It’s been quite the week for the older superstars of American sports.
After Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl appearance in 18 years at the ripe age of 43, LeBron James continues to defy science by seemingly getting better as he grows older.
The latest example of this came on Monday night when James led the Lakers to a perfect 10-0 start on the road with a 46-point outburst against Cleveland, his first visit to Quicken Loans Arena since departing the Cavs for Los Angeles as last season’s visit to Cleveland was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
LeBron saved his best for the 4th quarter and cited an unnamed Cleveland Cavaliers exec as the reason for his additional motivation in the final 12 minutes.
A member of the Cavs front office had some choice words for LeBron James after he missed a 3rd quarter buzzer beater.
Bron responded with 21 PTS on 9-of-10 FG in the 4th 😤🔥pic.twitter.com/Uv2xNWU9re
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) January 26, 2021
Whatever words were said to him should probably never be said again, as King James morphed into a Kobe-like assassin in the final stanza, all the more fitting on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the horrendous tragedy that impacted everybody, sports fans and non-sports fans alike.
LeBron James became the oldest Lakers player to score 40 points in a game since Kobe Bryant's farewell appearance in 2016.
He finished on 46 points on the eve of the first anniversary of the icon's death.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 26, 2021
LeBron now finds himself atop the NBA MVP odds board for the first time this season, with preseason MVP favorite Luka Doncic sliding down to second at +550. If LeBron keeps hitting shots like this though, the rest of the odds board may be rendered moot before we know it.
That shot shouldn’t be possible, @KingJames.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 26, 2021
Luka Begins to Slide Down MVP Odds Board
While LeBron James has the Lakers currently boasting an NBA-best 14-4 record overall at age 36, preseason NBA MVP favorite Luka Doncic is having a much tougher time in keeping the Mavericks in the mix with the best of the Western Conference, but it’s not due to a lack of effort from the sensational 21-year old.
Doncic (+550 to win MVP) currently is averaging a triple-double with 27 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds per contest, but the Mavericks have sputtered throughout the season and currently sit a game under .500 at 8-9. While there is ample time to make up for the slow start, Luka’s MVP chances will only go as far as the rest of the team can take him.
The Mavs may have buyers remorse on their trade to send Seth Curry to Philadelphia in exchange for Josh Richardson in the offseason, as Richardson has played decent through his first eight games with the Mavs, but Seth Curry has shined since landing in Doc Rivers’ hands, posting career highs in scoring (15.6 ppg) and shooting a blistering 53.7% from three-point range.
Ironically enough, Curry is boosting the MVP chances of his new teammate Joel Embiid (more on him in a second), as his old teammate sees his MVP chances take a hit.
The longer the 2021 NBA season draws out, however, the more likely it is that Luka figures it out and stays in the NBA MVP race for the foreseeable future.
Embiid, KD, Jokic Round Out Top Five
As mentioned above, while Luka Doncic has missed Seth Curry, Joel Embiid couldn’t be happier to have Curry on his team.
The 76ers finally appear to have the right blend of outside shooters to pair with their dynamic duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but it’s Embiid who has benefited the most from the presence of Stephen Curry’s younger brother.
Embiid has moved all the way up to third (+600) in the race for NBA MVP, fueled in large part by the open spacing in the paint from Curry’s outside shooting and Simmons’ ability to find open shooters. The 26-year old 7-footer is enjoying the best start to a season in his career and is averaging nearly 28 points and 12 rebounds per game for a Sixers team that boasts the best record in the Eastern Conference at 12-6.
After the acquisition of James Harden and the return of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant has now climbed up to a share of fourth in the MVP rankings with Denver Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokic at +650.
KD has been absolutely spectacular in his first season with the Nets since rupturing his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals as a member of the Warriors. KD is the second-highest scorer in the NBA with 30.4-points per game, while chipping in nearly eight rebounds and six assists per night. It remains to be seen, however, if Harden and Irving will chew into Durant’s MVP chances as they get more acclimated playing alongside each other.
Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic is back to doing Nikola Jokic things, as he leads the Nuggets in points (25.4 ppg), rebounds (11.9 rpg), assists (9.3 apg), and steals (1.9 spg). Denver currently sits at 10-7 on the season and in the fourth position in the Western Conference. Should the Nuggets inch their way up the Western Conference standings and keep pace with the Lakers or Clippers, Jokic may find himself as one of the lead dogs in the race for MVP.
Longshots Worth Paying Attention To
After a slow start to the season that had the Warriors on the receiving end on some ugly blowout defeats, Steve Kerr’s group finds itself back over the .500 mark at 9-8 in the loaded Western Conference, and Stephen Curry (+1000 to win MVP) is once again the straw that stirs the drink in Oakland.
The former two-time MVP is averaging 28.4 points per game, good for 4th best in the Association, and he’s shooting his usual scorching hot self from three-point range at just under 40-percent for the season. To have the Warriors in the thick of the playoff race without Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant is quite a testament to the play of Curry, but the team will need to become a more consistent group if Curry is to become a legit candidate for MVP.
Paul George (+4600 to win NBA MVP) is having another strong regular season, but Kawhi Leonard (+3600 to win MVP) is the Clipper worth monitoring. The Clippers are only a half-game behind the Lakers for the best record in the NBA as of January 26, and Kawhi has played very well to start the season. However, it may be asking a lot of Kawhi to emerge as an MVP frontrunner in between George’s play and Kawhi’s penchant to take games off due to load management. At 36/1 though, it could be worth the dice roll in case the Klaw catches fire as the season rolls on.
NBA MVP Odds (as of January 26, 2021)
|LeBron James (LAL)||+500|
|Luka Doncic (DAL)||+550|
|Joel Embiid (PHI)||+600|
|Kevin Durant (BKN)||+650|
|Nikola Jokic (DEN)||+650|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)||+950|
|Stephen Curry (GS)||+1000|
|Anthony Davis (LAL)||+2100|
|Damian Lillard (POR)||+3000|
|Kawhi Leonard (LAC)||+3600|
|James Harden (BKN)||+4600|
|Paul George (LAC)||+4600|
|Jayson Tatum (BOS)||+6500|
|Devin Booker (PHX)||+10000|
|Domantas Sabonis (IND)||+10000|
|Donovan Mitchell (UTA)||+10000|
|Trae Young (ATL)||+10000|
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