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On 05/03/2013 05:21 PM in NBA

REPORT: LEBRON JAMES TO WIN 4TH MVP AWARD

LeBron to win 4th MVP award

by Michael Wallace (espn.com)

MIAMI -- The worst-kept secret among NBA award recipients will be formally revealed Sunday when Miami Heat star LeBron James is named Most Valuable Player for the fourth time, league sources confirmed Friday.

James has been voted MVP for the second straight season and for the fourth time in the past five years. He'll join Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain with at least four MVP awards.

The only suspense remaining is in the final tally and how far James has distanced himself in the voting from other candidates this season that include Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Heat are scheduling an awards presentation Sunday, and James will also be presented the MVP trophy by NBA commissioner David Stern at AmericanAirlines Arena at the start of their second-round series next week in Miami.

The Heat, who have been idle for a week, swept their first-round playoff series against Milwaukee and will face either Chicago or Brooklyn in the conference semifinals, starting Monday. The Bulls and Nets play Game 7 of their first-round series Saturday in Brooklyn.

In anticipating of the award, James has said for weeks that he would be honored to be mentioned alongside Jordan, Chamberlain, Jabbar and Russell in MVP recognition. But James said Friday that he's more focused on the playoffs and helping the Heat defend their title from last season.

"He's earned it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of James after Friday's practice. "He's having an even more historic season than he's had the last two years. Most people probably didn't think he could go to a higher level after last season, yet he reinvented himself to show that he could. Our pinch-ourselves moment was when we signed him. But since we've had him, we don't take him for granted."

James averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals and one block in 76 games during his 10th season in the league. He shot career-best percentages from the field (.565) and 3-point range (.406) and ranked in the top 10 in scoring, assists, steals and field-goal percentage among those who have played in at least 70 games this season.

Last week, James also finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting for the second time since 2009. He led the Heat to a franchise-best 66-16 finish, which included the best home record in team history and a 27-game win streak that was second-longest in NBA history behind the 33-game streak set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.

Heat center Chris Bosh said after the season James has had, he can't imagine his teammate being anything other than a unanimous selection on the 120 first-place ballots submitted by media members and NBA broadcast analysts.

"I don't know who else you'd vote for  no offense to nobody else, with all due respect," Bosh said in support of James. "But that's just how good he's played this year."

Jabbar leads all players as a six-time MVP, and Russell is the only other to win the award four times over five years.

James, 28, will be the youngest in NBA history to hoist his fourth trophy, although Jabbar won five by the age of 30.

"Anytime I'm mentioned with the greatest players to play the game it's a wow factor," James said of comparisons to other four-time MVPs. "I grew up and studied those guys, watched those guys. A few of them were my inspiration."

In a span of 12 months, James has won the 2011-12 season MVP, was named Finals MVP after leading the Heat past the Thunder and will add another season MVP that commemorates his dominance this season.

After improving his low-post game last season and become a far more efficient shooter this season, James is already committed to working on the next phase of his game.

"My free-throw shooting," James said Friday in reference to lifting his 75.3-percent clip. "I want to -- I need to shoot in the 80s. That's my next goal. And then, just continue to do what I've been doing the last couple of years. But my free-throw shooting is what I really want to zone in on."

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