LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo won the 2019-20 NBA MVP award, collecting 86 first-place votes.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James had an immediate reaction.
“Pissed me off. That's my true answer,” James said at his news conference following the Lakers’ 126-114 victory over Denver in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Friday.
It wasn’t necessarily not winning the award – though he would have liked his fifth MVP nod – it was that he received just 16 of 101 first-place votes.
“That's what pissed me off more than anything. You know, not saying that the winner wasn't deserving of the MVP. But that pissed me off. And I finished second a lot in my career, either from a championship, and now four times as an MVP. You know, like I said, I never came into this league to be MVP or to be a champion. I've always just wanted to get better and better every single day, and those things will take care of itself. But some things is just out of my hand and some things you can't control."
🤣🤣16 out of 101 🗳! Ok cool! I got y’all.
That was James’ first availability with reporters since the winner was announced earlier in the day. Antetokounmpo finished first with 962 points, and James finished second with 753 points. The voting panel is comprised of media who cover the league.
James also told reporters that was his initial reaction, and he’s all good now.
“I'm perfectly fine,” he said. “We're 1-0 in the Western Conference finals. I'm absolutely fine. So, I was pissed off at the reaction earlier when I saw it. I'm absolutely great now. I'm going back to my room, drink some wine and sleep very well tonight. Let's not get it twisted. I'm great.”
Before the game, Lakers coach Frank Vogel expressed surprise at the voting, too.
“You guys all know how I feel about it. To me, he's the MVP of the league this year,” he said. “No disrespect to Giannis. Giannis had a great season. He's a great player. What LeBron does for our team to me is unparalleled, to carry the threat of going for 40 at any point but leading the league in assists and quarterbacking our defense and driving our team to as many wins as we've had and our playoff success. To me, he's our MVP.”
Opinion: Why LeBron James deserved the NBA MVP over Giannis Antetokounmpo
West finals: Los Angeles Lakers run away from Denver Nuggets in Game 1
To be clear, James, 35 and in his 17th NBA season, had a fantastic season. He averaged 25.3 points, shot 49.3% from the field, 34.8% on 3-pointers and 69.3% from the foul line. He led the league in assists for the first time in his career (10.2 per game) and collected 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. He also led the Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference.
Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, one steal and one block and shot 55.3% from the field, 30.4% on 3s and 63.3% on foul shots. The Bucks had the best record in the NBA, and Antetokounmpo was also named defensive player of the year. In an advanced stat called player efficiency rating (PER) – a measurement of what a player accomplishes, good and bad, while on the court – Antetokounmpo registered a 31.94, the highest in NBA history. James was at an impressive 25.55
“I'm not going to sit up here and talk about what the criteria should be or what it is,” James said. “It's changed over the years since I've gotten into the league, I know that. You know, it's just changed. It's changed a lot. You know, sometimes it's the best player on the best team. Sometimes it's the guy with the best season statistically. Sometimes, it's changed over the course of my career. I mean, you don't know. You don't know.
“But you know, Giannis had a hell of a season, I can definitely say that.”
James has long been considered the best player in the world, even when he doesn’t win an MVP, which could also be the source of his ire. This is the fourth time he has finished second.
LeBron James gestures to his team during the third quarter of the Lakers' Game 1 win over the Nuggets. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
Though he said he was fine, he remains perplexed about the voting. He brought up the 2012-13 defensive player of the year voting. Marc Gasol won the award, and James finished second. But Gasol was voted to the NBA’s all-defensive second team.
“So that doesn't make sense. It's like being MVP of the league but you make second team All-NBA,” James said. “That's when I really started to look at things kind of like differently. I was like, 'how does that even make any sense.' It's like being rookie of the year but you make second team All-Rookie.
“And then I looked at the Most Improved this year, and rightfully so Brandon Ingram was amazing and I thought he should have won it. But did you see the vote that Devonte' Graham got? He averaged four points last year compared to 17½. If that's not improving, what is?
“And it's a weird thing sometimes … I don't know how much we are really watching the game of basketball. Or are we just in the narration mode, the narrative?”
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