LeBron James is having one of the best seasons in NBA history, but will it be enough to win the MVP?
In describing LeBron James' season, “great” might not even begin to do it justice. If the season ended today, his PER (player efficiency rating) of 32.6 would be the best in NBA history, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain’s 1961-62 and 1962-63 seasons.
Highest Single-Season PER
Just how good has James been? Kevin Durant is currently second in the NBA in PER at 27.4. The difference between James and Durant is about the same as the difference between Durant and Tony Parker, who ranks 16th in the category.
Going strictly by PER, the difference between first and second this season is the same as the difference between the 16th and 66th. You get the idea.
With that in mind and with the Heat on a roll, you would think James would be a slam dunk for the MVP award. Apparently not. Chris Broussard isn’t alone in his statement that his vote would currently go to Kevin Durant.
Which begs the question: If LeBron James does NOT win the MVP award, will it be the greatest non-MVP season in NBA history? Here are some other contenders.
• 1961-62 Wilt Chamberlain - 50.4 PPG, 25.7 RPG
Chamberlain put up video game numbers (even for him), averaging more than 50 points and 25 rebounds per game. His PER of 31.8 remains tied alongside his ’62-63 season for the best in NBA history. He had more 50-point games that season (45) than Michael Jordan had for his career (31).
• 1961-62 Oscar Robertson – 30.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 11.4 APG
That same season, Robertson lost out on the MVP (Bill Russell won the award, by the way) despite becoming the only player ever to average a triple double. Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Fat Lever and Jason Kidd are the only players in NBA history with as many CAREER triple-doubles as the Big O had that season alone (41).
• 1988-89 Michael Jordan – 32.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 8.0 APG
Jordan joined Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average at least 30 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game. It was arguably his most efficient season, as he also set a career-high for FG pct (53.8 pct).
• 1972-73 Tiny Archibald – 34.0 PPG, 11.4 APG
Archibald set career highs for points and assists. He became the first and only player to ever lead the NBA in both in the same season.
• 1960-61 Elgin Baylor – 34.8 PPG, 19.8 RPG, 5.1 APG
In his third season, Baylor averaged nearly 35 points and 20 rebounds a game for the Lakers. If scoring and rebounding don’t do it for you, Baylor also led the team in assists per game. His PER of 28.2 was easily the highest of his career and led the NBA.
• 2005-06 Kobe Bryant – 35.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.5 APG
Although he didn’t win a title, Bryant set a career-high in scoring, averaging 35.4 points per game, the ninth-highest total in NBA history. Only Chamberlain, Jordan, Baylor and Rick Barry averaged more.