Joe Posnanski
Wednesday May 6th, 2009

CLEVELAND -- This column, eventually, will be about LeBron James and the best moment going in basketball: That moment when James has the basketball and the shot clock's running down and he has to create something. There's nothing quite like it in sports, really. It makes you wish the referee would just give him the ball every time down and put six seconds on the clock and say, "Go."

But first, this: During Tuesday night's game against Atlanta, they asked a great trivia question. You know James won the MVP award Monday -- the news covered the entire front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Well, the question was: Who was the last Cleveland athlete to win a MVP in a major professional sport?

I grew up in Cleveland, so that's the sort of trivia question I tend to know instantly. Only ... I didn't. I started thinking back through the years. Manny Ramirez could have won the MVP when he was with the Cleveland Indians in 1999 -- that was the year he had 165 RBIs, the most by any player since Jimmie Foxx in 1938.*

*It's funny, I'm not a big fan of the RBI as a statistic. But MVP voters tend to love the RBI. Except that year. You might remember Pudge Rodriguez won the award over Pedro Martinez. Lots of people griped about Pedro not winning the award, and rightfully so, because Pedro had one of the great pitching years in baseball history in 1999. Still, it's worth repeating: Ramirez drove in ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE RUNS that year. And he finished tied for third in the voting.

Indians outfielder Albert Belle definitely should have won the MVP in 1995; in just 143 games that year he hit 50 homers and 50 doubles. The complete list of people who have hit 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same season is as follows:

1. Albert Belle, 1995. 2. Nobody.

But Belle did not win the award, probably because nobody wanted to be the one to tell him he won.

There were other good Cleveland players through the years: Bernie Kosar, Brad Daugherty, Joe Carter, Mark Price* and so on.

* Pause there for a minute. Price was at the game Tuesday -- the crowd cheered wildly when his face was shown on the video screen -- and it spurred me to go back and look at his stats. You know, Price was a truly great player for about six or seven years. In his six best years, Price averaged more than 18 points, 8 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He also made 92 percent of his free throws. If people remember Price at all, it's usually for his shooting, but when he was healthy he was a terrific all-around player.

Anyway, none of those people won the MVP. The last Cleveland athlete to win the MVP before James was ... Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe in 1980. Now it just so happens that Sipe is one of my three favorite athletes ever. Sipe was this California guy -- he played at San Diego State -- who was listed at 6-foot-1 (and that's always the way the announcers said it, too: "He's listed at 6-foot-1") and he had more or less as weak an arm as you could possibly have while still claiming to be an NFL quarterback. I'm not saying he never threw a spiral. I'm saying I never SAW him throw a spiral. He might have thrown them in practice all the time.

But he had serious guts. I would say one of the most frustrating parts of being an NFL fan is that nobody seems to know how to use the clock. Timeouts get wasted all the time. Teams take forever to line up. Receivers don't run out of bounds. Quarterbacks will waste two or three seconds by calling a play at the line. Well, I don't think anyone in the history of the NFL understood the final two minutes better than Sipe. He was the quarterback in those days when the Browns called themselves the "Kardiac Kids," and in those final seconds he would rush to the line of scrimmage, everyone would line up in a quick and orderly fashion, he would yell "HUT! HUT!" and they were off. It was a lean operation. In 1980, Sipe threw for 4,132 yards and had 30 touchdown passes and only 14 interceptions. Then, in the playoffs against Oakland, he threw a final-minute interception on a cold, dreary day that cost the Browns the game, and he was never the same again. Yes. Cleveland memories.

Anyway, that trivia question set my memory racing. So, I figured it would be good to show you the last MVP for every sports city that has a baseball team. Here you go.

Atlanta: Chipper Jones, 1999. Baltimore: Cal Ripken, 1991. Boston: Dustin Pedroia, 2008. Chicago: Michael Jordan and Sammy Sosa, 1998. Cincinnati: Barry Larkin, 1995.*

* Larkin will be coming up for Hall of Fame voting next year, and it's going to be very interesting to see what kind of support he gets. Larkin may or may not have deserved the MVP award in 1995, but one interesting thing is that he actually was BETTER in 1996. In '96, he hit 33 homers, stole 36 bases, walked 96 times, scored 117 runs, drove in 89 runs and won a Gold Glove at shortstop. Bill James calls him one of the most well-rounded players in baseball history. So ... we'll see.

Cleveland: LeBron James, 2009. Dallas/Texas: Dirk Nowitzki, 2007. Denver: Peter Forsberg, 2003. Detroit: Barry Sanders, 1997. Houston: Hakeem Olajuwon and Jeff Bagwell, 1994. Kansas City: George Brett, 1980.*

* Kansas City Chiefs running back Priest Holmes should have won the MVP in 2003 when he scored a then-record 27 touchdowns. The only people who fully appreciate just how good Holmes was from 2001 to '04 are those who had him on their fantasy football teams. In 54 games, Holmes rushed for 5,462 yards, scored 70 touchdowns, caught 225 passes and averaged -- AVERAGED -- 141 yards from scrimmage.

Los Angeles: Kobe Bryant, 2008. Miami: Dan Marino, 1984.*

* I don't know why, but it surprised me that Dwyane Wade has never finished higher than third in the MVP balloting. And the third-place finish was this year.

Milwaukee/Green Bay: Brett Favre, 1997. Minnesota: Justin Morneau, 2006. New York: Alex Rodriguez, 2007.

* There is always a lot of talk about a New York bias in the media, and there certainly may be in other instances. But it does not show up in MVP balloting. The Joe Torre Yankees won four World Series from 1996-2000, but did not have a single MVP winner. The 1986 New York Mets were one of the most dominant teams ever and the 1969 Mets one of the most emotionally charged, but no Mets player has ever won the MVP (until this year, when my preseason pick Carlos Beltran wins it). Only one New York Knicks player -- Willis Reed -- has ever won the NBA MVP. And so on.

Oakland: Jason Giambi, 2000. Philadelphia: Jimmy Rollins, 2007. Phoenix: Steve Nash, 2006. Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby, 2007. St. Louis: Albert Pujols, 2008.

* St. Louis is kind of the MVP capital of the world. The Cardinals have won four MVP awards the last 30 years (Pujols with two, Willie McGee in '85, Keith Hernandez in '79), and the St. Louis Rams have won three in the last 10 years (Kurt Warner twice, Marshall Faulk once). And St. Louis Blues Chris Pronger and Brett Hull have each won a Hart Trophy since '90.

San Diego: LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006. San Francisco: Barry Bonds, 2004. Seattle: Shaun Alexander, 2005. Tampa Bay: Martin St. Louis, 2004. Toronto: George Bell, 1987.*

* He should not have won this year; this absolutely should have been Alan Trammell's award. I sometimes wonder if Trammell had won this award like he deserved (and perhaps the 1984 award, too), if he would get more Hall of Fame consideration.

Washington: Alex Ovechkin, 2008.

So, there you go. And it brings us all the way back to this year's NBA MVP, James, who against Atlanta on Tuesday scored 34 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out three assists, added four steals and just generally dominated the entire night. Cavaliers fans were all decked out in free black T-shirts with the words "Witness" and "MVP" on them. Unfortunately, the words were laid out like so ...






... so it read like some sort of bizarre pict-o-gram you would find in the newspaper. So what does it mean? Wit-over-ness? Ness-under-MVP? Who knows? Still, a free T-shirt is a free T-shirt, and, anyway, anything associated with James is, by definition, cool.

And there was a moment in the third quarter, with the game more or less out of reach, when James had the ball at the top of the circle. The clock was winding down. And James had this priceless look on his face, this look that said: "I am about to do something that will make this entire arena go crazy."

And with that, he faked left, faked right, faked left, faked right, it was hard to keep with the fakes because there were so many of them, and they were so subtle. Whatever he did, his defender just disappeared into a fog of confusion. And James was past him, driving to the basket, in the clear. He got fouled on the way to the basket so he did not get to finish off the move. But the point was made. He is LeBron James. And everyone else is not.

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for the Kansas City Star and the author of

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