Charles Barkley has Strong Words in Giannis vs. LeBron MVP Debate

LeBron James, at left, guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo during the All-Star Game

Getty LeBron James, at left, guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo during the All-Star Game

For much of the season, it’s been almost a certainty that Bucks forward Giannis Antetokonmpo would repeat as the league’s MVP. Antetokounmpo won the award last year with great numbers (27.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists) and he is back this season with numbers that are even more impressive (29.6 points, 13.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists).

And at 53-9, his team is clearly the best in the NBA, on pace to break a record, at 12.4 points per game, for its average margin of victory.

As Hall of Famer and TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley said on ESPN radio this week, “Giannis is the runaway MVP.” He said more, of course, and we’ll get to that momentarily.

In recent weeks, a new notion has bubbled up around the NBA—that maybe it should be Lakers forward LeBron James who should get the league MVP. James and Antetokounmpo (a possible Lakers free-agent target in 2021) will square off tonight in Los Angeles, a rematch of a win by the Bucks in December.

A headline on Sports Illustrated’s website recently read: LeBron James Has MVP Case

On Bleacher Report: LeBron James’ MVP Case Can’t Be Dismissed


James Addressed MVP Chatter

James himself was asked about it earlier in the week, when the Lakers beat the Pelicans.

“At the end of the day, it means you had team success,” he said. “It means that your teammates put in all of the sacrifices just as much as you did. They went out and they tried to play as hard as they could to try and win because you can’t be a league MVP without team success and your teammates doing all the dirty work.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel also made his case for James to be the season’s MVP.

James has averaged 25.0 points, 10.7 assists and 7.8 rebounds this season, while shooting 49.7 percent for the Lakers, who are the No. 1 seed in the West. They are four games behind Milwaukee in the race for the top overall record.

Barkley Decries ‘Idiots and Jackasses’

Barkley, though, said that the idea of James as the MVP over Antetokounmpo is foolish, fueled in part by the media and in part by those who are sentimental toward the Lakers after the team lost franchise icon Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash in January.

“The other networks are trying to change the narrative like LeBron should be the MVP,” Barkley said. “First of all, no he should not. Giannis should be the MVP by far. … LeBron is great and amazing but he plays with Anthony Davis. And you’ve got these fools on TV—and I understand the whole Kobe thing and everybody wants, LeBron’s amazing.

“But think about this. If LeBron James played in the Eastern Conference and he played with one other guy like Khris Middleton who is a good player, and he was (53-9), nobody would be saying, ‘He only plays in the Eastern Conference.’ When LeBron had all the good players (in Cleveland and Miami), were they ever (53-9)?”

James did win four MVP awards between 2009-13, two with the Cavaliers and two with the Heat. But Barkley is not buying the argument that the West is better than the East and James’ Lakers deserve credit for having a great record in that context.

The West was better, too, when James won his four MVPs as an Eastern Conference star.

“These guys want to change the story,” Barkley said. “Like, wait a minute. LeBron, who is amazing, he played with Bosh and D-Wade, he won MVPs because they had the best record. I don’t remember people saying, ‘We shouldn’t give the MVP to LeBron because the Western Conference is better.’ No, they never said that. But you’ve got these fools, idiots and jackasses on TV. Listen, LeBron is amazing but what Giannis is doing is incredible.”

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