Good luck picking a winner when all four top candidates are making history on a nightly basis.
There hasn’t been an NBA MVP race this hotly contested among four candidates since 2008, when Kobe Bryant snagged the award over Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul, and LeBron James. But this year is like 2008 on steroids.
You have the video game numbers of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the historic two-way dominance of Kawhi Leonard, and that LeBron James fella doing the usual LeBron things. If you need some proof of just how agonizing picking a winner will be, consider how many statistical benchmarks these four candidates have hit.
Warning: you might find some of them mind-boggling.
1. James Harden is on pace to surpass 2,400 points and 900 assists.
Nobody has done that in the last 40 years. Only Michael Jordan, LeBron, and Westbrook have even had seasons topping 2,100 points and 600 assists in that span.
2. Russell Westbrook has 17 30-point triple-doubles this season.
In the last 35 years, only Harden and Michael Jordan have put together a season with more than five such games.
3. Kawhi Leonard had a six-game stretch in mid-January where he scored at least 30 points and made at least half his shots in each contest.
In the last 30 years, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Michael Jordan are the only other wings that have done that.
4. LeBron James is averaging 26.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists with a 59.2 effective field goal percentage.
No one has ever averaged at least 25 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists with an effective field goal percentage topping 55.
5. James Harden has put together three different four-game streaks of at least 30 points and 10 assists.
In the last 40 years, the entire rest of the NBA has combined for one such streak. That was Michael Jordan in April 1989.
6. James Harden has seven different 40-point triple-doubles this season.
Not only is that an all-time single-season record, but in the last 40 years only Russell Westbrook and Michael Jordan have had a season doing so on more than a single occasion — with Westbrook the lone player in that time to record even half as many 40-point triple-doubles in his career as Harden has just this season.
7. Russell Westbrook has eight games of at least 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists this season.
In the last 35 years, only Magic Johnson has that many career 25-12-12 games.
8. In his 14 games since the All-Star break, LeBron James has put up 378 points, 152 rebounds, and 121 assists.
Just how outrageous is this run? In the last 25 years, even if you gave everyone else an extra two games, only one person has ever reached those numbers over any 16-game stretch: Russell Westbrook, this year. One slight difference? James’ effective field goal percentage in his stretch was 61, whereas Westbrook’s topped out at 49.
9. Before Kawhi Leonard, big men had won 24 of the 26 previous Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Leonard stands a real chance to win his third straight Defensive Player of the Year award. If he wins that award, he’d join Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to ever win the award while averaging 25 points per game.
10. James Harden is averaging 29 points per game on fewer than 19 shots a contest.
He is set to join Adrian Dantley as the only player to ever do that.
11. LeBron James is posting a career high in rebounds, assists, and made threes per game.
Keep in mind that James has already won four MVPs and probably deserved at least one other one.
12. Russell Westbrook is on pace to be be first player since Oscar Robertson 55 years ago to average a triple-double.
You knew that, but it’s worth mentioning again.