LeBron James is fighting an army by himself. He's probably going to lose, but he's not dying easily.
James' average line in these NBA Finals is 36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game. Only Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and James Worthy have managed to do that in a single NBA Finals game since 1986. James is doing it every game. James is the only person to have 35 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in that time frame ... and he's done it three times in this series.
His 40-point triple-double in Game 5 was the first in decades. James had 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists by halftime, something nobody has done in any game -- finals, postseason or regular season -- since James entered the league.
James is the Cavaliers' offense. He scored or assisted 16 of their 17 first half baskets, including every one in the second quarter. He ended up scoring or assisting 26 of their 32 field goals.
He's doing this out of necessity. When James is on the court, the Cavaliers score 97.2 points per 100 possessions. When he is off the court, they score 54.6 points per 100 possessions. THAT IS VERY BAD.
With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love injured, the Cavs are down their second- and third-best players. None of LeBron's remaining teammates can create his own shots.
J.R. Smith loves trying, but he is woefully inefficient in doing so. Tristan Thompson can score on offensive rebounds, but isn't a great post-up player. Timofey Mozgov works best in the pick-and-roll, which needs James to act as ball-handler. There was one possession in Game 5 where Matthew Dellavedova tried going one-on-one with his defender. It looked like an escaped zoo animal trying to break out of a lasso after being hit with a tranquilizer dart.
There is no course of action for the Cavaliers besides just giving the ball to LeBron over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Against the NBA's best defense, this should end disastrously. But it hasn't been a complete disaster. It's been kind of close.
The Warriors are winning because they're a great team with several great players. Sometimes Stephen Curry is great! Sometimes Klay Thompson is great! Sometimes Andre Iguodala is great! Everybody's great! The Cavaliers have won two games and made two others close solely because LeBron James is playing like a demigod.
By the literal definition of the term, James has been the most valuable player in the NBA Finals. But if the Cavaliers lose, don't bet on James receiving the award that goes to the most valuable player.
Once upon a time, it was reasonably common for players who put up astounding performances for losing teams to receive championship event MVP trophies, but sometime in the past 40 years or so, that trend fell out of style.
In the NBA, a losing player has only received the MVP once, when Jerry West won the award in 1969, the very first year an award was given. His was as preposterous as LeBron's. He averaged 38 points per game in a seven-game defeat to the Celtics and had a 42-point triple-double in Game 7, the only triple-double with a higher point total in finals history than James' Game 5.
The MLB and NFL have also given out MVP's to losing players just once, and both were a long time ago. The only losing World Series MVP was Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson in 1960. If that series were played now, the trophy would almost certainly go to Bill Mazeroski, who hit a walkoff home run in Game 7. The only losing Super Bowl MVP was Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley way back in Super Bowl V, in 1971.
Hockey players who lose the Stanley Cup are still kind of in the running for the Conn Smythe Trophy, but that's a bit more understandable because it's meant to reward the player with the best overall postseason performance, not merely the best performance in the decisive series. It's been given to losing players five times, with four being goaltenders. But this too is becoming increasingly rare. After two defeated players received the trophy in the first four years it was awarded, only one has gotten it in the past 25 years: Jean-Sebastian Giguere in 2003.
Whether the move away from rewarding losing players is a conscious effort on the part of leagues, a change in the voting procedures or thought processes for participating media or merely a coincidence is unclear. But it is clear that nobody is particularly interested in making an incredibly awkward moment happen.
Picture the scenario of the Warriors winning and James winning the MVP. The confetti-covered Warriors are celebrating their team's first championship in 40 years. It's the photo opportunity of a lifetime, a moment Warriors fans will cherish for decades to come.
And now Adam Silver has to speak into a microphone and tell everybody that none of them was good enough to win MVP. They have to stand aside as somebody goes searching for LeBron. Is he in the locker room? Does he come out, despite being devastated by defeat, to receive the trophy on stage? Does somebody go quietly bring it to him backstage? Does he even want the dang thing? Everybody involved hates it. The LeBron-hating contingent would go apoplectic, convinced once and for all that people will go to great lengths to praise James in spite of his consistent failures.
For these reasons, James will almost certainly need to will the Cavaliers to a win in Game 7 in order to be the NBA Finals MVP. If he doesn't, somebody on the Warriors -- probably Curry, perhaps Iguodala or somebody else depending on what happens in the future -- will get the award.
But let's not forget what James is doing against incredible odds.
SB Nation presents: LeBron is unbelievable but Steph Curry secured a Game 5 win