There's More to the NBA Than Kobe and LeBron

NCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 19:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots a jumper against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the game at Staples Center on January 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers defeated the Cavaliers 105-88.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

There are only a handful of games remaining in the NBA season before the long, glorious stretch of NBA playoffs begins. You know what that means. A potential Kobe-LeBron NBA Finals match-up will be mentioned approximately 3,000 times.

Spare us. I'd rather read every single one of Shaq's Twitter entries than hear the words Kobe, LeBron, and MVP in the same sentence ever again.

Is it too  much to ask for a little mention of Chris Paul? He's tied LeBron in triple-doubles this season (he has six, by the way) and leads the league in steals and assists. He might play for the New Orleans Hornets, but the kid's got game. You  just won't see it on national television.

Do we have to beg for a little more Dwight Howard? He's averaging 20.9 points and 14 rebounds per game. Kobe averages 27.8 points and 5.4 assists per game. Sure, Howard might have fewer points, but his field goal percentage is 57.4, while Kobe's  percentage is 47.4. All in all, Kobe might score more points, but he takes a lot more shots.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with giving Kobe and LeBron a little love. They bring a lot of attention, both nationally and abroad, to the NBA. But trying to crown them as the next Michael Jordan? Come on.

You can't crown the "best ever" until you can look at their careers holistically. That's like saying your cake is better than Betty Crocker's after only tasting the batter. You just don't do it. You can speculate, you can analyze, but to act as though the Kobe-LeBron story line is the only thing keeping the NBA afloat right now is degrading to all of the other athletes that work just as hard.

Take Steve Nash for instance. He recorded 21 assists and 15 points the day after his 35th birthday, but everyone was too busy talking about Kobe and LeBron's performances at Madison Square Garden the week before. Nobody gave Nash's performance a second thought.

Therein lies the problem with the NBA. The media and the fans are too concerned with points, slam-dunk contests, and MVP races. They don't remember that there are five players on the court and not just the "face of the franchise".  They act as though King James is the only Cavalier and his teammates are just there to carry his throne around, feed him grapes, and polish his crown.

Last year, the Boston Celtics beat the Cavs and the Lakers en route to their NBA title with a true team. You couldn't really mention one of the Celtics without mentioning the other. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins won the title as a unit, while the Lakers had Kobe averaging 28 points with little production from his supporting cast.

If LeBron and Kobe are the two best players in the league, how could their teams lose the Celtics, who were the last place team in the league the year before they took the title? Simple. It all comes down to the old cliche—"Defense wins championships. Offense sells tickets."

It's a whole lot easier to defend a team when you have one player taking most of the shots. When the points are spread around, when there are a couple of major threats on the floor, it gets a little more difficult.

When it comes to the MVP race, LeBron or Kobe will win on offensive numbers alone, but which would you rather have—an MVP award, or a championship ring? Kobe has three rings, but he hasn't won one of them without another high-profile teammate to take the focus off of him.

So to all those Magic, Celtics, Heat, and Hornets fans, do not despair. Come July, it won't matter if Kobe or LeBron has the MVP trophy on their mantel. All that matters is which stadium is hoisting the banner that reads "2009 NBA Champions" in the rafters.