Race for MVP award to highlight wild finish to season

Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:47pm EDT
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(Reuters) - The NBA playoff picture will take shape over the next month but many observers are more intrigued by the battle for the Most Valuable Player award, which is shaping up to be one of the tightest races in recent memory.

LeBron James of the Miami Heat and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder have been locked in a dazzling display of one-upmanship all season, with a standout performance from one seemingly motivating the other to similar heights.

Debate over which player should receive the sport's highest individual honor has dominated sports talk shows all season and the only thing you will get pundits to agree on is that the verdict is still too close to call.

James has won four of the past five MVP trophies, including the last two, and his play on the court has clearly indicated that he is not ready to concede the award anytime soon.

The 29-year-old Heat forward dazzled fans with a career-high and franchise-record 61-point game earlier this month and, with under five weeks left in the regular season, is shooting over 57 percent from the field, the highest of his career.

Not to be outdone, Durant followed James's 61-point effort with a gem of his own a day later, scoring 42 points on 70 percent shooting.

Another MVP award would put James alongside Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Michael Jordan at five. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time leader with six.

But joining Russell and Jordan is not what motivates James, who has said all along that winning NBA titles is what drives him. His fellow players also say James is all about the team.

"Who wouldn't want to get five? Who wouldn't want to put themselves in that category that not many have reached?" Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.   Continued...

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) shoots over Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson (7) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports