January 10, 2011

Co-MVPs?



About a month and a half ago, with the much-hyped Miami Heat side struggling to live up to their expectations, I posed a question for the team's top two stars on my NBA-India article: Which one of LeBron and Wade was going to bite the bullet and become the sidekick? After an 8-7 start, I felt Miami needed a clear Jordan and a clear Pippen. Bosh was always going to be the third option - it was really between Batman and Batman to figure out which one of them was going to be Robin.

Oh, how things have changed since! Ever since a November 27th loss to the Mavericks, the Heat have gone on an incredible run, winning 21 of their last 22 games. Their only loss came, again, between this streak to the Mavericks again. Except for that one setback, the Heat have been on fire, not only winning but winning by large, double-digits margins, embarrassing opponents, becoming the greatest road-show in the league, and going as far as cornily naming themselves 'The Heatles'. Their last two wins, on the road to the Bucks and to the Blazers, showed a different side to their toughness, as Heat showed that they can hang tough in close games too, winning both the match-ups in overtime.

So what the hell happened? They say it was a magic post-game talk that took place after that Mavericks loss in November. But on court, there was no change in the roles shared by Wade and LeBron. Aptly nicknamed 'The Super-Twins', both of them continued to play at the highest level, neither budging away from the spotlight and neither hogging it. For the first time, two players with almost identical games, both who are arguably the top two players in the league, began playing equally well at the same time.

Simply said, there was no need for a Robin. Wade and LeBron have done the Batman and Batman act to perfection - both defending hard, both hounding the passing lanes, both creating shots for their teammates, both creating shots for themselves, both attacking the rim, both finding ways to win games for their team.

For the first time, the NBA named co-Eastern Conference Players of the Month from the same team when The Super-Twins led Miami to a 15-1 record in December. During this period, Wade averaged 27.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 4.1 apg, and LeBron averaged 25.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 6.8 apg. Their season averages at this point are ridiculously awesome, especially considering that both these numbers are players in the same squad: LeBron getting 25.3, 7.0, 7.2, Wade getting 25.0, 6.6, 4.2.

The arranged marriage of this awesome-twosome was always going to be scary for the rest of the league, but no one (except perhaps for Jeff Van Gundy) expected them to be this good this soon.

Which brings me to wonder... What are the chances that, for the first time ever, the NBA will hand out a co-MVP award. In the history of the NBA, no players have ever shared the MVP award. The only time any of the awards have been shared has been the Rookie of the Year award, won both by Grant Hill and Jason Kidd in 1995 and Elton Brand and Steve Francis in 2000.

A week ago, LeBron came out and said that sharing the spotlight in Miami will mean that neither him or Wade can win the MVP award this year, but I think that this message will only increase their chances. Other candidates like Amar'e Stoudemire, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwight Howard are having nice seasons, but the only reason any of them have a chance to be MVP this year is because LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach.

Realistically, it is quite unlikely that this award is going to be split 50/50 between the two - the MVP award is voted for by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters in US and Canada, each of whom chooses their top five MVP options, and for each position, the player receives a certain amount of points. Given the complication of this process, it is improbable that two players will come out with the same score.

But improbably isn't impossible. And if there was ever going to be a chance for two players, from the same team, to win this award, it is going to be now. I guess there is space in the same Gotham City for two Batmen. We will see the true test of their superhero abilities once the playoffs begin.

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