The 2011 NBA playoffs have been particularly intriguing based on the noticeable exit of some particular star athletes.
Derrick Rose, the NBA MVP, failed to get the job done. While not all of the blame should be placed on Rose, he was on the floor as the Bulls continuously blew leads, and as the leader of the team, the blame will rest on his shoulders.
Then there's Kevin Durant, a phenomenal athlete. An exceptional player that has exceeded just about everyone's expectations. However, during the Western Conference finals, there were times when he just did not have it.
Russell Westbrook took over the team and the Thunder paid the price—they were handed a quick exit.
Lastly, you have Kobe Bryant. An unquestionable NBA Hall of Famer once he hangs up the shoes and a transcendent athlete who has been unstoppable for years.
This year, Bryant and company were stopped, dissected and decimated. It was an embarrassing nightmare for Bryant, and ultimately, he gets blamed for the downfall of the dynastic Los Angeles Lakers because it's his team.
However, there have been two players that have risen above. They have majestically outperformed everyone else and have displayed exceptional qualities as athletes during this postseason.
Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James have exemplified the true meaning of the term "superstar."
Both these players, although very different, have contributed an incalculable amount to their respective teams. They have led and overpowered the competition and stand atop the league as the two most valuable players.
Which begs the question, who is the most valuable player of the postseason thus far?
As well as LeBron has played, Dirk gets the nod. His 48 points in the West finals set the tone and he has been instrumental for the Mavericks.
While LeBron has also answered the call and performed beyond expectations, Dirk has been slightly better.
Looking at the stats, Dirk is shooting five percent better from the field, is almost automatic from the free-throw line and is shooting an astounding 51 percent from three-point land.
LeBron James has been terrific, but Dirk Nowitzki has been better.
Lastly, the most revealing factor that differentiates the two would be the fact that Miami was favored to win the championship, the Mavericks were 15-to-1 underdogs at the beginning of the season. The Heat have lived up to their expectations but the Mavericks have surpassed theirs. Attribute this to the phenomenal play of Dirk, who at times has been simply flawless.
Heading into the finals, both these players will want to continue their exceptional play on the court. It all comes down to these next seven games. While Dirk has been better thus far, LeBron is right behind him.
Either can win the finals MVP and either can win the championship—at this point, it is anyone's title to take, and this series promises to be a great one.