LeBron James led all players in points, assists, and rebounds during the NBA Finals. But he lost out on the MVP award to the player who guarded him mainly because, well, his team lost.
The last time a loser won the Finals MVP was the first time the NBA recognized a player with the award. Los Angeles Lakers guard Jerry West won the award despite his team losing the series to Boston. West’s recognition prevented Bill Russell, winner of 11 championships, from ever receiving a Finals MVP. The NBA made up for the snub by naming the award in Russell’s honor.
James scored 35.8 points, grabbed 13.3 rebounds, and dished 8.8 assists during the Finals. He opened the Finals with a 44-point statement game that essentially said everything about this series: LeBron would dominate but lose. He notched two triple-doubles, and played one assist shy from another during a 32-point, 18-rebound monster performance in Game 6.
Injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving forced James to carry a heavier load during the Finals. He appeared to will victories in the second and third games of the series. But basketball ultimately plays as a team sport, and his team just wasn’t as good as Golden State.
The loss marks LeBron’s fourth in a Finals series. A dejected James reflected after the defeat: “I’d rather not even make the playoffs than lose in the Finals.”