Collective eyebrows were raised on Friday as LeBron James was omitted from the three-man shortlist for the NBA MVP Award and his Cleveland Cavaliers team-mates were suitably baffled.
The NBA announced the MVP finalists about 10 minutes before the Cavs' playoff Game 2 against the Boston Celtics tipped off.
James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard are the three finalists for the award, which will be announced June 26. This marks the first time James has finished outside the top three in MVP voting since 2008.
James scored 30 points — and could have scored far more if needed — in the Cavaliers' historic 130-86 win against Boston. Afterward, James said he didn't know the results before taking the court.
"And what are you going to do about it at the end of the day?" James told reporters. "My only job is to try to be the MVP for this team every night, put my team-mates, put our franchise in position to be successful and ultimately compete for a championship. (MVP voting) is not for me to be concerned about."
But while James downplayed the snub, his team-mates were quick to offer explanations for why one of the all-time NBA greats, after one of his greatest seasons (career highs in rebounds, assists and 3-point percentage) is not an MVP finalist.
"Other guys are doing amazing things, but consistency is boring," Channing Frye told Cleveland.com.
"It's not a good story. I don't know what the weatherman gets paid in Hawaii, but 'It's going to be sunny today.' It's hot a high-paying job like Colorado or Denver, where you don't know what's going to happen next."
"People like things to be fresh," James Jones told Cleveland.com. "People love new cars, they love the new car smell and Bron has been doing it at a high level and he's been the MVP of every team he has been on for 14 years. But the standard for him is high and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have it any other way."
"I kind of understand how this business works now," Tristan Thompson told Cleveland.com. "You guys get tired of seeing the same names at the podium for the MVP award."
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he's seen this kind of "voter fatigue" before, when he played with Shaquille O'Neal on the Lakers.
"Those guys had MVP seasons, and you've got to give the award to some different people every now and then," Lue said.
"I look at LeBron like Shaq; I think every year he's the MVP, and you can give him the award every year if you wanted to. When guys have incredible seasons like James Harden did and Westbrook and Kawhi, then you kind of credit those guys and give those guys the nod. But to me, I mean, LeBron is MVP, just like Shaq, you can give it to him every year if you wanted to."