Everyone knows Kobe Bryant can play. Everyone knows Kobe Bryant can play the game real well.
Heck, he even poured 81 points right in the Raptors' face in 2006.
But is there anything he can't do?
Perhaps winning the MVP of the season.
He is arguably one of the best players in this decade, and has set records in various categories. To sum off his brilliant resume are three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet he still has not won the MVP of the season award.
With his most prolific seasons in 2002-03 and 2005-06 behind him, his chances of claiming the award seems to be less likely as younger players are flourishing onto the NBA scene. Players like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and LeBron James are all in the races to become this year's MVP. And yet, year after year, Kobe Bryant shows up in the top 10 of the most likely players to win the MVP, and he fails to win it.
So, What is the main reason why he's not voted the MVP?
Upon the departure of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe had to take the offensive load by himself. His scoring average even went as high as 35.4 from 2005-06. His teammates would watch him drill shots after shots after shots over his opponents, thinking he could do it all. As a result, they couldn't be bothered to motivate themselves to improve. This adds reliability and immense pressure on Kobe in games, and the front office did nothing much to help him either.
But this year, Kobe Bryant has been resting the most minutes per game in his entire career (excluding the first two years) when his team is posting a 25-11 record! What does this mean?
The times have changed. Kobe isn't the answer to every question for the Lakers any more. Despite "only" averaging 27.0 points this season up till this point, he has shown that he is a completely different player this year. Anyone who has seen Kobe play this season would agree that he thinks team first rather than for himself.
And that is exactly why Kobe only scored over 40 points once this season - on opening night.
He has Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, and the rest of the roster to help him out at any point of the game. But perhaps the most relied player for the Lakers next to Kobe is Andrew Bynum. His emergence is very important to the Laker's success this year, and Kobe has learned to trust him as well.
But that does not mean Kobe is thrusting the entire offensive responsibility to the rest of the team. Kobe has shown maturity this year through his ability to be a team player. He knows when to let his team play, and when to step up his game.
For example, in a blowout win against the New Orleans Hornets, Kobe registered a 19-point night, but he helped out his teammates by dishing out 7 assists. But in a tight game with the Memphis Grizzlies, Andrew Bynum was injured, so he immediately stepped up, and scored 37 points to lead the Lakers over the Grizzlies.
This is what a MVP is all about.
Perhaps years before, Kobe relied on Shaq to do everything for him. Then he learned only to rely on himself in order to win games when Shaq's presence is gone. But now, he has combined the two together, with effect. Not only does he trusts his offensive instincts, he also has the faith in his teammates, giving them support throughout games.
And with that, the Lakers responded from several poor seasons, and is now ready to advance into the further stages of the playoffs.
Defensively, Kobe is not slacking off either. He is posting a second career-high 2.1 steals per game, behind the 2.2 steals per game back in 2002-03. His intensity on defence and hustles is still one of the best in the league, and no one is about to deny that.
If this is not what a MVP is all about, then I don't know what is.
Sure there are still bright players in the NBA, but it is time for Kobe to be recognized. He is not the same selfish player he was criticised for, yet he still manages to keep up with his offensive and defensive game, showing he is an all-rounded player.
Even though this year's stats might not be the best of his entire career, this season shows solid evidence why Kobe Bryant is one of the best players to ever play the game.
2007-2008 MVP of the Season - Kobe Bryant?