(Cleveland) - LeBron James is getting his fourth Most Valuable Player award today - and the only mystery left is whether the vote was unanimous.
The Miami Heat star will be introduced Sunday as the award winner, according to a person familiar with the results and who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league has not publicly announced this year's recipient. James will become the fifth player with at least four MVP awards, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
Clevelanders seem to have mixed emotions about the milestone. Some telling Newsradio WTAM 1100 that they are still upset that James left Cleveland for Miami, and his success just makes the situation worse. Others say they have gotten over it, and acknowledge that James is the best baseketball player in the world. A few are hoping he will return to Cleveland to lead the Cavaliers to their first championship.
James averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists this season, shooting a career-best 56 percent. It was absolutely no surprise that he won the award, and given the timetable for Miami's next game - the Heat don't open Eastern Conference semifinal play until Monday night against Brooklyn or Chicago - it had been widely assumed for several days that Sunday would be the day.
If tradition holds, NBA Commissioner David Stern will then present James with the trophy again Monday night in front of the Miami fans.
"I absolutely have not even thought about it," James said earlier this week when asked if he considered the weight of winning the award four times in five years. "I have not thought about it, until you just brought it up. I know the history. It would be a unique, unbelievable class I would be a part of, so we'll see."
Only Russell had won four MVPs in five years, and only Abdul-Jabbar had gone back-to-back on the award twice. Abdul-Jabbar has six MVPs in all, Jordan and Russell have five apiece and Chamberlain won four.
James won the award in 2009 and 2010, only got four first-place votes in 2011 - his first season with the Heat - then reclaimed the award last season.
The "kid from Akron" is truly entering rarefied air now.
It's certain that stars like New York's Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant will be listed on ballots - the league will unveil the full results Sunday - though the only drama left is seeing if any voter thought someone had a better season than James. A panel of writers and broadcasters from the United States and Canada vote for NBA awards. There also is one combined vote from fans who chose an MVP through online balloting or social media.
There have been instances of people coming close to sweeping the first-place votes. Shaquille O'Neal got 120 of the 121 top votes cast after the 1999-2000 season, with Allen Iverson getting the lone other one that year. And after the 2003-04 season, Kevin Garnett - then with Minnesota - got 120 of 123 votes, with two going to Jermaine O'Neal and the other to Peja Stojakovic.
James finally got his first NBA championship last season, followed that up by helping the U.S. win a gold medal at the London Olympics, and then vowed to come back this season even better.
Forget that it's rare in the NBA to win the MVP award four times. It's rare in major sports, period.
In baseball, Barry Bonds is the lone member of the four-or-more-MVP club, winning seven. In hockey, it's Wayne Gretzky with nine, Gordie Howe with six and Eddie Shore with four. In the NFL, only Peyton Manning has four MVPs.
When comparing James' per-game averages this season against the best years in NBA history, only Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and John Havlicek had ever averaged so much in points, rebounds and assists per game as the reigning NBA Finals MVP did in each of those categories this season, according to STATS LLC. And none had ever done so while shooting such a high percentage - Jordan did it while shooting 54 percent, coming closest.
James' effective field goal percentage (a metric that takes into account 3-pointers being worth more than 2-point shots) this season was a career-best 60.3 percent, and he shot just over 40 percent from 3-point range, another career mark. The league handed out six Eastern Conference player-of-the-month awards this season, and James won five of them.
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