Wednesday, April 16, 2008

nba mvp.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

It's time to name the NBA's Most Valuable Player, and this year may be the tightest ever. Additionally, the NBA Playoffs promise to be the most thrilling in recent memory--if not ever--and I don't remember ever being this excited to watch basketball--not even when my Lakers went on their run of three straight NBA titles.

Bill Simmons, ESPN's "The Sports Guy", recently finished his list. Simmons is everything we try to be at the Collective--his writing is smart, sharp, witty and irreverent (and always includes obscure pop culture references).

Here is his list, broken up into part I and part II

In case you weren't aware, Simmons is a huge Celtics fan. He also picked Kevin Garnett as his MVP (sorry to ruin it for you if you didn't read it).

However, I simply could not disagree with him anymore.

The argument that most people have against Kobe Bryant is the fact that critics claim that if Kobe is indeed given the award, it's because he is widely considered to be "the greatest player to have never been named MVP". THAT description is apt--but I do not think he deserves it just to rectify this wrong.

Simmons argues that: His teammates were much, much, MUCH better. Statistically, Kobe's stats don't stand out from his numbers the previous four seasons, although there was a five-week stretch right after the Gasol trade when he played the most inspired all-around basketball of his career. Then Gasol went down and it turned into The Kobe Show again. If No. 8 -- er, No. 24 -- wins the MVP, then we need to go back and retroactively make him the unanimous 2005-06 MVP as well, because it was much more impressive when he dragged that putrid Lakers team to 45 wins.

Kobe SHOULD have been named MVP for that accomplishment--instead, it was given to Steve Nash, who led the best team in the West (which is something many suggest should be done in the race between KB24 and CP3). I don't think the best player in the West should be given the award, but Kobe clearly deserved it that year. He was plainly and clearly robbed.

(With Kobe, the underlying implication is he's on your side … as long as you're playing well. Anyone who has watched him in person during the past few years knows exactly what I mean.)

This may have been true in seasons past. However, it's commonly accepted that Kobe has changed as a teammate--chest-bumping Ronnie Turiaf, deferring shots to Derek Fisher and Sasha Vujicic. It's just plain wrong to say this about Kobe THIS YEAR.

Simmons on Chris Paul: There's a difference between genuine affection (the way Paul and his teammates interact) and contrived affection (the way Kobe and his teammates interact).

Again--this sounds like someone bittering the Cold War-era New England hatred for anything with any ties to Lakers Showtime. NOT TRUE.

To me, it's this simple--Kobe should have been given the MVP in 2005, making the "Greatest player to never be named MVP" tag obsolete then. He wasn't, and there's nothing we can do about it.

However, Simmons' statement that "only Kevin Garnett's season will be remembered". How can such statements be made when we haven't even crowned a champion? Garnett missed ten straight games this year due to injury--I just don't see how this qualifies one for an MVP trophy. Yeah, the Lakers weren't as good when Gasol was out for nine straight games with his ankle injury--should we name him MVP just because his absence was noticeable?

Obviously, the answer is no.

Simmons goes on to say that Kobe's numbers this year are not different from those in past years, then he states this: "You can't measure Garnett's impact with individual statistics"..

The same can be said of Kobe. His numbers may be on par with the rest of his career stats, but he is involving others around him better than ever before.

The Celtics were the prohibitive pre-season favorite to win the NBA title. They were EXPECTED to top the East--so don't let anyone saying Boston's turn-around should garner Garnett the MVP sway you.

In the off-season, Kobe publicly ripped the Lakers' front office apart. He wanted to be traded and seemed to burn every Los Angeles bridge he had built. It seemed he'd be wearing his 24 in Chicago, trying to top his idol, MJ, in the house that MJ built. I even

This Lakers team was not supposed to even make the playoffs.

Then, somehow, they clicked, even before getting Gasol. They were playing great, and Kobe was showing that he grew up. His maturity married WITH HIS STATS make him the MVP. Yes, he got Gasol as well (and, the city of Los Angeles probably subsequently got Kobe to be a Laker for life with the Gasol move), but Garnett has Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell. The Lakers line-up is good, but it does NOT have the star power of the Celtics squad.

Without Ray Allen and/or Paul Pierce? The Celtics are no different than the Timberwolves teams (WITH CASSELL) that could only get out of the first round in the West ONCE.

It is just incomprehensible for anyone to say that Kobe is not the MVP unless they're making a case for Chris Paul--there's a team that came from nowhere. I would have less of a problem with Chris Paul being given the MVP trophy than Garnett.

To me, it's this simple: Kobe is the Michael Jordan of our time. Clearly, he is not as talented and does not transcend basketball the way MJ did--but he's clearly in another league from anyone else in the NBA. He is head and shoulders above everyone else (Lebron will have his time, but it isn't now--he still has some trophies to win).

Can you IMAGINE Michael having deserved the MVP but never being given it?

In the pantheon of greatest NBA players of all-time, you've got to name Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Shaq, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the best to have ever played the game.

And Kobe clearly belongs on that list. I'm not going to lie--I clearly love Kobe Bryant and mooted following him to the Bulls in this post.

I also talked about the Lakers theoretically getting Garnett
. And, now that the two are among the top candidates for MVP, let's play this game:

Kobe and Garnett are both Lakers. Kobe has a dip in his stats. KG puts up his career averages. Do we give the MVP to Kobe or to Garnett? Simmons would say KG, because he made all the difference. BUT THE INFRASTRUCTURE IS STILL AROUND HIM. Just because he comes in to town doesn't mean he's that much more valuable than the stars around him.

Kobe is putting up great numbers and is involving his teammates better than ever. The Lakers have won the West for the first time since the first year of their three latest championships. He has an inferior team to Garnett's.

The Sports Guy had no response to the fact that "his dad got rid of his Celtics tix online in four minutes" and that "Garnett stands on the sidelines and cheers". The Sports Guy had no rebuttal and named him the MVP.

You could get rid of Lakers tix at the office in under a minute, and Kobe hams it up with his teammates while on the bench--this has become very visible as of late, when the Lakers have blown out the Spurs and the Hornets (both playoff bound teams) by 20 points.

I live in LA, I have always loved the Lakers, and I believe that Kobe is the greatest player of this generation.

All of that is for nothing, though--because it would be a gross injustice to the game of basketball if anyone but Kobe is named MVP.