In this NBA era of load management, LeBron James is going old school.
The Lakers star – aged 36 and in his 18th season – has played in all 26 games for Los Angeles (20-6) and appears to be on a mission to win his fifth NBA MVP award.
James has emerged as a clear favorite in sports betting in Las Vegas to secure his first MVP trophy since 2013. He’s now the +150 favorite at Westgate after his odds were 14-1, and he’s the ticket and money leader at Westgate and William Hill.
“It seems like he’s going to do whatever he can to get it,” said Jeff Sherman, Westgate’s vice president of risk. “The crazy thing was that this season, especially with the Lakers’ short turnaround time, we thought LeBron would take a few games off the ground.”
A chip on James’ chiseled shoulder could be that he was denied the MVP award last season when he led the Lakers to the NBA title. He finished second at Bucks striker Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was named MVP for the second year in a row despite failing to lead Milwaukee to the NBA finals for the second year in a row.
Antetokounmpo opened this season as the second MVP pick behind Dallas security guard Luka Doncic. But every player saw their chances rise by double digits when the seemingly timeless James – averaging 25.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists – got a rift.
He scored 34 points and made 6 out of 10 3s in a 113-106 win at Milwaukee on January 21. A few days later, he scored 46 points and seven 3s in a 115-108 win at Cleveland.
The next day, Westgate made James the 4-1 favorite with Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (six), Bill Russell (five) and Michael Jordan (five) as the only players with at least five MVPs.
Loading on LeBron
Westgate bet 4-1 on James before lowering his chances of winning, and on Tuesday he bet $ 4,000 2-1 on him.
Before James’ chances of winning were lowered, ESPN presenter Doug Kezirian said he put four numbers on him to win MVP 8-1 and 6-1.
“After playing a monster game against Giannis in Milwaukee, taking that game personally, and then beating seven threes against the Cavs, I’ll bet LeBron that night,” Kezirian said. “Lukas Mavs lost again and again, and a three-goal penalty for Giannis just didn’t happen. And LeBron played every game, which was a distinct change that the odds hadn’t yet reflected. “
Sherman and Kezirian believe Antetokounmpo is tired of the media members who decide on the award.
“When it comes to awards, you have to hinder the voters as well as the players,” said Kezirian (@DougESPN). “It is human nature to want to be right. So you could feel that some voters were disappointed with another post-season Giannis flameout and had the remorse of a buyer.
“LeBron was reminding everyone that he is the best player in the league with another title and this was interrupted by his microphone drop at the awards ceremony when he asked for some respect for his name. And remember, because the finals were in October, they’re fresher for voters and the season is shortened, so the voting could almost unconsciously include the previous season more than any other year. “
The 76s lead the east with an 18-7 record and Central Philadelphia-based Joel Embiid is second pick at Westgate to win MVP after opening 30-1.
The Nikola Jokic Nuggets Center also entered the discussion as the third choice of +650 after opening with 16: 1.
Net strikers Kevin Durant and Doncic are each 12-1, Antetokounmpo 14-1 and Stephen Curry 18-1 against Golden State Warriors.
With James in mind, professional sports bettor Erin Rynning (@ ersports1) was asked to make a selection to win MVP.
“It’s losing your award,” said Rynning. “In a COVID year, however, you have to take into account that anything can still happen. A long-chances player like Stephen Curry comes up with numbers similar to his previous MVP seasons, although his team success isn’t quite there in the end. “
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at [email protected] Follow @ tdewey33 on Twitter.