.
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.
Jul 7, 2015, 12:17 AM EDT
Bonner claims a Spurs strength-and-conditioning coach supports the theory
Jul 6, 2015, 11:04 PM EDT
This rookie knows how to finish at the rim.
Jul 6, 2015, 10:04 PM EDT
Cleveland fills its biggest need with its second-best roster-building mechanism
Jul 6, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT
Peter Feigin makes another threat
Jul 6, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
Guard will make $2.5 million
Jul 6, 2015, 7:38 PM EDT
In Utah, he counts as a veteran
- PBT Podcast: Free agency’s winners and losers 0
- Report: Boston Celtics agree to trade for David Lee for Gerald Wallace 9
- Report: Kevin Garnett to re-sign with Timberwolves 13
- Report: Mo Williams signing with Cavaliers for most of their MLE 22
- Report: Cavaliers, Clippers discussing Jamal Crawford for Brendan Haywood trade 26
- Reports: David West agrees to veteran minimum deal to play for Spurs 79
- Report: Marc Gasol, Grizzlies reach deal on five-year, $110 million contract 10
- Manu Ginobili tweets he’ll play next season 5