MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James spent two days trying to figure out the right words. An assistant jotted some ideas on notecards, which were ignored. So when the moment came to deliver his MVP acceptance speech, James spoke emotionally about family, charity, history and what the Miami Heat organization means to him.
And he finished with a flourish.
"Heat nation, we have a bigger goal," James said. "This is very overwhelming to me as an individual award. But this is not the award I want, ultimately. I want that championship. That's all that matters to me."
James accepted his third NBA MVP award Saturday, making him the eighth player in league history to win that many. The others — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malone — all have won NBA titles.
On Sunday, James resumes that quest.
"He's going to get his," Heat President Pat Riley said. "He will get his championship. And there might be a lot more there, too."
James received 85 of a possible 121 first-place votes from a panel of sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league, with fans on NBA.com combining for one vote. He earned 1,074 points, topping Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (889 points, 24 first-place votes), the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul (385, six first-place votes), the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (352, two first-place votes), and San Antonio's Tony Parker (331, four first-place votes).
James lauded the other top candidates for the MVP, and lauded his teammates and those around him even more.
"This is a team game and I wouldn't be receiving what I've received in the past and now in the present without my teammates and without my family and friends who've helped me to this point," James said away from the stage. "Even though it's an individual award, I always go back to my teammates. I always go back to my friends and my family. No one can do it alone."
When the results were released, Durant offered congratulations.
"LeBron, that's like unheard of for a guy to get three out of four MVPs," Durant said. "A good friend of mine. I'm happy for him and of course I would love to have the MVP but at the same time, I've just got to keep improving, keep getting better and hopefully I'll have one soon."
The way some around the Heat see it, Saturday could have been a fourth straight MVP for James.
His numbers this season — 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game on 53 percent shooting — are extremely comparable to last season, when he finished a distant third in the MVP race behind Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard.
Similar numbers. Much better result. And James understands why.
A year ago, following all the fallout that accompanied his decision to leave Cleveland and sign with Miami, James realized there was no way he was going to have voters back him for a third straight season. Long before the results were in, James knew the 2011 MVP wasn't going to be his.
"I just felt like there was nothing good that was going to come out as far as the individual accolades," James said. "I wanted to be an MVP for this team, but it didn't matter to me what the outside world was saying. It didn't matter what the voters were saying last year. It was just about this team."
"I'm not saying that's changed," he added, "but I think time heals all."
Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo won the MVP while playing for the Buffalo Braves in 1975. McAdoo said James had to deal with "absolute hate" last year after his move to Miami, and some believe the repercussions kept him from getting as many MVP votes as he may have deserved a year ago.
That's no longer a problem.
"He's already a Hall of Fame player. That's in the bag," McAdoo said. "If you ask him, a world championship or an individual award, he'll take the world championship every time."
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