Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The one constant for the Miami Heat all season long has been the stellar play of forward LeBron James, regardless of who was in his supporting cast. He was rewarded Saturday with his third NBA MVP award in the last four seasons.
“Heat nation, we have a bigger goal,” James said. “This is very overwhelming to me as an individual award. But this is not the award I want, ultimately. I want that championship. That’s all that matters to me.”
The third MVP award for James puts him in very rare company. The only other players who have at least three MVP trophies are: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Moses Malone.
“It’s amazing to think about it in that sense — three in four years,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “And there could have been one last year. It just shows how great of a talent, how great of a player that he is. Obviously, as an organization, we’re excited, especially coming off of last season and everything that happened and was said.”
For the season, LeBron averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game. He’s only the fourth player all time with numbers at that level. The others are Oscar Robertson, John Havlicek, and Larry Bird.
James’ shooting all season was at a level that put him on par with the greatest NBA player in history, Michael Jordan.
His Airness is the only person who has had a season better than what LeBron did this year. In 1988-89, Jordan averaged 32.5 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, 2.9 steals on 54 percent shooting.
“We love you,” Heat President Pat Riley told James during the ceremony. “Not just because of this, but because of what you mean to our organization.”
James received 85 of a possible 121 first-place votes from a panel of sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league, as well as one collective fan vote on NBA.com. He finished with 1,074 points, topping Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (889 points, 24 first-place votes), the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul (385, six first-place votes), the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (352, two first-place votes), and San Antonio’s Tony Parker (331, four first-place votes).
“I think LeBron is an MVP candidate every year,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said last month. “It’s just who he is. He only does everything. So I don’t know what more you can ask from him.
“LeBron, to me, is the favorite every year,” Rivers added. “The years he doesn’t win it, it’ll usually be because people are just tired of voting for him. Statistically, if you go all-around game, I don’t know how you don’t vote for him every year.”
For James, it’s a confirmation of his decision to join up with the Heat.
Last season, LeBron said he played more out of anger to quiet the very vocal criticism he received after he joined the Heat. LeBron said he was much more in his comfort zone this season and it showed with his performance on the court.
James’ voice broke a couple of times as he spoke, and he confessed he was more nervous than he anticipated. James relayed a story about his reaction when the news broke publicly Friday night, telling family he was with at the time that “this is crazy.”
“I see my two sons, I do what I do and I try to perform at the highest level every night, and a big part of the reason is those guys. I don’t want to let them down,” James said, pausing for a brief moment as he looked at fiancée Savannah Brinson and his sons. “Secondly, my teammates, like I said. The reason I’m up here today is because of those guys. If those guys don’t sacrifice what they sacrifice every single night … I wouldn’t be up here.”
Moments later, he asked the entire Heat roster to join him on the stage, and they huddled behind him.
“These 14 guys right here, they give everything,” James said. “And they give me everything.”
LeBron becomes the first Heat player to ever win the NBA MVP award. Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo won the award once with the Buffalo Braves in 1975.
LeBron and the Heat will begin their second round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday starting at 3:30 p.m.
As part of the award, LeBron also won a KIA, but he will donate it to his charity.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)