Anyone born in the late seventies has been witness to some of the greatest sportspeople the planet has ever seen.
With the NBA season well underway and the season slowly being framed, it is time to see who is leading their team by example and proving to be a threat on a nightly basis.
Here are five players who are heavily in contention to take home the NBA’s highest individual award for the regular season.
1. LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
Despite being in his 18th season at the highest level, it is no surprise to see James right at the top of this list. The 36-year-old is averaging 23.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game with a career-high 37.5 per cent from three-point range. While there are more impressive stats on this list and around the league, ‘The King’ has one factor in his favour that decides his spot. The key part to the most valuable award is those first two words: most valuable. James’ value to the Lakers cannot be understated, as he has led them to an 11-4 record, good enough to be the best in the NBA. Not unlike his first 17 seasons of dominance, James continues to lead his team towards the playoffs while showing his influence on his team and his greatness within the league.
2. Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
With Philadelphia finding their way to the top part of the Eastern Conference standings, it’s only fair to mention the way Joel Embiid has been playing in this team. The versatile and crafty big man is averaging 25.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, guiding his team to a record of 9-5, third in the Eastern Conference. Big men rarely have the opportunity to take out this award, but with Embiid dominating on the offensive end and finally finding balance on the defensive end, don’t be surprised to see him holding the trophy at the end of the season.
3. Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
I might have just mentioned how rare it is to see a centre win the award, but it’s hard to dismiss what Jokic is doing this season. Over the past few seasons, the Serbian big man has completely changed what is expected at his position. He has created a new breed at the five of bigs who can dribble, run the point guard and even consistently knock down a three-pointer. In doing this, he has turned his Denver Nuggets into a threat in the Western Conference. Despite a slow start to the season having Denver sitting at 6-7, Jokic’s individual numbers are hard to ignore. Averaging 25.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 10.3 assists, it’s necessary to put aside Jokic’s underwhelming team record and simply be impressed with his exceptional individual effort.
4. Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)
Well, who saw this coming? After an infamously poor playoff performance last season, ‘Playoff P’ (or ‘Pandemic P’ as some like to call him) has bounced back in a big way. While he is notorious for performing well in the regular season and disappearing in the postseason, it must be mentioned that this is a regular season award, and it’s quite the season he is having. George is averaging 24.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, while leading his Clippers to the second seed in the Western Conference. He is also statistically one of the best shooters in the NBA this season, averaging 50-50-90 splits. A much-maligned player throughout his career, the small forward is having one of his best starts to any year of his career. A player expected to play second fiddle to teammate Kawhi Leonard, George is outperforming his partner in crime and looks set for a big year.
5. Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)
How good is it to see Kevin Durant back on the court? After having a year off after a heartbreaking Achilles tear, Durant looks as healthy as ever in his new city of Brooklyn and is back to his old scoring ways. Considered one of the greatest scorers ever, Durant is again proving to be a headache for defenders and is putting up some of the best numbers of his decorated career. Averaging 30.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, Durant is certainly pulling his weight on an under-performing Brooklyn team. With the Nets recently trading for former MVP James Harden, their record is set to increase, which only boosts Durant’s place on this list.
Other contenders are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Stephen Curry.