NBA MVP 2008: Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James, Chris Paul

Ethan BuiContributor IMay 9, 2008

I know there is a lot of debate out there regarding who is the rightful owner of the NBA MVP award this year. 

I know that a majority of these debates basically revolve around why Chris Paul and Lebron James are more deserving than Kobe Bryant.  Having been able to read countless posts and arguments—ESPN, NBA, and here—about these topics (while being exposed to various stats and historical information), I wanted to voice my opinion on why Kobe Bryant is completely the rightful recipient of the NBA 2008 MVP award.

Please understand that this article is a bit bias and somewhat a rebuttal to this article here, but I hope to provide enough facts and legitimate reasoning to show that while CP3 and Lebron are deserving, Kobe was equally, if not more deserving to win the MVP award this year.

I want to start with a little background information to lay the foundation of my arguments.

This is Kobe's 12th season in the league. For the past decade, Kobe has achieved phenomenal scoring achievements, while also being recognized as a furious defender.  He has won two scoring titles, earned All-NBA-First team defense plenty of times, was even voted 5th this year for Defensive Player of the Year, owns countless in-game scoring achievements—56 points in a half, 62 points in three quarters, four consecutive games with 50 plus points, and of course, 81 points in one game.  

With all that, he has had the moniker as the "best player" in world, not only this year, but for the past four or five years.

Kobe vs. Lebron James: Many critics want to discredit Kobe's stats (28 PPG, 6 RBG, 5 APG, and 1.8 STLS) as not being as great as other seasons and while also comparing his numbers to Lebron's huge statistical season (30 PPG, 8 RPG, 7 APG, and 1.8 STLS). 

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While that may be true, with Kobe’s team success this year and the elevated scoring averages of his teammates, it could be equally assessed that he sacrificed his scoring for the betterment of this teammates by facilitating the ball more.

As for Lebron, he carries all the responsibilities of his team, i.e. scoring and passing, thus he accumulates more stats than Kobe does.  It should also be noted that the team offensive scheme plays a big role in terms of statistical distribution.  The Lakers run the triangle offense which distributes the ball more, thus assists are more evenly spread out and Kobe leads the team in that stat. 

The Cavs are Lebron-centric, so he dominates the ball more.  It is evident in the team assists, this year the Lakers rank fourth whereas the Cavs are ranked 24th.  Still, Lebron had an insane overall season, and he did it with lesser talent which is why Lebron fanatics deeply believe that this is underlying reason that Lebron deserves MVP over Kobe. 

Yet, that is exactly it. 

He plays on a lesser team where he is the man among boys. And not to diminish what Lebron did, but based on past MVP voting trends, the number of team wins is a huge factor. And this year, the Cavs finished with an average 45-37 record playing in the lack-luster Eastern Conference. 

In 2003, Kobe averaged 30ppg, 7rpg, 6apg, and 2stls and he was voted third in MVP while playing for a Championship team.  In 2006, he average 35ppg, 5rpg, 4apg, and 1.8 stls and took a squad that consisted of Smush Parker and Kwame Brown to a 45-37 record in the West and a playoff birth.  That year he was voted fourth. 

Say what you will, but as a Lakers fan, I would take any one of Lebron's starting Point Guard and Center for the past three years over Smush and Kwame any day.

So the bottom line here is, just like Lebron this year, Kobe has done the same as he did with much lesser talent in a more competitive conference and barely got his dues. 

So had Kobe won the award in 2006 and even 2007, I would have to believe that Lebron deserved it this year; but again, it's based on wins and Kobe led a talented squad to the first place spot in the most competitive conference in NBA history. 

Kobe vs. Chris Paul: Between KB24 and CP3, the race was much tighter.  CP3 led the league in assists and steals this year while leading his team to second place in the West.  When it came down to it, had the Hornets won the West, I would say the CP3 is completely deserving of the MVP award without any questions, but obviously the Hornets didn’t.

Yet although the Lakers did achieve this feat, it still wasn't enough for critics to side with Kobe for MVP.  One popular belief is that CP3 had lesser talent than Kobe did and was still able to land a high spot in the West. 

I think this is more fiction than fact. 

David West, an All-Star this year, has been thoroughly consistent the past three years.  This year he averaged around 20 points and 9 rebounds per game when last year he was at 18 points and 8 rebounds per game. 

As for Peja Stojakovic, a multiple All-Star, he is known as the best 3-point shooter today and was actually in contention for MVP in the 2003-2004 season.  Although he's averaging roughly the same as he did last year, at around 16-17 points while shooting over 40 percent for threes, the big difference this year is that he played a majority of the season. 

With Tyson Chandler, he's been a budding center for the past couple of years with his athleticism, defensive force, and rebounding abilities.  Overall, Chris Paul did evolve as an elite point guard this year, but too much credit is given to his progression and teammate improvement while not nearly any credit is given to Kobe's role with his team's success. 

It should be cited that the Hornets almost had the same team as last year, but between David West and Peja, they were suffering from injuries and didn't have their complete squad throughout the season.  When they did, they were actually winning. 

So CP3 by himself is not enough, just like how having just Kobe is not enough either. 

Now with the Lakers, in the beginning of this year, as they were winning and surprising the NBA during the first half of the season, critics wanted to completely credit the Laker's success to Bynum improvement's, yet Laker fans knew that a majority of Bynum's baskets were from feeds and lobs from mostly Kobe.  

Bynum hasn't developed a consistent post play yet.  However, it should also be noted that before Bynum's injury, the Lakers held first place in the West.  Now, with Pau Gasol, obviously this was a great addition to the team, but given the timing of the Pau's acquisition, which was during the grinding nine-game road trip, his transition was made seamless by Kobe's play-making abilities and leadership. 

Now along with Sasha, Fisher, and Farmer, a lot of their open looks this year were derived from Kobe's passes.  When it comes down to it, Chris Paul's play and Kobe's play are even for their respective team because we can dissect stats and abilities. But realistically, they play different roles so it's like comparing apples and oranges. 

Still, the reasons why Kobe is more deserving than CP3 this year is based on the intangibles and the final team standings. 

Between Bynum, Gasol, and Ariza they each played one-third of the season and were never ever on the court at the same time.  The one constant was Kobe's play in the interim of all the injuries, whereas CP3 had a healthy squad for the majority of the entire season. 

On top of all that, Kobe had his own injuries and he played through a lung infection, stomach flu, strained groin, and a mangled pinky on his shooting hand. 

Also, between Kobe and CP3, Kobe faces more complicated defensive schemes from the opposing team since everyone knows about Kobe’s abilities.  For CP3, this was his coming out year so teams around the league didn't arrange their defense to stop CP3 as they have been with Kobe.   

Lastly, on April 11, with the top seed of the West on the line, Kobe led the Lakers to an amazing victory and ultimately snatching the top seed from the Hornets. 

In the end, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion regarding the criteria of an MVP.  Whether my point is valid or not, I just hope that those who judge Kobe's season this year do so with the same eye as they judge Lebron and CP3's season.  

That critics judge Kobe as a basketball player and what he did on the court as opposed to judging him based on his past infractions, character flaws, and history with Shaq.  Despite everything that has happened in Kobe's personal life—and I agree that most of which is his own doing—just observe him as a basketball player, not as a personal friend. 

So really, if you still don't believe that Kobe is deserving of MVP this year, that's completely fine, but I hope it was because of things that he failed to do on the basketball court versus him failing as a likable person off the court.

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