LeBron James dominated the Lakers' Sunday night matchup against rising star Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. Anthony Davis was ruled out with a sore right knee prior to the game, so the onus was on LeBron to power the Lakers to a win on the road. He answered the call and more, putting up 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 13 assists while leading his teammates to a 122-114 victory.
Skip Bayless believes this performance clinched the MVP award over Giannis Antetokounmpo:
Bayless isn't wrong in saying that the MVP is as much about narrative as it is about statistical output. LeBron plays for the Lakers, gets plenty of nationally televised games, and plays in a tougher conference. Giannis is putting up preposterous numbers for the best team in basketball and one of the best teams statistically in NBA history, but he doesn't play in Los Angeles and has a better support system between the depth of the roster and quality of the coach. As Bayless notes, Giannis dropped 41 points and 20 rebounds in a demolition of the Hornets while playing only 35 minutes, and yet here we are, talking about LeBron's MVP candidacy. The Eastern Conference is more competitive than it has been in years at the top, but it will always be perceived as the weaker of the two conferences while the West has more starpower.
However, I do not think anyone will clinch an MVP based on a victory on March 1. Narrative matters, to be sure, but Giannis is putting up historic numbers on a historic team. He is not LeBron James, but he is averaging 29.9 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game while leading the league in defensive efficiency. He's the best player on both ends of the floor on any given night and is doing whatever he wants whenever he wants. If narrative was the only factor, then the fact that LeBron can put up numbers like he did last night in his 17th season without his best teammate would indeed be enough to be named MVP. But Giannis has the edge in every other respect, and whether he has a more significant narrative than LeBron depends on who you ask.
LeBron is doing astounding stuff, especially for someone who's 35. But Giannis is the MVP. A win on ESPN without AD isn't going to change that.