Could LeBron James Win Finals MVP in a Loss?
While the City of Cleveland certainly has not given up hope on the Cavaliers pulling out a series win against the heavily-favored Golden State Warriors, being down two games to none to this juggernaut definitely does not feel good. Hindsight is 20-20 and we all know Game 1 should’ve been won by the Cavs and this series should be tied one game apiece with Game 3 in Cleveland Wednesday night.
Should LeBron James and the Cavs lose this series and drop the team’s postseason record to 1-3 against the Warriors, could LeBron be the first player since Jerry West in 1969 to win the Finals MVP Award as a member of the losing team? If you ask most knowledgeable basketball fans, they could argue that LeBron should have won it last season in a 4-1 finals loss to the Warriors while averaging 33.6 PPG, 12.0 RPG and 10.0 APG on 56% shooting, becoming the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in the NBA Finals.
Fast-forward to this year’s finals and LeBron is already averaging 40 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 10.0 APG on 56% shooting and 85% from the free throw line through the first two games. By comparison, West averaged 37.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 7.4 APG in his finals loss to the Boston Celtics in 1969 (basketball-reference.com). As great as West was as a player, of course, the game was drastically different than the style and pace of today’s game, LeBron’s numbers certainly seem better, especially given the level of competition he is facing in the past two finals.
In Game 1 alone, LeBron scored a finals career-high 51 points only to lose by double digits in overtime. It’s safe to say that LeBron will do “whatever it takes” to get his team a win, but he clearly cannot do it alone, something fans and the media feel he has been doing all postseason long.
With the next two games in Cleveland, players that have struggled so far are expected to perform a little bit better and would certainly be the help that LeBron needs to push them closer to a victory. Other than LeBron, the only other player to should some capacity of ability is Kevin Love. Of course, Love is a five-time All-Star and is averaging almost 22 PPG and 12 RPG but is shooting only 25% from the perimeter.
George Hill scored 15 points in a Game 2 loss but expect him and others like Kyle Korver, Jeff Green and hopefully JR Smith to rebound and make an appearance in Games 3 and 4.
It is always difficult to watch a great player be nothing short of spectacular when his teammates simply are not producing and helping toward a team win, but don’t take LeBron’s greatness for granted because who knows if this level of play in the playoffs will be matched again.
Winning Finals MVP on the losing team may feel like a consolation prize for losing the season’s final playoff series, but what a hell of a consolation prize it would be. Who knows if LeBron would even accept the award, but should it happen, it could go a long way in determining LeBron’s legacy when he retires. Even in a finals loss, he was clearly the best player on the floor, but he doesn’t need official recognition for fans to know it.
He may fall to 3-6 in the finals by the time next week rolls around, but make no mistake who the best really is, even in his 15th season.