Yesterday, Bill Plaschke wrote an excellent column in the L.A. Times extolling the play of Kobe Bryant and describing how spectators start chanting ” MVP ! MVP” in the course of Laker games. This happens not only at Staples Center but at arenas throughout the NBA.
Plaschke goes on to say that Kobe, after years of being the best player in the NBA, seems to be finally getting his due. The reason is that, this season, Kobe has completely changed his attitude towards the game. He has been very supportive of his teammates, passsing the ball more , playing terrific defense , playing hurt, smiling more and letting his enjoyment of the game shine through. Previously, he used to be impatient with his teammates , frequently yelling at them when they botched a play. Now he has taken the younger players like Bynum, Vujacic and Farmar under his wing and they have repaid him by lifting their games to new heights and reducing the pressure on him to do everything. As a result, the Lakers bench is among the best, if not the best, in the NBA.
To backtrack a little, the MVP race is decided by sportswriters and broadcasters at the end of the regular season Every year, Kobe’s been in the running but never made it the top. Why ?
According to Plaschke, the MVP is the one who makes his teammates better and , Kobe in past years, did not do that. He was focussed more on individual scoring records though his all round efforts, playing great defense, dishing out more assists, and rebounding have improved from year to year. His on -court demeanor towards his teammates and his on-again, off-again demands to be traded also cost him votes.
While agreeing with Plaschke about al most everything , I beg to differ with him on one issue. I feel that the MVP award is exactly that…. Most Valuable Player. It should go to the player who is most indispensible to his team, without whom the team’s record would be much much worse. Making your teammates better is one element of an MVP type performance but it is not everything. If it were, Allen Iverson would not have been the MVP a few years ago. Ditto Shaquille O’ Neal.Certainly, Steve Nash was a deserving winner in consecutive years and Dirk Nowitzki last year and they did make their team mates better. But they were near the top in several categories and Nowitzki’s importance was underlined by the Dallas Mavericks early exit from the playoffs when Dirk turned in a less than stellar performance.
To get back to Kobe, I suspect that he has not won so far because a) his off -court problems , particularly the incident in the Denver hotel room and b) his aloof nature . These shouldn’t really play any role in the MVP voting but I am sure they did. After all, sportswriters are human too.
This year, those reasons don’t exist. Kobe has been playing hurt , his image has been rehabilitated and I think he has a very good shot at becoming the the regular season MVP. I think his closest competition will be Kevin Garnett of the Celtics, an unselfish player who has never had his due.
P.S Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Lakers won the NBA title and Kobe was also the playoff MVP ?