Los Angeles Laker guard Kobe Bryant won his second straight NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award after averaging 28.6 points, eight rebounds, and almost four assists in the Lakers’ series win over the Boston Celtics.
The award is certainly not without controversy. First of all, after shooting 40 percent for the series, Bryant’s performance was not his most valuable finals performance. In 2009, Bryant averaged 32.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 7.4 assists against the Orlando Magic.
Bryant was not at his best in this series and it was certainly not his best NBA Finals. But except for the 2008 Celtics and the 2004 Detroit Pistons, whom Bryant faced with a depleted Lakers squad, these 2010 Celtics are the toughest team he’s played in an NBA Finals.
Despite his less than great performance, Bryant won the award for three key reasons. One, he is the best player on his team, if not the world. Without him, the Lakers aren’t in the finals and without him, they don’t win.
The second reason: by default. No one on either team did any better. Pau Gasol had a great series and both Ron Artest and Derek Fisher made huge contributions in some games and at key moments. But no one matched Bryant’s effort or intensity over seven games.
The third reason: Bryant is the 2010 NBA Finals MVP because he deserves to be. Look at the numbers and remember the games, not just the shots. Then decide. You don’t have to agree with me, but if you think I’m wrong you do have to reason with me.
Bryant impacts every game, good or bad, win or lose. Despite what some may say, Bryant didn’t only play well when the Lakers lost and the Lakers didn’t win only when Bryant underperformed.
Here’s a quick recap of Bryant’s performance in the series:
Game one: Bryant had a 30-point game on 45 percent shooting, went nine of 10 from the line. He had seven rebounds, six assists and four turnovers. He had a good game (albeit with a few too many turnovers) and the Lakers won.
Game two: Bryant had 21 points on 40 percent shooting, five rebounds, six assists, four steals, and five turnovers. He took and made only three free throws. So poor shooting and too many turnovers but probably a decent game all around. Yet the Lakers lose.
Game three: 29 points but it took 29 shots to get it (he made 10). But he was eight of eight from the line. He had just one turnover compared to four assists. He also grabbed seven rebounds, blocked three shots and had two steals. Even poorer shooting but he took better care of the basketball and was active on the defensive end. So a decent all-around game and the Lakers win.
Game four: 33 points on 45 percent shooting. Seven of eight from the line. Six rebounds (none offensive), two assists, two steals, and SEVEN turnovers. Good shooting but those seven turnovers, especially compared to just two assists, loom large. The Lakers lose.
Game five: 38 points, 48 percent shooting, eight of nine from the line. Five rebounds, four assists, but also four turnovers. One block, one steal. Best shooting night but not his best all-around game. The Lakers lose.
Game six: 27 points, 47 percent shooting, seven of seven at the line. He had 11 rebounds, three assists, and four steals and two turnovers. Good shooting, good all-around game and a win for the Lakers.
Game seven: 23 points, 24 shots, 25 percent shooting. Eleven of 15 from the line. Bad shooting night. Check that. Horrible shooting night. Only two assists versus four turnovers. So quite the off night offensively. Just one steal.
(The biggest) Fourth quarter (of the year): Still shot only 25 percent from the field (one of four) but grabbed four rebounds and made eight of nine free throws.
So a bad game, but a strong effort and a good fourth quarter. The Lakers win.
Bryant’s place in history can be settled, or endlessly debated, when he hangs up his Nikes for the final time. But for 2010 Bryant is the best in the game, again.