MVP: Challengers to LeBron

Is there a player more valuable than LeBron? Maybe Kobe? KD? CP3? Melo?

Updated: August 23, 2012, 2:41 PM ET
By Chris Broussard | ESPN the Magazine
Durant-JamesAP Photo/Lynne SladkyTry and take the MVP award from me, Kevin Durant. Just try it.

LeBron James is going to be the best player in the league next season -- no doubt about it.

In ESPN.com's Summer Forecast, the poll results show most of our experts agree in that assessment. James is the odds-on favorite to win the NBA MVP Award.

The early returns show that winning his first championship is going to make James better. With the pressure to prove he is a winner dead and gone, James will likely play looser, freer and bolder than ever.

We saw that in the Olympics, when he didn't defer to the league's alpha dogs, such as Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, and took the game over late by throwing down a power dunk and sinking a 3-pointer in the final 2:50 of the nail-biting gold-medal win over Spain. James, comfortable early, midway and late in games, proved he was The Man on a team full of men.

The league should beware.

But just because the Summer Forecast suggests James will win his fourth MVP award doesn't mean he is a shoo-in. Michael Jordan was the league's best player for at least his final nine seasons with the Chicago Bulls, yet he won "just" five MVP awards. Part of it was voter fatigue, as the voters (of which I am one) didn't want to give the award to him every season and began looking for other deserving candidates, such as Charles Barkley and Karl Malone. Clearly the award doesn't always go to the league's best player.