This article first appeared on NBA Gauntlet on 8/18/08. Kobe is leading the poll 145-142.
Doberman vs. King James
Kobe Bryant and LeBron James routinely factor into the discussion every season as MVP candidates. Each year, they have among the highest scoring averages, PERs, Win Shares, and any other metric commonly used to determine the best basketball player.
Last year, LeBron flirted with a triple-double for the season, but slowed down a bit as the season progressed. Even so, he still ended up with numbers that would often win the MVP. Unfortunately for him, many players had compelling arguments for the MVP award. The highest rated by many metrics were Kobe and LeBron.
Kobe: 28.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.4 APG
LeBron: 30 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.2 APG
ESPN conducted a poll and determined LeBron should win, but in actual results, he came in fourth. Kobe won, followed by Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett, James, and Dwight Howard.
How can this be justified?
- Kobe was the best player on the second best team in the NBA. LeBron’s team was just average.
- Kobe prides himself on defense and frequently asks to guard the opposing team’s top scorer.
- Kobe shoots better from three-point range.
- Some voters thought Kobe was “due” for the award after many fantastic seasons.
Of course, LeBron had a much weaker supporting cast, so you can’t blame him for winning fewer games.
LeBron also has none of Kobe’s character issues. He has never asked to be traded, was never indicted for a major crime, never changed his uniform number, and doesn’t complain about bad teammates.
LeBron also has posted many great seasons back-to-back, yet still hasn’t gotten recognition. Also, if they’re including a whole career in MVP discussion, why did Chris Paul end up second?
Maybe the MVP voters made a mistake.
The MVP just counts the regular season, so how do they compare in the postseason?
They have each carried their teams through the playoffs, but could not win a championship without an all-star sidekick.
In NBA Finals, each man faltered when confronted with stifling defense. LeBron and his Cavs were swept in the 2007 NBA Finals by the Spurs, who had won four championships in nine years. Kobe and the Lakers could not handle the intense pressure applied by the Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals.
Which Nike shoe salesman would you rather have on your team?