It’s that time of the year again, where critics, skeptics, and basically anyone who’s seen a basketball game, share their opinion about who should receive basketball’s most glorified individual award. In most people’s minds, this year’s candidates have been narrowed down to Kevin Durant and Lebron James. Both players have had incredible seasons and both of them wholeheartedly deserve to receive the honor. As always though, it’s one man above all others who gets overlooked when it comes to this discussion. That man of course is Kobe Bryant.
It’s amazing to think that in his sixteen seasons in the league, Kobe Bryant has only won MVP one time. That was during the 2007-2008 season, when the Lakers made the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004. If you compare Kobe and the Lakers then to Kobe and the Lakers now, it’s pretty easy to conclude that if Kobe earned the award then, then he should be the clear front-runner to win the award this time around.
Many basketball analysts who vote for this award have short-term memories; they easily forget how the Lakers were perceived at the beginning of the season and take the Lakers’ success for granted. Remember, at the beginning of the season, the Lakers being swept by the Dallas Mavericks was fresh on the mind of the entire league and many people looked at the Lakers as the “old man of the West.” Even the Lakers believed that they did not have the pieces to compete in the tough Western Conference, which is why they sought Chris Paul. Well Chris Paul did come to Los Angeles, just not in a Laker uniform. Now let’s add the Lamar Odom fiasco to the mixer and now the Lakers’ not only do not have a dynamic point guard but also have lost the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year for basically nothing. These two things alone, combined with the Clipper’s off-season success and departure of Phil Jackson, allowed for some people to question whether or not the Lakers would even make the playoffs. Of course the problems did not end there.
Lamar Odom left LA because he was offended that the Lakers would even consider trading him. Well Pau Gasol was also supposed to be involved in the Chris Paul trade and there’s no doubt that this haunted him as well. He fought off questions from reporters who wondered what impact this had on him but it was clear that he was rattled, and likewise, his game struggled early in the season.
Now let’s look at what Kobe Bryant has been through. Coming into this season, Kobe had turned thirty-three and had played fifteen grueling seasons. There was clearly wear and tear on him, especially on his knees, which is why Kobe decided to have a special surgery in Germany to add more life to his legs. The Black Mamba seemed one hundred percent for the first time in a long time, but of course that didn’t last has he tore a ligament on his shooting hand during the very first pre-season game against the Clippers. Needless to say, Kobe didn’t miss any time and rather than let his injury affect his game, Kobe made the proper adjustments and increased his scoring by four points a game. Just as his ligament seemed to have completely healed, injury once again plagued the Black Mamba as Dwayne Wade inadvertently broke Kobe’s nose during the 2012 All-Star game. Once again, no missed time for Kobe, and despite going through multiple masks, Kobe’s scoring did not suffer and neither did the success of the Lakers.
If you look at this Lakers’ from top to bottom, it’s preposterous to see that Kobe has been blatantly ignored in the MVP race. It’s true that the Lakers have Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum but Gasol is just now becoming the Pau Gasol of old and Andrew Bynum’s immaturity has often hindered his game. The Lakers easily have one of the most inconsistent and least productive benches in the NBA, and this has caused the Lakers to blow big leads to teams that they should blow out. It’s not even funny how many times Kobe has had to unnecessarily bail out the Lakers game-clinching shots (look at the last two home games for examples). All season, Kobe has been the only consistent player to dress in purple and gold, doing what no other player has ever done by leading the league in scoring in his sixteenth season. Despite all the signs of turmoil that the Lakers have shown, Kobe has them trudging along, putting them in a position in the West where nobody thought they would be in the beginning of the season.
Now let’s not take away anything from Lebron James and Kevin Durant. Both of them have had incredible seasons and are both incredibly valuable to their teams. But at the beginning of the season, both of their respective teams were expected to be successful. The same cannot be said about the Lakers. Furthermore, the supporting casts for both of these players, including their benches, are significantly better than what Kobe has to play with on a nightly basis. Couple this with all of the drama that the Lakers have been through since the off-season and what you realize is that what Kobe Bryant has done this season has truly been incredible.
The truth is that no matter what anyone says, the MVP award means nothing to Kobe Bryant. Same goes for the scoring title. To Kobe, only one thing matters: winning. His desire for ring number six is what drives him to put his team on his back and bail the Lakers out from complete meltdown time and time again. But the award means something to us, his fans. Kobe has done this season what he has done every season, which is put his team in a position to compete for a title. He didn’t let the adverse circumstances or multiple injuries slow him down. He’s put the Lakers in a position to compete despite an ownership that seems insistent on putting the Lakers in rebuilding mode, and despite inconsistent play from every one of his teammates.
Kobe has handled anything and everything that his ownership, his teammates, and the rest of the league have thrown at him. It’s easy to forget that because Kobe has done this his whole career. It’s time for Kobe to finally get the recognition he deserves.