May 5, 2013, 10 years ago today: In the prime of his career at age 28, LeBron James of the Miami Heat becomes only the fifth player in NBA history to win four Most Valuable Player awards, joining Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan. James and Russell are the only ones to be honored four times in five years. (LeBron had two with the Heat and two with Cleveland at that point). Abdul-Jabbar holds the record with six MVP awards—Russell and Jordan won five.
James had his stamp on everything good that happened to the Heat that season. In February he averaged 29.7 points and 7.8 assists per game, and Miami embarked on a 27-game winning streak, the third-longest in NBA history. The Heat finished with a 66-16 record, the franchise’s best ever. After posting 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game, LeBron fell one vote short of becoming the NBA’s first unanimous MVP.
Interestingly enough, James hasn’t won the trophy since. He and the Heat went on to win the NBA championship that season, and he was named NBA Finals MVP. The same combination of things happened in 2016 (when Cleveland rallied from a three games-to-one deficit to bring down the Golden State Warriors) and in 2020 (when the Lakers beat the Heat in the NBA’s COVID bubble). But still no more regular-season MVP honors.
Now, at the age of 38, James is locked in a classic superstar battle with the Warriors’ Stephen Curry in the NBA Western Conference semifinals. LeBron got Game 1, and Steph got Game 2 last night in San Francisco. There are lots of LeBron haters out there, but it’s impossible to dispute the impact he has had on the game. James has been wearing an NBA uniform since he was 18. He’s now in his 20th pro season. I’m a Warriors fan, and I’ve despised the Lakers since I was 12. But sorry, I consider LeBron James to be the GOAT.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)