LeBron is the best, but is he the most valuable?

By Dave Boling | Scripps Howard Published:

By David Boling | Scripps Howard

His landslide was one vote short of unanimous, and it's important to note that the lone voice of dissent in 121 ballots was not a contrarian or a provincial beat guy sucking up to the star of the team he covers.

The vote for Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks came from Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

Maybe it's merely semantics and interpretation, but his reasoning should give the NBA and other leagues offering postseason honors reason to reconsider their approach.

The crux of the issue is the subjective matter of value rather than degree of excellence, which is more easily judged statistically.

James, at 28, is the youngest to stack up four MVP honors, and even conservative speculation would expect him to exceed the record of six MVP honors owned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

James averaged 26.8 points a game, eight rebounds, 7.3 assists and shot career-highs of 56.5 percent from the floor and 40.3 from 3-point range.

And he's just getting better, becoming one of the most tenacious defenders in the league and an underrated passer and team leader. It's hard to think of anyone so versatile that he could not only play any position on the floor, but also defend them all.

He is an obvious winner of an award called player of the year, or, most outstanding player, a title used by the NCAA Tournament.

But, as Washburn pointed out, Most Valuable Player seems to carry a different connotation.

In a Globe column, Washburn explained the circumstances of his vote: The poll was taken a few weeks ago.

And while he suspected he would be in the minority, he had no idea how others would vote, so the notion that he was going against the grain for personal attention is absurd.

''This isn't the Best Player in the Game award," Washburn wrote. "And I think what Anthony accomplished this season was worthy of my vote. He led the Knicks to their first division title in 19 years. Anthony led the league in scoring average and basically carried an old Knicks team to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference."

Washburn granted that James "unquestionably is the best player in the game."

And James' Miami Heat won a league-high 66 games this season.

But they also have All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, along with the all-time NBA 3-point shooter Ray Allen.

''If you were to take Anthony off the Knicks, they are a lottery team (missing the playoffs)," Washburn wrote. "If LeBron was taken away from the Heat, they still would be a fifth or sixth seed. He is the best player of this generation, a multifaceted superstar ... but I chose to reward a player who has lifted his team to new heights."

But, since we're splitting semantic hairs here, maybe that means that Anthony should be considered the NBA's most essential player -- more indispensable to his team than anyone else.

Because, to be picky, if we judge strictly by value, shouldn't a player's salary play into it?

Anthony has a $19.4 million salary this season, which makes James' ($17.6 million) look like a bargain. But, heck, for value on the Heat, how about former Sonic Ray Allen?

Allen averaged 11 points a game for a $3.1 million salary.

That's 41 percent of James' scoring at 18 percent of the pay -- while playing 12 fewer minutes per game.

Now, there's value.

As a matter of conventional usage, most players and fans come to interpret MVP award-winners as the best among their peers, and the actual letters M-V-P are not to be taken literally.

Maybe it would be fair, to give a player of the year award to the most outstanding individual, another to the player most indispensable to his team, and perhaps another to the player who produced the most for the least pay -- which should carry a monetary bonus.

Granted, it's not a debate that's indispensable, but there's value to it.

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