LeBron James, the leading candidate to take home the game’s highest individual honor for the third time in his 9-year career, doesn’t hide his desire and reverence for the award. From ESPN: “If he wins, he would be just the eighth player in history to win it three times. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the only player to win three at a younger age than James, who turned 27 in December. ‘It would mean a lot, honestly, it would mean a lot,’ James said. ‘If I’m able to win it this year it would be very humbling knowing the caliber of guys who have won it three times. I remember me being a little, scrawny guy from Akron, Ohio, and watching so many greats either watching live or watching games, knowing and loving the history of the game and seeing the guys who have paved the way for myself. I’ve always respected that. I’ve always respected the talent that came before me.’ [...] James’ case is reasonably strong. He’s averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. He’s also posting career highs in shooting, 3-point shooting and rebounding. The Heat are performing at a slightly higher pace than they did last year in terms of winning percentage. And the team is 11-1 when James plays and Dwyane Wade does not. [...] ‘It would be gratifying to know that just one year removed from what I came from,’ James said. ‘I’m just back to playing the way I play the game, with a lot of fun and a lot of joy and just not proving anything to anyone. Last year I felt I had to prove something to people. I have no idea why. But I got to that point and it took me away from why I love the game so much and I why I love the NBA. I got away from that. This year I got back to my seven years in Cleveland, my four years in high school and when I first picked up a basketball at age 9. That’s why I’m more excited about where I’m at today.’”