The Value Of Debating Value

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LeBron James (Lynne Sladky/AP)
LeBron James received his fourth MVP award after receiving 120 of 121 first-place votes. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

It's either because their lives are going so smoothly that they have nothing else about which to be concerned, or because their lives are so thoroughly out of control that they're grasping at what seems a manageable dispute with well-defined parameters for relief from the chaos.

Those are the two circumstances under which I can understand people arguing about the NBA's Most Valuable Player.

I'm sympathetic to folks in the latter category. When the going gets tough, the tough argue about whether LeBron James should have gotten every basketball writer's MVP vote. Fine. Whatever gets them through the hard patch. If they feel that prevailing in the MVP argument will provide them with a small rock upon which to stand as the seas of uncertainty crash ever more furiously around their ankles, fair enough.

I'm envious of the folks in the former category. They're the ones who push back from the breakfast table, and, having answered in the affirmative the question of whether to have another cup of coffee, look around for something else that needs to be decided.

"Let us consider the meaning of the term 'valuable,'” they say to themselves, unless somebody else is unfortunate enough to be at the table. "'Value' is a concept resistant to easy definition."

Then they call their local sports talk stations, where the hosts happily give them time to define "value" at length.

It is one of the quirks of the sports dodge that sports writers who have stayed on the job a long time get to vote on such things as the relative value of players. When they vote, there are disagreements. Sixty-six years ago, a baseball writer left the name of Ted Williams off his Most Valuable Player ballot entirely. Williams had won the Triple Crown, so this was an especially small-minded and irrational thing to do in the context of myriad small-minded and irrational acts. Ted Williams probably got over it.

My guess is that LeBron James hasn't spent much time wondering about the particulars of the MVP voting. He won. He's the king. Again. Winning perhaps caused him to pause briefly in his pursuit of a second consecutive NBA championship and smile. Then he probably began thinking about various ways to prevent the Bulls from repeating the upset they pulled in the first game of the ongoing series between Chicago and the franchise for which the nearly unanimous choice for Most Valuable Player currently labors.

This program aired on May 8, 2013.

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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