As LeBron James turns 36 today, is this his last best chance to win regular-season MVP?

LeBron James turned 36 years old today. His NBA career is as old as a high school senior.

Happy birthday to a man who doesn’t have everything but can buy almost anything he wants. What does James want in the next year of life – beyond health and happiness?

What James might want cannot be bought. Of course, he wants another NBA championship following up October’s title in the bubble. That's doable.

But he also would like (at least?) one more regular-season MVP award to go alongside his four MVP trophies. That's also doable even though the odds don't favor old guys winning.

James has said he doesn’t play to win MVP, but when Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo won his second consecutive MVP in September, James was unhappy with the voting. He finished second but with just 16 (out of 101) first-place votes.

“I never came into this league to be MVP or to be a champion,” James said then, after the Lakers beat Denver in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. “I've always just wanted to get better and better every single day, and those things will take care of itself. But some things are just out of my hand and some things you can't control. But it pissed me off.”

LeBron James has won NBA MVP four times in his career, the last coming in 2013. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

This season may be James’ last best chance to win the award. He’s still among the league’s very best players – he was second in MVP voting (closer to first place than to third), the most dominant player in the bubble playoffs and Finals MVP for the fourth time – and it is unlikely Antetokounmpo will win the award for a third consecutive time.

Regardless if you believe in voter fatigue when it comes to awards, just two players (Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain) have won three consecutive times and not since Chamberlain in 1966, 1967 and 1968, when players voted for MVP. It has never happened since media assumed voting duties in 1981.

As James adds to his legacy and deepens an impossible to win debate on the greatest of all time, winning MVP at 36 would make him the oldest to claim the award. Karl Malone was not quite 36 when he won it in 1999, and Michael Jordan was 35 when he won in 1998.

The MVP is a young player’s award. Just 13 players have won the award in their 30s and not since Steve Nash in 2006 has a player 30 or older won. Kobe Bryant was 29 when he won his only MVP. From 1994-98, players 30 or older won it five times, including four consecutive seasons with Jordan and Malone alternating. Other than that, it's best to be in your 20s.

Strange as it sounds, it’s been seven seasons since James won. When he last won in 2013, he was 28 and more MVPs seemed inevitable.

He has had terrific, MVP-caliber seasons in the years since and finished second three times, third twice and fourth in the past seven seasons.

Whether conscious and subconscious, voters tend to spread the award around, and it’s not like other winners weren’t deserving. Kevin Durant emerged, then two-time MVP Steph Curry followed by Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Antetokounmpo.

But just as Bryant should have more than one MVP, James should have more than four given his unofficial title of the world’s best player for the past 12 seasons.

Of course just because it’s unlikely Antetokounmpo wins again, it doesn’t mean it’s James’ to lose. In his 18th season, James remains among the elite and has a rare opportunity in his mid-30s to add one more MVP to his accomplishments.

The best gifts don't always come with a price tag.

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