LeBron James finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year balloting this season, losing out to Memphis Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol.
Jams finished second in the voting with 12 less first place votes than Gasol, and ahead of the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka.
Gasol was a fine choice, considering he was the anchor to a Grizzlies defense that finished second in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions. Miami finished seventh in the league in the same category, and lineup data showed that Memphis was much weaker defensively as a team when Gasol was on the bench.
James is as competitive as they come, so maybe the fact that he took a less diplomatic route when speaking about the award was something we should have seen coming.
“It sucks,” James said. “It sucks. It sucks.”
James was asked if his candidacy for other awards — notably the MVP — hurt his chances.
“I don’t know,” James said. “It definitely sucks, though. Finishing second? Who wants to finish second?”
Was this his best defensive season?
“Probably,” James said. “I mean, I guard everybody on the floor. I don’t know if there’s one player in NBA history who’s guarded one through five (positions). It’s over with now, but that’s cool.”
James has a point, as the effort he puts in on a nightly basis can often go unnoticed when he’s handling the bulk of his team’s scoring and dominating in so many other areas.
While Gasol’s defensive prowess is largely built around rotational play and rim protection that enhances the team defensive effort, James is known as more of an on-ball defender, and this award typically recognizes big men as opposed to wing or perimeter players.
James is going to win his fourth career MVP this season, so it’s not exactly as if he won’t be recognized for his stellar season. And besides, he seems to have a sense of humor about the whole thing — the part about “finishing second” was likely a playful shot at Kevin Durant, and the quotes that were attributed to him in a recent Sports Illustrated piece.