Why the MVP Race Still Goes Through LeBron

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterNovember 13, 2012

Much as we try to make the MVP races interesting, there's a fundamental truth that's been haunting these past few years: LeBron James is the best player in basketball. 

It was true back when Derrick Rose won in 2011, it was probably true for a couple of years before James won his first MVP in 2009. The media gravitates to new story lines, as it did when Karl Malone and Charles Barkley stole the award from Michael Jordan, but until LeBron's play declines with age, or Kevin Durant overtakes him, it's James' award to lose. 

LeBron's unique, total mastery of the game was on display against Houston on Monday night. He delivered 38 points on 26 shots, 10 rebounds, six assists and not a single turnover.

In a game where Miami's defense looked porous, James made the necessary plays while morphing into a human late-game comeback. In total, James poured on 32 points in the second half. 

When the fourth quarter hit, James was at his best. After years of "clutch" criticisms, endless jokes about his supposed late game deficiencies, here was LeBron to again remind us that he's also the best in high-leverage situations. 

Last 5 minutes, +/- 5 points: LeBron is a +18, 14 pts on 4-of-6 shooting, 5-of-6 from the FT line with 5 assists and no turnovers in 15 min.

— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) November 13, 2012

The notion that LeBron is somehow lesser in these moments was really the only way to assault his No. 1 status. James leads the league in PER and Win Shares, and has for the past three seasons. Fresh off a title, that "clutch" slight is losing credibility. Now that it's fading away, consensus is shifting in another direction: 

Epic LeBron game tonight. Those "Sorry, there's no effing way we're losing 2 games in a row" performances were what made MJ so great.

— Bill Simmons (@sportsguy33) November 13, 2012

LeBron may be on a talented team, but he's shown himself to be Miami's engine and centerpiece. His ability to defend five positions while playing ostensible point guard, off guard and power forward is unprecedented in the modern NBA.

These are credentials that trump all other credentials. Like LeBron's biggest make against the Rockets, any other MVP choice is a long shot: