Speculation can be empowering and relatively snarky. The same goes for the consideration a prodigy from Ohio has been receiving in connection to the "most valuable and best player in the world" effusions that have smoldered between a pair of basketball's exceptional showmen today.
Who makes up that pair? Two great players from two potent teams for their respective conference rivals to reckon with—LeBron James, from the upstart and "eager to prove something" Cleveland Cavaliers, and Kobe Bryant, hailing from Hollywood on the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers.
It has been quite a moot point for some time. With power and unmistakable indefensibility, LeBron has conspicuously done so much to infuse his team with vigor and vitality, let alone a pile of tallies in the win-loss column. However, without Kobe, the Lakers aren't nestling atop the West standings.
That's a fact.
Kobe has rescued an unmotivated, sometimes short-handed, Lakers team way too many times already to senselessly argue this statement—with an array of ailments his body has had to endure throughout the process, no less.
Nobody pales in comparison to James' collection of flair, phenomenal physique, and extreme explosiveness. But Bryant's work ethic, steely resolve, fundamental expertise, and knack for taking over in crunch time are unparalleled and beyond reproach.
Is LeBron the most valuable player for the second straight year?
Does Kobe have something to say against it?
A mentally rejuvenated and physically refreshed Kobe Bryant, as the competitions of the post All-Star festivities resume, verily has a lot of work to do in order to thwart another successful campaign by his masterfully endowed counterpart in the MVP column. If the four-time NBA champion cares at all about defending his cause at stake, that is.
Nevertheless if all else fails, there's always the defense mechanism of being able to grab another piece of jewelry and the icing in the cake that's included in the package—a memento for the most vital player on his own team in the Finals—as was the case a year ago.
After all, as a lot of discerning hoops aficionados would profess, basketball's a sport designed to be played by five persons genuinely working as one on the hardcourt, not actually a contest programmed to tolerate strutting of individual and egoistical significance.
Kobe knows best.
Bryant's years constituted by growing pains; a combination of harsh and flattering remarks from teammates, peers, coaches, and pundits alike; and timely successes speak well for themselves, particularly on behalf of the Lakers guard.
Here's a catch to further gauge the considerable diversity among the great ones and the most valuable in all respects.
Kobe consciously elected to adhere to the game's concept of team dynamic, most notably in the Finals last year against Orlando. He demanded the ball, drew double teams, shared the wealth, and allowed as well four of his companions to operate. It's a collective effort that drained all the mojo left in the Magic. That principle, more than anything, had served as the "defining factor" that won Bryant his fourth ring and first Finals MVP hardware.
James, on the other hand, was the regular season MVP on the winningest team of the preliminaries last year, yet came out a loser in a series before the Finals because he did otherwise when it mattered.
"We are looking forward to the challenge ... I know I am. I'm up for the challenge, and I think my play, my leadership has spoke for that," said the anxious 2003 first overall draft pick to NBA.com upon falling to a 3-1 deficit in the East finals last season. Instantly turning from "we" to "I" in the face of adversity, Cleveland's doom had been solidified right off the bat.
LeBron James for MVP? Ugh.
Kobe, the great one, could shift his focus on to the bigger picture and care less instantly about the matter. The entire Lakers team seems to follow suit, and that's why they're winning even without their undisputed leader prior to the All-Star break. Bryant's wise decision to opt to rest and forgo the remaining three games before the break and the annual treat itself is profoundly indicative of his attention to the larger scale.
"I'm not an idiot. I'm not going to run through a wall just to run through a wall," Bryant told the Padadena Star-News . "If it's an injury I feel I can play through it and have it heal, I'll play. If it's the type of injury where I could make it worse if I play, then I won't."
Give Kobe a lot of credit.
Bottom line: A championship thumps any secondary plum the NBA has to offer. And you can bet that Kobe and head coach Phil Jackson goes hand in hand in trying to embed that mentality to the Lakers. Failure to hang another banner and claim plum ornaments fitting to their fingers this October would come down in memory as their ultimate indignity.
Meanwhile, the Cavs can revel contently in their ace forward's individual splendor, taking pictures, flashing the bronzelike trophy of his own as he did last spring, and then wrestle with the whammy that long has haunted MVP winners past.
For the past 10 years, only Shaquille O'Neal (1999-00) and Tim Duncan (2002-03) have managed to buck that trend and cut loose of the curse.
With all due respect, when LeBron finally earns a ring—and, let's be honest, it could be this season—Kobe's advocates would surely be forced to digress about dissing any discussions that James has finally overtaken their hero as the game's best specimen. But until then, the forum is wide open.
Those are meaningful moots that could probably be summed up in the words Allen Iverson once spoke: "I'd trade all my scoring titles in exchange for one of his (Kobe's championship) rings."
In like manner, Kobe could do without the Maurice Podoloff trophy in hopes of garnering a far greater reward. It's all about the ring more than anything else.