Will Kobe Bryant Dethrone LeBron James in NBA MVP Race?

Matt Shetler@@buccos12Correspondent IMarch 5, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 02:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers adjusts his protective face mask during the game with the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on March 2, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.   The Lakers won 115-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant got the upper hand on LeBron James and the Miami Heat Sunday afternoon.

While Bryant outplayed James Sunday, will he continue to do so for the rest of the season?

In the process, can Kobe pass LeBron in the hunt for the MVP?

It's possible. If we learned anything, it's that anything involving Bryant is possible.

Comparing the two superstars' collective seasons to date, the numbers are very impressive.

Bryant

28.9 PPG (leads NBA), 4.8 APG, 5.8 RPG, Lakers 23-14

James

27.8 PPG (third in NBA), 6.8 APG, 8.4 RPG, Heat 28-9

In almost perfect timing to begin the stretch run, Bryant has the Lakers looking more like the Lakers should. They've won three straight and eight of their past 10 games.

But Bryant will have to continue to do something special to jump ahead of James in the MVP race.

LeBron is in the middle of a truly great season, but if he and the Heat come back to earth, it opens the door for Bryant.

Kobe's gone over the 30-point mark for the third consecutive game since donning the mask, and to win the MVP he's going to have to keep putting up big scoring numbers and more importantly keep the Lakers winning.

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On paper, if both teams finish in the top three in their respective conferences, you can make the case that Bryant's season has been more impressive.

The Lakers are thin on paper. They don't have a point guard, get next to nothing from the small forward spot and have next to no one on the bench.

James, on the other hand, is surrounded by much more talent and the Heat are a much deeper team than the Lakers.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 04:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts during a 93-83 Laker in at Staples Center on March 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photo
Harry How/Getty Images

Most people have already crowned the Heat NBA champions, so if Bryant can continue what he's doing and lead the Lakers to an impressive finish, his season could be considered more impressive on paper.

Then look at what the MVP should stand for.

Bryant is more valuable to the Lakers than James is to the Heat, and that's no knock on LeBron.

Take Kobe off the Lakers and this is a lottery team. Do the same to LeBron and the Heat still make the playoffs.

Of course, passing LeBron in the MVP race is one thing, but Bryant would still have to worry about passing up the likes of Kevin Durant as well.

My gut feeling is that at the end of the season Bryant won't win the MVP, but that doesn't mean he won't deserve to win it.