LeBron doesn’t need 61 to validate his greatness or MVP status


Just when LeBron James was starting to move comfortably through the prime of his career without the albatross that haunted the beginning of it, he managed to usher a new elephant into the room.

The first albatross, of course, was that LeBron James was not — and never will be — Michael Jordan. But we had all grown to accept that, in large part because James himself did. The loss to Dallas in the 2011 Finals changed him, and refocused him on the more appropriate goal of simply trying to be LeBron James. 

Being LeBron James is enough, as he has proved time and again. But then James went out and dropped a career-high 61 points on the hapless, helpless Charlotte Bobcats on a random Monday night in early March, and all it did was cause more frustration and confusion about his standing in the game.

Just as most of us have accepted that LeBron is not Michael, we also must come to grips with the fact that he is not the guy who scored 61 points Monday night, either. That is not to diminish James’ accomplishment, or to say that it hasn’t tilted the MVP race in his favor and away from Kevin Durant. It is, instead, to afford James the highest compliment.

He’s so much better than that.

He’s so much more than an historic number in the points column of a box score.

What comes to mind today as far as the two-man race for MVP is, “Your move, KD.” There’s this notion that, with his emphatic, efficient and devastating 61-point performance, James has positioned the proverbial chess pieces on the MVP board in such a way that he’ll soon be able to say, “Checkmate.” This shortsighted horse-race mentality is the same one that had everyone believing that Durant was somehow leading the MVP race when he went on a one-man-wrecking-crew binge after Christmas, with Russell Westbrook down with a knee injury.

Neither is true. What rings true to me is that James is the man to beat in the MVP race not because he scored 61 points on Monday night, but in spite of it.

James doesn’t have to — and shouldn’t have to — put up a scoring number like that to remind us how great he is. Scoring doesn’t define him because he’s so much more.

But in today’s short attention span theater, with so much noise in the atmosphere, most of us need an occasional reminder that a basketball player of James’ stature can — and will — unleash a virtuoso scoring game from time to time. Our appetites demand it — especially those of us who came of age with Jordan’s NBA and were then spoiled by the Kobe Bryant-Allen Iverson era that followed.

But once the excitement dies down, once the social media buzz subsides and the clicks stop clicking, we can return to that quiet, calm place that allows us to recognize James’ overall greatness for what it is.

He can play five positions and guard five positions. He could just as easily get 20 rebounds or 20 assists as 61 points if that’s what the game required — or, if that’s what the MVP horse-race mentality demanded. 

The man is shooting a career-high 58 percent from the field while averaging the fewest field-goal attempts (17.4) of his 11-year career. Put another way, that’s 3.4 fewer attempts per game than he averaged through his seven seasons in Cleveland, when everyone still wanted him to Be Like Mike.

Is he better thag.The defender has been linked with Juventus this week.However, his brother Luan wrote on Instagram: “Marquinhos has never agreed terms with another club.”L’Equipe adds Luan told fans who contacted him, “Marquinhos will stay at PSG”.It’s been suggen Mike? I’m not even going there. Such a leap would take the horse-race mentality I abhor to new depths of impatience and irrationality. But it’s far from a leap to say he’s the best basketball player on the planet now, and that the MVP trophy is his to lose as long as he continues to put on his headband (and mask, as the case may be). Even on his rare night of sl focus from his players for Saturday’s clash with Liverpool.The Blades have made an impressive start to their first Premier League campaign since 2006-07 to sit 10th after six games, but face their stiffest challenge yet when they host the European coring indulgence, James Since 1985-86, only four other humans — Bryant, Karl Malone, Gilbert Arenas and Tom Chambers — have scored 60 points on 33 or fewer field-goal attempts.

But the truth is, I am only responsible for my own MVP vote and can’t control (much to my chagrin) the ebbs and flows of the “race,” such that it is. So let’s play along for a moment and consider my earlier point of what Durant has to do now to get back into it. What now, KD?

The Thunder have 22 games left, most of which presumably will include Westbrook, who is five games into his latest return from knee troubles. The Bobcats, who’ve generously surrendered the three most recent 55-plus scoring games in the league (James’ 61, Carmelo Anthony’s 62 and Deron Williams’ 57), are not on the schedule. The Thunder just beat Charlotte on Sunday, and Durant only scored 28 points. (More fuel for the horserace crowd, you see.)

Ten of Oklahoma City’s remaining games come against teams that are in the bottom third of the NBA in defensive efficiency: Philadelphia, the Lakers (twice), Dallas (twice), Denver, Utah, New Orleans (twice) and Detroit. Seven come against teams that are in the top third of the league in defensive efficiency: Houston (twice), Chicago, Toronto, San Antonio, the Clippers and Indiana.

What does that mean? It shouldn’t mean anything if, for example, Durant answers with a career-high 60 or 65 against the tanktastic Sixers on Tuesday night. But if he did, the short attention span theater would reopen for business, the buzz machine would roar back to life and we’d get another 24-hour news cycle of “analysis” telling us that Durant had “pulled even” with James in the race for an award that should be determined on an 82-game body of work rather than blips on the regular-season radar.

What if Durant did it on Sunday against the Lakers on national TV? Would that move the needle more? 

No more than LeBron’s 61-point outburst moved theions League clash against Ajax this week.The Blues are hoping to get a positive result against the top side in the group.Ajax have two wins from their first two games, while the Blues have one win and one loss from those matches.”We know it’s a massi needle for me. They’re both so much more than that, and choosing one over the other for MVP requires a much deeper dive — not to mention a much broader appreciation of their talents.


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PHOTO: 2014 NBA All-Star jerseys reportedly leaked


On Thursday, images leaked of supposed jerseys for the 2014 NBA All-Star game. The jersey features a black background, green typeface, a Fleur-de-lis in honor of the host city, New Orleans, and… sleeves. 

The jerseys were first and . 

Lets’ Manchester United.Sky Sports says Longstaff wants the chance to speak to United to discuss a potential move.Should St James’ Park bigwigs be unwilling to open that door though, Longstaff will respect their decision.United would subsequently have to abe really clear. The tyranny of sleeves in the must end. I don’t care how profitable it is, this is a disgrace to everything basketball. The players by and larhe Champions League. The Frenchman won it three times during his first tenure as Real Madrid boss, and he’ll be looking to add to his collection this season. In order to do that, he will have to lead his side beyond Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City inge have expressed distaste with them, ranging from “eh, not big on them” to “I hate them.” And they just look weird. The NBA used them for Christmas and they were all gross. 

Other than that, I like the design. The silver logo beneath the backS says DC United are keen to sign Modric.However, the operation will not be possible at this time, since Modric’s salary demands would be too high for the MLS franchise and because the Croatian wants to see out his contract at Real Madrid, which runs number is nice, and I’m a big Fleur-de-lis fan. I even like the open-ended collar ring. It’s pretty great overall. But something’s just not quite right. Like if you just took away one element it would be perfect. What could that be? Let’s see. 

Oh, right, the sleeves. 

Ban sleeves. 

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during a 107-104 win over the Chicago Bulls. Wrote


backup point guard had a fairly solid performance on Saturday night during a 107-104 win over the Chicago Bulls. Wroten led the Philadelphia bench in scoring. Wroten shot 4 for 11 from the field with three 3-pointers in six attempts to scose to being a top four contender.Ancelotti passionately believes that Everton are just three players away from challenging for the Champions League.“I think the Champions League is a realistic target for Everton next season…yes it’s realistic,” ore 11 points. He played 23 minutes and added five rebounds, a steal and a block. The 20-year-old defender Toby Alderweireld insists they go to RB Leipzig in good spirits.Spurs fought back from a goal down to draw 1-1 at Burnley on Saturday ahead of Tuesday’s second-leg Champions League round 16 clash in Germany. RBL lead the tie 1-0 on aggregat out of Washington has been in double figures in scoring in each game this season and has yet to really heat up believes that Newcastle United are performing better this season.Many fans were skeptical about whether Steve Bruce had what it took to replace Rafa Benitez as manager.And while Newcastle are only a place and point off the relegation zone, Schar thi with his shot.

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pions League win over Tottenham.RBL defeated Spurs


forward scored a team-high 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting in hir Champions League win over Tottenham.RBL defeated Spurs 3-0 last night to advance to the quarterfinals 4-0 on aggregate.Sabitzer said, “It’s really emotional. We have to compliment the team.”We were really good ry.The Mirror says a large number of Arsenal players remain unconvinced by Unai Emery’s tactics and struggle to understand his instructions at times.The Gunners lay fourth in the table after six games – the lowest position in which they hope to finisin both matches and had a lot of fun. s team’s 106-85 win over the Spurs Friday.

It was the second straight game Morris led the team in scoring while going 15 for 22 from the field during that stret Ribery.The French veteran is in talks with Fiorentina after being released by Bayern Munich at the end of last season.Sky Italia says Fiorentina have offered Ribery a two-year contract worth €4.5m-a-season.Any move, however, will hinge on a demandch. He had a well-rounded performance Friday, tallying five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks in 25 minutes off the bench. Morris has averaged 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds over 53 games played.

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minutes in amidfielder Hirving Lozano.Napoli have


guard , who returned with little issue from a finger injury, played 32 minutes in amidfielder Hirving Lozano.Napoli have offered €40m for the Mexico international.“We’ve been following Lozano since last January,” De Laurentiis told ESPN.“We know very well that he can be a good buy for Napoli. We’ve also bic Calvert-Lewin is enjoying the way his form has tuhas no problems with his assistant coaches showing their passion on the sidelines.Former Gunners player Freddie Ljungberg, who is now one of Emery’s assistants, was very animated on the touchline during their Carabao Cup game against Nottingham Foresrned around this season.The attacker has been on fire since Carlo Ancelotti took over midway through the campaign.He recently signed a five year deal that will keep him at the club until June 2025.Aeen following James a loss at Memphis Monday. Bradley scored 14 points as he shot 6 of 12 from the field. He added three assists and a steal for the Celtics in the losing effort. Bradley has scored in double figures in back-to-back games. He’s just at 10 points per game on the year with three assists and a handful of rebounds.

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d.The Rn Sema is attracting Bundesliga inte


forward will in Sunday’s game against the Lakers, the team announced.

The Rn Sema is attracting Bundesliga interest.Sema only moved to Watford last summer from Ostersunds, but could be on the move again 12 months on.Express says Fortuna Dusseldorf are interested in the Swede and eag was delighted with the praise he received from Pep Guardiola.Speaking before Saturday’s win over West Ham United, Guardiola said that the England under-17 captain was an option for him at centre-back this season.“It’s a pleasure [to be mentioned ber to take him on-loan next season.The twoaptors were already scheduled to be short-handed after trading Rudy Gay and two other players to the Kings Sunday night, and they’ll also be without Hansbrough, who played just three minutes FPorto forward Moussa Marega has been offered to West Ham.Sky Sports says West Ham have been offered the chance to sign Marega in recent days.Marega has a €30m release clause and wants to move to the Premier League.The player scored 21 times last season, including six Champions League goals in nine appearances.The Hammers were in talks to sign Marega last summer.riday before exiting with a sprained shoulder. He remains day to day.

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ing huge money to sell K set to play a prominent r


The Houston Chronicle reports that forward , whLeeds United are demanding huge money to sell K set to play a prominent role for Chelsea this season after David Luiz’s move to Arsenal.And he believes Frank Lampard’s side are in good shape ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester United.“We are going into the Premier League with a good feelingalvin Phillips.The Sun says Leeds are demanding £30m for Phillips.The midfielder is wanted by Aston Villa but they face being priced out of the move.Southampton are also watching developments.They are looking to pay around £15m for the highly-rated midfielder but Leeds won’t budge.o has missed back-to-back games with a thEddie Howe was delighted with Bournemouth’s display in the win over Everton on Sunday.A double from Callum Wilson made the difference against Marco Silva’s side.Speaking after the game, Howe said: “I was really, really pleased. You don’t want to go tigh bruise, for Friday’s game against the Grizzlies. The Rockets were unable to hold their morning shootaround because of a winter storm. Jones has averaged 6.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per game in the month of January.

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izzlies, the Denver Poed is adamant Getafe can bui


forward tested his injured ankle before the game and against the Grizzlies, the Denver Poed is adamant Getafe can build on last season’s LaLiga success.A member of Getafe’s historic 2007/2008 UEFA Cup team, who famously beat the likes of Tottenham and Benfica before losing to Bayern Munich on away goals, De la Red believes this year’s Gest reports. Faried sat out the team’s previous game Monday, and tension with the club.The 31-year-old, who has been at the club since 2016, is a key member of theri defense.He played 31 times for the club as they moved into the Premier League from the Championship by earning promotion this term.And he is delightewas able to play just three minutes in the previous game. He is averaging 9.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game this seaWith retiring Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech in the frame for the sporting director’s job at Chelsea, he could be joined by former Blues teammate Makelele.That’s according to well-connected French outlet Euro United.Makelele, currently coach of Eupen ison.

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oth parties are eager to see a transfer agreed, a


forward scored a team-high 21 points on 7 of 11er Leroy Sane.While both parties are eager to see a transfer agreed, a change of agents means nothing can be formally negotiated for another month.BILD says it won’t be April until Sane’s new agents are clear to speak with Bayern on his behalf.Meanwh shooting in just 20 minutes of action in his team’s 100-87 win over the Kings Sunday.

Henry’s 21 points were his most since opening night, when he scored 22 points in 26 minutes against the ClLiverpool teammate Roberto Firmino.Mignolet spent four years with Firmino at Anfield before moving the Belgium in the summer for £6.4million, having signed a Greek outfit Olympiakos are in negotiations with Leicester to sign their Algerian winger Rachid Ghezzal.The 27-year-old, who cost Claude Puel £12m from Monaco a year ago, is in talks with the Athens club, who are keen to agree a deal ahead of their deadline day on Saturday.five-year contract.Mignolet fancies Club Brugge duo Hans Vanaken and Ruud Vormer more in frippers. He has averaged 8.7 points through 14 games, but he has just two double-digit efforts in his last 10 games.

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ltic on deadline day at the start of the season, e


guard is dealing with for Lyon striker Moussa Dembele.Dembele left Celtic on deadline day at the start of the season, earning the Scottish champions £18m.The 22-year-old has since impressed in Ligue 1 and has caught the eye of United chiefs, no he isn’t focused on the future of Laurent Koscielny.The veteran defender refused to join his teammates on the preseason tour of America in order to force through a return to France.And Emery says the issue is between Koscielny and the club.Speaking tably Cantona.The Old Traffan illness that of Friday’s game against the Lakers, according to the St.teta will already know what players he needs to sign in the summer.The Gunners have yet to lose a game this year, winning six and drawing four of their ten matches so far this year. And Merson has been impressed with how the club have settled under t Paul Pioneer Press. Rubio will likely be a game-time decision as a result of the illness.

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