Kobe and the NBA MVP race
Shaq has only won one MVP, many suggest that’s biased in some way. Kobe has never won one even though most suggest he’s been the best (or at worse, second best) player in the league for a few years. Scoop Jackson thinks it’s because voters don’t like him. Sure, that doesn’t help but Barry Bonds won 7 (although he was clearly robbed of at least one more) so media disdain is not a true disqualifier.
Shaq only won a single trophy in part because of timing, in part because of the presence of Kobe (it’s hard to be the MVP when your complementary player may be better than you; for all Scottie Pippen’s talents, he was clearly Robin to Jordan’s Batman, that distinction was frequently muddied during the Shaq-Kobe championship seasons), and in large part because he didn’t play enough. That’s actually the ultimate reason Shaq didn’t win more. It was always possible to suggest games missed as a substantial negative factor for him and in some years, an eliminating factor.
Kobe’s negative factor has changed over the years. For his first several years, it was Shaq. ‘Nuff said. In the last few years, it’s been team success, particularly as new powers developed in the West. Nash and Nowitzki won the last three MVPs not because of a desire to recognize white jump shooting foreigners but because they clearly elevated their teams. Basketball celebrates team success in its awards. No one would argue that Kevin Garnett has had the best individual season but in the NBA universe, MVP generally means great player who makes his team impressive. LeBron James is a fading candidate despite having one of the best individual seasons in recent memory. His Cavs don’t look better than last year so his numbers don’t mean as much as they should. Realistically, his year is significantly familiar to Jordan’s 20 years ago when it was clear that the player was transcendent but the team success may be further away than anyone would like to see. (This only underscores how Herculean LeBron’s effort was last year in taking the Cavs to the Finals.)
Coming back to Kobe, his MVP candidacy is waning as the season does simply because there are so many reasons other folks are more deserving. In virtually no criteria does Kobe seem to be the top guy. LeBron’s got the best stats this year. CP3’s been the shocking surprise of the season. KG’s Celtics have been the class of the league. Losing Bynum is not in the same category as Yao’s most recent injury troubles.
Kobe just doesn’t have any trump cards. The exception is the lifetime achievement award and Kobe’s not old enough for that to be the determining factor. So sorry #8. Next year may be the last, best opportunity you’ll have.