NBA MVP Rankings Powered by EssentiallySports: Does LeBron James Retain His Place in Top 5?

Published 04/19/2021, 4:00 PM EDT
Mar 7, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrate after winning the NBA All-Star 3 Point Contest at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Before we dive into our top five for the 2020-21 season NBA MVP race, it is important to point out that it is defined by two things – dominant play at center and injuries. These are the key factors that are keeping Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic at the top.


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The likes of LeBron James and Joel Embiid did drop down in the pecking order last season. But where do they stand this time around? Does LeBron even make the top five? The answers to these questions lie below.

1. Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets


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The Denver big man is on course to become the first center since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 to win the MVP award. That is not only because he is averaging an astonishing 26.1 points, 11 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game this season, it is also because he’s not taken a single night off.

Feb 12, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) reacts back to the referees in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Joker is almost single-handedly carrying his team, now more than ever with Jamal Murray out for the rest of the season.

2. Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

Perhaps the only reason that the Philly big man doesn’t top this list is that he’s played less than 40 games so far. But even then he ranks as high as second because he’s the personification of a physical imposition this season.

As opposed to the ball-handling Jokic, Embiid has showcased his prowess in the low post, on both ends of the court. He is averaging 30 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and a steal per game.

3. Steph Curry – Golden State Warriors (dark horse for 2021 NBA MVP)

Curry is the most in-form player in the NBA right now. And that is why he makes a somewhat controversial jump in this list ahead of the likes of Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic.

His popularity in the league is undeniable. Besides carrying the Golden State Warriors on his back this season, that popularity could see him pip the likes of Embiid and Jokic for the award. Even Magic Johnson thinks that he is the runaway NBA MVP!


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4. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks

Someone like a James Harden or a Kawhi Leonard could easily have been at number four. But Giannis makes it as the Bucks falter more without him in his lineup than the other two. They are 4-4 without him for this season.


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5. LeBron James – Los Angeles Lakers

This is the inclusion that may raise some eyebrows. But his play before he sprained his ankle a month ago is too good to look past. With his return looming large, he may well climb the charts before the season ends.

Mar 2, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts against the Phoenix Suns during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The likes of Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard are unfortunate to miss out. But in their battle to get their respective teams to the sixth spot in the West, none of them will take a rest. So, we can see them make an entry by the end of this week. It is all to play for.


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Bharat Aggarwal

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Bharat Aggarwal is a sports analyst for EssentiallySports, covering Formula 1 and NBA. A Delhi University graduate, Bharat has multi-year experience in sports writing, having closely worked with the content strategy aspect as well. Bharat Aggarwal supports Manchester United, Lewis Hamilton, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, Dirk Nowitzki, Sachin Tendulkar, Ayrton Senna, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dallas Mavericks.