By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
Many in my home country Ghana would not be familiar with many a name from MotoGP but pretty sure many would be with Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner and in recent times Mark Marquez. Rivaling in the spotlight of winning racing championships thrust these guys into the spotlight well beyond the tracks they call their battlefield.
The retired Stoner unseated Rossi from the throne by winning the 2007 title only for “The Doctor” to remedy his driving and reclaim his title a year later.
This day, the first day of September, spells a new month but for basketball enthusiasts, it can only mean one thing; the world’s greatest basketball league, the NBA is nigh. And with it comes the excitement, the oooohs and the ahhhs, the jaw dropping feats of high a man can jump, how fast a man can run and how good a man can be shooting a ball through a hole 27 feet away.
Basketball junkies have been treated to good basketball the past month as the Olympics ended the dreaded hallow season but nothing beats seeing the world’s best players compete on a nightly basis in bunches. Kevin Durant’s move to Golden State Warriors has dominated the offseason talk but one that has slithered below all that is whether LeBron James can win a fifth Most Valuable Player (MVP) title come next season?
He is currently under attack for praising Michael Jordan’s teammates more than His Airness himself but what he said days prior to the infamous statement at a youth camp should give cause to believe so. James stated he was chasing “a Ghost” from Chicago after winning his third NBA title in the past season. Its not rocket science to know the man he was referring to was Jordan and his unblemished record of winning six titles in six final appearances and five MVP titles.
James, after completing his 13th season in the league, has three titles in seven final appearances to his name and is one title short of equaling Jordan’s haul of five of the most prized individual title in the league. Of Jordan’s immaculate collection of achievements, his MVP haul is the most attainable for James. Six Final MVP titles, 10 scoring titles, six titles again and being tagged the greatest player ever to play the game look miles away from LeBron’s grasp. It is easy to see why the self proclaimed King will have his eyes set on the one thing within reach.
Win the award and he matches Jordan’s record and the world got a sneak peak of how James is prepping for the feat equaling journey ahead after videos of J. R. Smith gushing at LeBron’s long grind on the treadmill emerged recently.
But the challenge looks achievable because for starters, his competition look a step behind as reigning MVP Stephen Curry now has to defer more to his new teammate Kevin Durant aside the ones he is used to in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. How the Warriors fare with three of the top shooters in the game on the court in the starting lineup is another thing to pen down on the to-watch list for the season. Durant and Curry will be in contention for the crown no matter what but their numbers will be slightly difficult to back their claim as their level of production is expected to drop with fewer shots to attempts, lesser minutes to play and the good old issue of chemistry to deal with in the first year of the ensemble cast.
On the other hand, James, despite having two outlet options in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love is the unquestioned leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers and acts as he deems fit even if that means forcing the team to pay Tristan Thompson $16 million a year before Los Angeles Lakers did same for former Cavalier Timofey Mozgov in a much richer league. Moving on to the others, Russell Westbrook will be hard pressed to topple the Warriors or San Antonio Spurs without Durant by his side which basically eliminates him from the MVP conversation and Spurs candidate Kawhi Leonard is still climbing the steep mountain. Plus all the guys mentioned above except James will make adjustments to their game in the coming season.
Much talk has been reserved for the competition out west but what about those in the eastern conference.
Well to sum up the extensive thoughts of what Al Horford, Isaiah Thomas, DeMar DeRozan, Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside, John Wall and Paul George have to offer, James quite simply cannot be bothered at least for another year. LeBron James immortalized himself with a performance for the ages in the Finals series against Golden State Warriors by becoming the first player in history to lead all players in scoring, assists, blocks, rebounding and steals and the start of a new campaign means James can touch greatness by catching up to “The Greatest” feat in the 71st NBA season.