How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Thoughts on Westbrook & LeBron

Condoleezza Rice, in her new book, "Democracy: Stories on the Long Road to Freedom," argues that the mission of American's foreign policy should be the promotion of democratic values. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson feels that our foreign policy should be based primarily on national security and economic interests rather than on values. The Washington Post in a recent editorial wrote that Tillerson "seems to put values in a basket of their own, separate from 'America First' national interests."

The Washington Post basket reference got me thinking about the selection of Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder (OCT) as the 2016-17 National Basketball Association's (NBA) most valuable player (MVP). It appears that those who voted for Westbrook put his incredible individual statistics in a basket of its own, separate from winning a championship.

There is, no doubt that Westbrook had a season for the ages. He averaged 31.6 points per game, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists. His 42 triple-doubles broke the 55 year record for triple-doubles in a season. The OCT would not have made the playoffs were it not for his superhuman efforts (during the games Westbrook recorded a triple-double and his team's record was 33-9 vs. 47-35 overall).

In spite of Westbrook's phenomenal statistics, there are some, like me, who feel he should not been named the league's MVP because his team did not make a serious run at the championship (OCT were eliminated 4-1 in the first round by the Houston Rockets led by James Harden, who finished second in the MVP voting).

Harden also had a phenomenal season achieving many milestones which have not been seen in the league for many years (29.1 points per game, 8.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists). He led his team to a 54-26 record and a No. 3 seed in the Western Conference Playoff and into round two of the playoffs.

Strong cases can be made for naming Harden, Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs (who finished third in the voting) or LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers (who was not one of the three finalists) as the league's MVP. Their numbers were also off the charts and their team's records and seeding were higher for the playoffs than OCT. In fact, LeBron, who is widely recognized as the best player in the league, had phenomenal numbers - 26.3 points per game, on 54.5 percent shooting from the floor - better than Westbrook, Harden and Leonard.

In the end, individual statistics matter, but winning championship should be the key determinant in awarding MVPs. To make my case, take a look at the 1961-62 basketball season when Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics averaged 18.9 points per game and 23.6 rebounds per game to beat out Wilt Chamberlain and his 50-point scoring average and his legendary 100-point game, and Oscar Robinson and his legendary triple-double season to win the MVP. Russell earned the MVP because of the combination of his season and playoff performance.

During the Eastern finals he held Chamberlain to just 22 points while he scored 19 points and propelled Boston to a victory. In the finals, the Celtics met the Los Angeles Lakers. The teams split the first six games, and Game 7 ended in a tie. In the overtime, in a mind-boggling performance, Russell propelled the Celtics to a 110-107 win (Russell scored 30 points and recorded 40 rebounds).

This year's playoffs were again won by the Golden State Warriors who many feel have four of the top dozen players in the NBA - Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. They defeated the Cavaliers in the finals 4-1. The Cavaliers made it to the finals because of LeBron, who is the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in the finals (during the finals he recorded his ninth triple-double, passing Magic Johnson for the most triple-doubles in finals history). In the final game he scored 41 points, grabbed 13 boards and dished out eight assists.

LeBron in my mind is the clear choice for the league MVP. I find it absurd that the NBA picks its MVP prior to the championship round of the playoff. It would be akin to evaluating presidential greatness in mid-term, prior to seeing how a sitting president reacts to and handles the inevitable crises that will occur.

Russell Westbrook's athleticism is awesome and what he achieved individually may never be duplicated. He had a spectacular, but not an MVP, season because in professional sports there is only one ultimate prize: winning championships. In the end it is not how much effort you put in or what your individual statistics are, it's whether you were able to get your team in the position to win championships. That's what MVPs do.

Likewise, the greatest democracy the world has ever known - America - must never abandon the promotion of democratic values throughout the world. Ronald Reagan said it best: "America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere." It is America's destiny to keep the flame of human rights and human dignity alive throughout the world. That's what the USA does.