James won his fourth MVP, getting 120 of 121 first-place votes. A year after winning his first NBA title and second Olympic gold medal in the same year, James got better. He had career highs in field-goal percentage, three-point shooting and rebounds, leading Miami to the league's best overall record.
He was a worthy MVP. But judging from some of the reaction, you'd have thought Washburn had ruined LeBron's big moment by denying him a unanimous selection. There were suggestions that Washburn was trying to draw attention to himself, that he invented excuses not to vote for James, or that he was plain stupid.
I didn't have a problem with Washburn's vote. I wanted to applaud him. It's not that I wouldn't have voted for James. I haven't voted on the NBA awards in 25 years. But I tried to avoid running with the pack. I'm one of those contrary people who enjoy arguing a contrary opinion, sometimes to a fault.
It's not Washburn who bothers me, but the sports writers who vote in lockstep and rarely form an independent opinion. Virtually no one in the NFL media ever supports a defensive player for MVP. It kills me every year in the middle of the college basketball season when all 60 voters pick the same team for No. 1.
This isn't about who's right and wrong, it's about a diversity of opinion among a supposedly informed and intelligent group. You want to see the minority view represented, especially on something as subjective as an MVP. The notion of most valuable is hard to define. That's what makes it fun. It's not a scientific judgment. Radical views should be welcome, even encouraged.
My problem wasn't that Washburn didn't vote for James. It was the guy he picked instead: Carmelo Anthony.
Washburn contended that Anthony is more valuable to the Knicks than James is to the Heat. It's a defensible position, the kind that makes for a vigorous MVP debate. I just don't happen to agree with it. In fact, I'd sooner pick Anthony as the NBA's most overrated player than its most valuable.
There are at least half a dozen players I'd vote for before Anthony: James, Kevin Durant, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. I'd consider Joakim Noah, Paul George and Marc Gasol, too. It's hard to believe that not one of the 121 voters felt Curry, Noah, George or Gasol was worth of a top four vote.
Yes, Anthony was first in the NBA in scoring at 28.7 points a game. He helped the Knicks finish second in a weak Eastern Conference with 54 wins. At times, he had to carry them offensively. But his supporting cast wasn't as bad as people say, and Anthony's winning value is overestimated.
Anthony simply isn't a great player, a superstar. He doesn't make other players better. He shoots too much. He doesn't do enough to get his teammates involved offensively. He's too willing to settle for jump shots. He's not a good defensive player. He wants things to be easy.
He's no leader, either. If Anthony was a leader, he would have discouraged the Knicks from wearing black to the Garden for Game Five of the Celtics series, in anticipation of a Boston “funeral.” They embarrassed themselves on and off the court that day.
The biggest criticism is that Anthony doesn't win. In his first eight years in the NBA with Denver, his team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. His career playoff record is now 21-42. That's an even .333, perhaps the worst of any supposed superstar in league history.
Granted, the Knicks staggered past the Celtics in the first round, despite Anthony's poor shooting. But if Sunday's loss to Indiana is any indication, the Knicks are in deep trouble. The Pacers were the tougher, more resourceful team, manhandling the favored Knicks in Game One in Madison Square Garden.
Anthony, as usual, was reduced to firing up long jumpers. He scored 27 points in Game One, but shot 10 for 28. It was a continuation of the Boston series, when Anthony averaged 29 points but shot 27 times a game to do it (at 38 percent). He has missed 23 of his last 25 shots from three-point range.
This is the main reason I couldn't take Anthony seriously as an MVP candidate. In the playoffs, when the stage gets bigger and the game gets more rugged, his game gets exposed. His team begins to mirror his shortcomings as a player. His teammates become accomplices to his selfishness.
The MVP award is given for regular-season performance. But most of the men who win it are players who carry teams in the playoffs, who lift their game and their team when the NBA game tests the competitive mettle of its true stars.
Anthony had a very good season. He might yet carry the Knicks to a showdown with Miami. But I could never support a player for MVP if I didn't believe that value translated into the postseason. His name doesn't belong on the same trophy as great winners like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
Oh yes, I almost forgot to include LeBron James, a true superstar and deserving MVP. I admire Washburn for casting a dissenting stance. I just wish he'd cast it for someone I actually respected.