It’s MVP season in the NBA, and this season we have four frontrunners: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James. Westbrook is averaging a triple double, something no one has done since Oscar Robertson in 1962; Harden is an electric scorer who leads the league in assists; Leonard is probably the best two-way player in the game; and James is enjoying his best statistical season in years.
Ask most people who they would want on their team out of those four and the majority would say LeBron. He’s the world’s best player, yet he is arguably the least likely of the aforementioned players to win the MVP this year. Part of this apparent contradiction can be explained by the supporting cast (or lack thereof) on each team.
Westbrook’s Thunder have a decent starting five but are so offensively inept that Russ has to take anywhere from 26 to 537 shots per game. The Rockets boast an impressive list of I Forgot They Were Still Playing guys, including Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Nene, and Corey Brewer. At 25, Kawhi Leonard is by far the youngest member of the Spurs’ starting five, the rest of whom grew up in the age of black and white television.
Compare those situations to LeBron’s Cavaliers. In Kyrie Irving and (a healthy) Kevin Love, the Cavs start three perennial All-Stars all in their primes or getting better. LeBron himself has broken new ground in becoming the first player-general manager in decades, acquiring Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Richard Jefferson, James Jones, Channing Frye, and J.R. Smith in the past few seasons. In essence, LeBron has been able to construct his own dream team in Cleveland; he should be doing well because he’s handpicked his supporting cast. This may increase his chances of winning an NBA Championship, but it has hurt his quest to become MVP once again. Fortunately, I have a solution.
If LeBron James wants to be MVP again (and he does), he should enter the NFL Draft. Think about it. It’s perfect.
First off, the temptation to make The Decision 2.0 might be enough on its own for LeBron to consider a switch to the gridiron. He could once again make the sports world stop for a full hour of primetime television to watch and listen to his future plans. LeBron announcing that he will be entering the NFL Draft live on television would be enough to make ESPN’s entire Bristol, CT campus explode. The media coverage would be immense- just what LeBron savors.
Indeed, sports pundits have gushed for years about how great LeBron would be in the NFL. What better way to get talked about than by doing the very hypothetical that sports media has discussed for years? LeBron has the build for football, too: at 6’8’’, 250 pounds, he’d be a beast of a tight end in the NFL (for context, Rob Gronkowski is 6’6’’, 265).
The Skip Bayless takes would be scalding hot, Stephen A. Smith would use extra-humongous words in his very particularly penetrating observations regarding the supersession of the game of football in the American sporting landscape, and the chances are high that Michael Wilbon might just have a heart attack on air. I’m talking about a tidal wave of coverage focused solely on LeBron James; infinite opportunities for him to talk about how humbled he is by the spotlight.
Beyond the media hype, here’s the best part for LeBron: the Cleveland Browns are sitting on the number 1 overall pick in the draft. Sure, former Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett wowed scouts at the combine and has the potential to become a dominant defensive player for the next decade. But it would be a peak Browns move to draft a 32-year-old converted tight end on a huge contract. And think of the Cleveland fans! After burning their LeBron Cavs jerseys for the second time, they could just buy LeBron Browns jerseys! This is the most no-brainer PR move ever for LeBron. He won Cleveland their first championship since the breakup of Pangaea with the Cavs last year. By moving to the Browns, he could deliver their first Super Bowl as well. Forget about a stupid MVP award; two championships in two years would make LeBron God of Cleveland, Czar of Lake Erie. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that the people of Ohio would create their own monarchic state where LeBron could truly become King James.
But even if the Browns only go, say, 8-8, LeBron will still be in consideration for MVP. The Browns were 1-15 last year and recently traded for one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL- Brock Osweiler. Though they may choose to cut Osweiler, the Browns will still likely have a pretty poor quarterback under center. For the Browns, mediocrity equals greatness, and if LeBron can achieve that by catching someone’s wobbly throws, he’ll immediately be in the conversation for MVP. I mentioned above that LeBron has been overlooked for the award in recent years because his team has been too talented. Yeah, no danger of that on the Browns. In addition, LeBron enjoys temporarily relieving coach Tyronn Lue of his duties midgame for the Cavs in crucial situations. No NFL head coach is more vulnerable than Hue Jackson right now; LeBron could call as many go routes for himself as he wanted.
Entering the NFL draft really would be the smartest thing for LeBron’s legacy. No setting is easier for individuals to succeed in than the Cleveland Browns organization. On a team accustomed to losing, catching 100 passes for 1,500 yards and 12 or so touchdowns en route to 8 wins would stand out to MVP voters. The NBA has gotten tired of LeBron’s talent and his drive to win. That’s not fun, that doesn’t make you valuable. No, you have to be far and away the best player on an otherwise below-average team to be considered for MVP. That won’t happen with the Cavs, but it might with the Browns. So I say enough of this #striveforgreatness, win-at-all-costs mentality. That’s selfish. If Lebron cares about his legacy, and indeed the city of Cleveland, he’ll enter the NFL Draft.
- Andrew D'Anieri