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How Kobe Can Win the NBA MVP

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To begin with, it might surprise you to see an article about Kobe winning the MVP award. After all, I am the same guy who wrote a column detailing why LeBron James should take home the hardware. However, in that case, I was offering my opinion as to who should win the award. Here, I am detailing how Kobe Bryant could win the award. There is a big difference between the two.

I personally don’t think Kobe is the MVP of the league for the simple fact that he doesn’t make his teammates better. Lamar Odom was much more consistent playing with Wade in Miami than he has been in Los Angeles. Luke Walton and Chris Mihm have shown relatively little improvement, despite being at a point in their careers where they should be blossoming. Kwame Brown has raised his level of play a bit, but he was already at rock bottom to begin with. The Lakers supporting cast looks terrified to be on the court with Bryant, as if he will get Jerry Buss on the phone and demand a trade should one of them look at him the wrong way (Chuck Atkins, anyone?).

Bryant has had several 40-point performances without tallying a single assist, which is practically impossible for a guy with the ball in his hands as much as Kobe has it. Part of the problem is that he doesn’t pass very often (making it hard to get assists), but the other part of it goes beyond that. With guys like Nash and LeBron and Chris Paul and Jason Kidd, there is something special about getting a pass from those players. When a journeyman player catches a perfect pass from an unselfish star, he almost feels like it is preordained that he will make the shot. Seriously, watch the Suns play and then watch the ridiculous shots that average players make, simply because they are on the receiving end of a Nash pass. It is as if they are thinking, “Steve Nash just threw that and he turns everything into points, so this is going in.” Then the shot goes up free and easy and two points are on the board (or in the case of the Suns, three points).

I honestly believe that the great teammates and passers create not only scoring opportunities for their teammates, but that they also give those guys a psychological boost by merely passing them the ball. Needless to say, none of that is happening with the Lakers. I could go on about this, but you probably get the point. All you have to do is watch an L.A. game and you can see that Kobe is not making his teammates better. He might be winning them some games and striking fear in the hearts of opposing teams, but he’s not raising the play of those around him.

The other reason that I would not choose Bryant as the MVP no matter how many 50-point games he has is that the NBA MVP Award should go to a player from one of the top teams. Unlike baseball, which is a game of individual matchups within the construct of a team game, basketball is the ultimate team sport. And if your team doesn’t win, how valuable can you be? There are only five guys on the court at any given time, so it seems reasonable to expect the most valuable player in the entire league to be so good and so important, that his team is winning and winning pretty big.

In fact, the “comes from a winning team” argument should be reason enough to eliminate Kobe from contention. All one must do is take a quick look at the history of the award to understand the role that team success has played in determining the winner. I alluded to this concept in the LeBron column, but the raw data tells us that the award almost always goes to a player from a top team. In the past 25 years, a whopping 24 of the winners have played for either the first or second place team in the entire NBA. No matter who wins it this year, we are probably going to see a break from that precedent, but to think that a player from a seventh-place team might win the award is mind-boggling.

A look at the entire 50-year history of the MVP Award reveals that the winner has come from the first or second best team in the league a remarkable 90 percent of the time (45 of 50 years). The only exceptions were the following:

1956 – Bob Pettit (his St. Louis Hawks finished third in a four-team conference and sixth in an eight-team NBA in the first year the MVP was awarded)

1975 – Bob McAdoo (the Buffalo Braves were third in the East and third overall)

1976 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Kareem’s fourth of six trophies came in his first year with the Lakers, when they finished fourth in the West and ninth overall)

1979 – Moses Malone (his Rockets were third in the West and sixth overall)

1988 – Michael Jordan (the Bulls finished third in the East and seventh overall)

As Tony Kornheiser would say, “That’s it, that’s the list!” And when you look at that list, you can quickly pull out three of the five outliers. The Pettit award was in the first year, before anybody had a clue about anything, and the McAdoo and ’76 Kareem awards came during the screwy NBA/ABA years in the mid-to-late ’70s. So it is hard to use those seasons as any real precedent for the award.

Looking to the 29 years after the NBA-ABA merger, we see that only Moses (3/6) and Jordan (3/7) broke the “top two” mold. We know that someone will be joining them this year, and the team rankings of most of the candidates pretty closely resemble those of Malone and MJ. Nash (3/4), Dirk (2/3), LeBron (3/7), and Wade (2/5) all play for teams that rank either as good or better than the Rockets and Bulls did in the standings in 1979 and 1988, respectively. This tells me that while 2006 is going to be an odd year, there are still plenty of candidates that fit within an established framework. (It doesn’t matter if Nash’s Suns or LeBron’s Cavs don’t feel like elite teams, I am going strictly off the numbers here.)

The one player who doesn’t fit? Of course, that would be Kobe. His Lakers (7/11) are a modern day version of Kareem’s Lakers in 1976. While we have discounted that season as part of a reasonable framework by which to predict voter behavior, there is another, more compelling, reason to bring it back into play: the dreaded split vote.

Here is what happened in 1976, as best I can reconstruct it: Bob McAdoo had a monstrous statistical season (31 and 12) and led the Buffalo Braves to a 46-36 record and fourth place in the East. For the sake of this argument, we’ll call him the LeBron of the group (best stats of the “traditional” candidates, also led a reasonably good team). Next is Dave Cowens, who gets the Nash spot (great leadership for a stubbornly good team; stats don’t tell the whole story) for leading the Celtics to first place in the East. Then there is Rick Barry who had good stats (21/6/6) for the best team of the bunch, the Golden State Warriors. This puts him in Dirk territory. Finally, we have George McGinnis, who went 24, 12, and 5 for a good Philly team. We’ll call him Dwyane Wade.

(Now, obviously, these comparisons aren’t perfect. For instance, Cowens was a tremendous defensive player and Nash is pretty much the opposite, but you get the idea. We are just looking to establish a general concept.)

Here is how the vote played out among those four “traditional” candidates (team conference and overall standings in parenthesis):

McAdoo (4/5) – 47 first place votes, 393 total points
Cowens (1/2) – 48 first place votes, 378 total points

Barry (1/1) – 20 first place votes, 201 total points
McGinnis (4/5) – 4 first place votes, 80 total points

As you can see, these four players — particularly McAdoo and Cowens — split the votes. The race between these individuals was close and it featured completely different types of players and circumstances. For some, the MVP should have been Barry for playing terrific all-around basketball for the best team. For others, it was the statistical brilliance for a team on the cusp and therefore, McAdoo was the choice. For others still, the MVP should have gone to the leader with all the intangibles that made everyone else better and kept a good team on top. Thus, all the votes for Cowens (who wasn’t even first-team All-NBA that season).

What ultimately happened is that the 119 first place votes and 1,062 total points that would typically have gone to a clear-cut “traditional” choice got parceled up and spread out among several players. This allowed Kareem to swoop in like one of his sky hooks and win the award with:

Abdul-Jabbar (4/9) – 52 first place votes, 409 total points

He won by a mere 16 points! Despite playing for a team with a losing record! What this proves is that there was a certain percentage of the voting pool that was going to “pull a Musburger” and simply pick the guy they felt was the best player in the league. If you’ve seen any NBA telecasts this year in which Brent Musburger was doing the play-by-play, you know Kobe has his vote. He gushes on and on about the 81-point game, about the work ethic, the “clutch shooting” (which was recently proved to be more myth than fact by the good people at 82games.com), and everything else that truly does make Kobe a terrific player. For whatever reason though, Musburger is unable to grasp the concept of value as the word has been defined for the past 50 years in the NBA. He is simply going off the individual brilliance of the player and that is that. And every year, there will always be a portion of the voting population who picks this way.

Of course, in most years, the more legitimate, traditional candidate drowns that minority population out. Looking at that 1976 vote, Kareem only got 28% of the first-place votes and 25% of the total points. However, because there were so many viable traditional candidates that year, the 75% of the people that knew what they were doing saw the power of their vote diluted. They had reasonable disagreements about value among players from top teams and therefore chose different winners. The end result was that they opened the door for the minority voting block to carry their “best individual player” candidate to victory.

If all of this sounds familiar, well, it should. Everywhere you look, there are columns about the MVP. Every broadcast of an NBA game comes complete with various picks and choices. Last Thursday night on TNT, I heard Barkley and Miller give it to Dirk, and Kenny Smith give it to Shawn Marion. Then I opened up Yahoo.com and saw that Steve Kerr tabbed LeBron. Wade is being forwarded as a candidate (although he is losing ground fast, thus the McGinnis comparison). On Friday night, Bill Walton insisted it was still “Little Stevie Nash” and then on Sunday decided the Billups was the winner. Just as in 1976, reasonable minds are disagreeing about which of these players is truly the most valuable. You know I think it is LeBron, but I can totally understand votes for Nash, Dirk, Wade, and even Billups.

By now you know where this is going. That 75% of the vote that goes to the traditional MVP candidate (as defined by 50 years of NBA history and 29 years of even more relevant post-merger history) is about to get chopped up again. LeBron is going to get 30 first-place votes. Nash is going to get 25. So will Dirk. Wade will get a few. Perhaps even Brand and Billups and Gasol will get a vote. All of which will erode the majority position.

This, of course, leaves the door open for Kobe — and the 25% of MVP voters who see only the gaudy stats — to waltz through and claim the trophy.

Yesterday, when I wrote about LeBron, I surmised that this would be a ridiculous year to stoop down to a seventh place team to find an MVP. With a plethora of terrific candidates who boast both the individual brilliance and the team success, it seemed crazy that Kobe would even be in the conversation. But then it dawned on me. Because there are so many viable candidates for the MVP this year, it is actually creating a perfect storm of sorts. All those viable, fabulous candidates are just going to cancel each other out.

We could very well end up with something like this (note that the numbers will look different than they did in 1976 because there are fewer first place votes now, but far more total points):

Bryant (7/11) – 36 first place votes, 786 points
James (3/7) – 33 first place votes, 739 points
Nash (3/4) – 26 first place votes, 661 points
Dirk (2/3) – 21 first place votes, 608 points
Wade (2/5) – 6 first place votes, 236 points
Everyone else – 5 first place votes, 267 points

We just might be seeing 1976 all over again.

And that is how, against all odds, Kobe Bryant can win the 2006 MVP.

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About Adam Hoff

  • Lakerfan

    It’s funny how high a standard there is for Kobe. Sure, Kobe at times acts like he is the only one out there playing and that’s annoying. But, c’mon. Some of the guys you are complaining that Kobe isn’t making them better are the same guys who have had trouble all their career. You are expecting Kobe to turn them into gold.

    Jim Jackson and Smush Parker are two guys who couldn’t crack the Suns lineup. So, did Nash fail to make them better? or is it because that’s who they are (average players)?

    Also, people have this perception that Odom’s best year was with Wade. Look up the stats.. you’ll see he was shooting a poor FG%(43%). Does that mean Wade made him worse?

    Contrary to your opinion, majority of the lakers have had career highs this season. You may want to look up their stats.

    Kobe gives guys plenty of open opportunities. Sure, he is not the best at creating for his teammates. But some of your arguments are ridiculous.

  • Lakerfan

    Can I also see some proof of this?

    “Bryant has had several 40-point performances without tallying a single assist”

  • Here is why I think Kobe is less adept at getting his teammates involved: he takes 27 shots per game compared to only 4.5 assists. He berates teammates. He’s sullen. He keeps to himself. He created an atomsphere in L.A. that he is half player and half GM. There is almost no evidence whatsoever that he brings the best out in his teammates. Therefore, my opinion is that he fails to make his teammates better. That said, I will admit that he has some horrendous players on his team, so maybe that isn’t fair. I see your points. Either way, that wasn’t meant to be the primary argument of the column.

    As for the 40 points/0 assists deal, I guess there was only one such game. I made the mistake of relying on someone else’s claim on that one (some talking head on ESPN). He did have 0 assists in the Dallas game, and he had a 40-point game with 1 assist, and two with only two assists. Still hard to believe. Compare that to Allen Iverson, who never had less than 5 dimes in a 40-plus night, and had four 40-10 games. The point is that usually when a player has it rolling, the assists come as well, because they are so dominant that guys get wide open looks. When Kobe gets rolling, he really just keeps shooting and shooting.

    My criticism of Kobe’s game is minor. It doesn’t appear he’s much fun to play with and he has a propensity to “get his” at the expense of others. Overall, he’s a fabulous player. Works hard, is in great shape, is a fantastic offensive player, and is also good on defense … he just alienates both fans and players with his arrogance and single-mindedness. That is just the way it is. As a Lakers fan, I expect you to love him. He’s on your favorite team.

    However, to focus on whether he makes others better or should shoot less, or whatever, is missing the point of the column. The idea here is that he is not a typical MVP candidate based on how “value” has been defined through 50 years of voting; however, the plethora of “traditional” candidates this year can (and, I think, will) open the door to the “single best player” candidate winning the award.

    In other words, I’m on your side. I think he is going to win.

  • Tester10

    You spend the first 12 paragraphs reciting NBA history, and then simply state “and this is how Kobe can win MVP” You never really explained how. You just wrote a vanity piece.

    When you write an essay, the majority of the essay should pertain to the the topic at hand. Try again, and this time, try to focus on how Kobe can win the MVP this year. If you dont really have valid explanations for how Kobe can win MVP, then re-title your essay to something else.

  • KnockKnock

    kobe will probably win the MVP and i’ve got no problems with that. He’s been the most consistent force in the league this season. Personally, I’d vote for Nash, who’s able to create the illusion that the Suns are one of the best teams in the league. Nobody makes his teammates better and his numbers aren’t shabby either. He’s ultra-efficient and savy. People say he doesn’t play defense, and it’s a fair knock, but it’s not as brutal as some make it out to be. But he’s the engine of the Sun’s and he make’s em roll.

  • I thought the writer was pretty focused on how Kobe could win the MVP this year — the field is so full of candidates on the top-tier teams that they all run the risk of splitting the vote, thus leaving it open for the guy who can win on stats alone as opposed to his overall teamwork. Is that not clear?

  • To Tester 10: Let me try to put this in a way that you can understand: In 1976, there was a split among traditional MVP candidates, opening the door for a “best individual player” vote to carry the day. It was the ultimate exception to MVP voting history. Now, it can happen again, in the exact same fashion. THAT is how Kobe can win the MVP.

    Steve C., thanks for infusing the thread with a dose of sanity.

    KnockKnock, Nash is a very legit choice. Again though, Kobe is not MY choice, I just think we are going to see a flashback to 30 years ago and that he will win.

  • Mac

    I’m not sold on Kobe being the MVP this year, but I’m sick of the comparisons of all the Suns players having career years and Kobe not helping any of his teammates. Check the stats… all of these guys are having career years:
    Kobe (+5.4 from best season, +11.6 from career average)
    Smush Parker (+5.3 , +3 )
    Chris Mihm (+.6 , +3.4 )
    Brian Cook (+1.5 and + 1.2)
    Luke Walton (+1.8 and +1.4)
    Kwame Brown’s stats don’t tell the story, he is having the best season of his career, particularly in last couple of months, and has been solid defensively all year.
    Lamar Odom has been lost in the triangle offense at times, but he’s coming around with back to back triple doubles last week.
    And above all, each player on the Lakers roster has become tougher and gained a more solid work ethic as a result of Kobe’s example. Maybe it doesn’t show in the stats, but he has made every single one of those guys better.

  • That is an interesting point, although I’m not entirely sure Kobe gets all the credit for that. But I will also say that I’m not entirely sure that Nash gets all the credit for his teammates having career years either. For starters, both of their coaches are in the running for coach of the year, so they have to get some credit. While Kobe has monster stats, I tend to think Phil Jackson is probably more responsible for any increase in production. Nash is probably more directly responsible for some of the Suns’ increase simply because he is the point guard and he puts the ball right where they need it. All of that said, I do agree with you that Kobe probably does lead by example in terms of work ethic, perparation, and so on. His game is not really condusive to lifting the play of others, but you do have a good point that you can make guys better in other ways.

    However, all of this is just dancing around the issue. The real reason so many of those players are posting improved numbers is that they are finally getting playing time. That goes for guys on the Suns as well – and any player that is suddenly starting or getting a lot of run. Just look at how some bench players are lighting it up in the final few games. In the NBA, in many cases, all you need is some PT and the numbers will follow.

    Smush Parker, Boris Diaw, David West … are these players better because of Kobe (or Phil), Nash (or D’Antoni), and Paul (or Scott)? Or are they better simply because they are getting 35 minutes a game as starters with defined roles? We might never know.

  • Huang Gang

    We might never know what makes these players better but you seem to critize Kobe Bryant doesn’t pass the ball as a SG while praises Nash for passing the ball.

    It would also helped if you watch the Lakers play sometimes and see how Kobe is playing the Wing in the triangle now and how Odom is the one with the ball most of the time.

    Also, that argument about how Kobe’s teammates couldn’t convert Kobe’s pass is somehow Kobe’s fault is really really stretching it. It feels more like a personal vendetta.

  • jordone

    HRE did some statistical research to back this thesis up. Just check out the numbers on Cleveland’s big three FA acquisitions.

    Donyell Marshall
    Career (w/out LeBron): 28 mpg / 12 ppg / 7 rpg / 2 apg / .437 FG%
    ’04-05 (w/out LeBron): 25 mpg / 12 ppg / 7 rpg / 1 apg / .443 FG%
    ’05-06 (with LeBron): 26 mpg / 9 ppg / 6 rpg / 1 apg / .394 FG%

    Larry Hughes
    Career (w/out LeBron): 31 mpg / 15 ppg / 5 rpg / 3 apg / .414 FG%
    ’04-05 (w/out LeBron): 38 mpg / 22 ppg / 6 rpg / 5 apg / .430 FG%
    ’05-06 (with LeBron): 36 mpg / 15 ppg / 4 rpg / 4 apg / .417 FG%

    Damon Jones
    Career (w/out LeBron): 21 mpg / 7 ppg / 2 rpg / 3 apg / .409 FG%
    ’04-05 (w/out LeBron): 31 mpg / 12 ppg / 3 rpg / 5 apg / .456 FG%
    ’05-06 (with LeBron): 26 mpg / 6 ppg / 2 rpg / 3 apg / .384 FG%

    Remarkably, all three of them are having their least productive season in several years, and shooting horribly from the field.

    Cavs with without james 2 and 0. Lakers without kobe 0 and 2.

    Leastern conference where a losing record gets three teams in the playoffs.

  • Koeitk5

    I totally agree. Lamar Odom is handling the ball more, and that’s why he’s leading the team in assists. And if you’ve watched the Lakers game, there were many times when Kobe’s teammates just couldn’t convert his passes, even if they were wide-open. That’s just the differece between the talents of Kobe’s and Nash’s teammates.

  • Divinstrosity

    I noticed that the author stated that Kobe’s ability as a clutch performer is more myth than fact. First off, Kobe is the most feared clutch player in the game. You know it, and I know it – at the end of All Stars games(where they’re actually trying to win, and the roster is filled with Stars), and definitely in the Olympics, Kobe Bryant has/will have the ball in his hands. Because he’s the most feared, he’s also going to be the most fiercely guarded. He has next to no time to get a shot off, and he typically has two to three players draped all over him. How great of a percentage do you expect him to have? You want to discredit him as a clutch performer because of a percentage. However, it if were that simple, then why do coaches send so much defense his way? Is it purely based on perception? I mean, based on what you said, it can’t be about his ability to make clutch shots, because he hasn’t hit that many. I believe that statistics are somewhat misleading. It’s not as easy as stating a players per game averages. Nash’s assist’s are ONLY assist’s because his teammates connect. If Nash played on a team with guy’s that didn’t finish that well, his assist total wouldn’t be as high. As far as Kobe, he’s not the primary ball-handler anymore, and when he was, you’ll notice that his assist total was higher. He was also playing with a future Hall Of Famer as well. He’s only down 1.5 assist’S per game. ONE AND A HALF!! I mean, what are we REALLY debating here? I mean, really .. his scoring went up, and he’s no longer the primary ball-handler .. how shocked can you really be that his assist total went down?

    After following Kobe over the course of his career, I believe that Kobe is a serious triple double threat, but his primary role on the Lakers is to score. We all know that. You draft/sign/trade for guys to contribute in certain areas. Why should Kobe have to grab so many rebounds if their are big guys brought it, to do just that? Why should he be expected to have a high assist total, if he’s the team’s primary scoring option? I mean, sure it looks good on the stat sheets- but stat junkies seem to only focus on the “what” and not the “why”. Even when Shaq was there, Kobe was expected to score a lot of points, AND get his teammates involved. Lamar Odom doesn’t score anywhere near the amount of points that Kobe did, when he averaged close to six assist’s per game in the past.

    Lastly, how many people really expected the Lakers to even be in the playoffs? Let’s be honest here … on a team that’s usually called, “Kobe & Everyone Else” by members of the media, AND the perception is that Kobe doesn’t make his teammates better … very few expected the Lakers to be in playoff position. See, if the Lakers had MISSED the playoffs, the first thing everyone would’ve pointed out was the number of shots that he’s taken, and that he doesn’t make his teammates better. Yet, he’s the main reason that a group of mostly inconsistent players, and one All Star is going to make it into the playoffs! Couldn’t it be that Kobe needed to carry that scoring burden to make it into the playoffs? Notice Kobe’s scoring average last year, and look where his has team ended up. Notice his scoring average THIS year, and look where they ended. It CAN be argued that last year, he had better players. Yes, Phil Jackson should be given credit. However, a coach can’t make you execute. He can only show ways to execute. Their are many times that I see Kwame Brown just blow simple lay-ups. Their are many times that I wonder if Lamar, mentally, is even on planet earth! The other guys, as far as I’m concerned, are even worth mentioning. What do you think Phil could have done with a HEALTHYY Lakers squad from LAST YEAR.

    Anyway …. to sum it all up, I think that because Kobe Bryant is having a HISTORIC year, and he’s taken THIS TEAM(You know, the same team that wasn’t even expected to make the playoffs??) to the playoffs, he should be MVP. Instead of looking at WHY Kobe’s team isn’t in better position, why not praise him for even BEING in this position, considering no one expected him to be here anyway.


  • I guess this has turned into the “all purpose Kobe thread” and that is fine. (Heck, I’ve contributed to that.) However, again, I want to make it clear that the point of the column was not to bash Kobe, it was to display through historical voting patters A) how unlikely it is that he can win based on his team ranking, and B) proof that despite those odds, there is a legit precedent (1976) that he will win the award anyway.

    I sincerely regret adding any of my opinon (and that is all it is) about Kobe. I was simply trying to square this column with the article I posted two days ago in which I name LeBron as my MVP. Unfortunately, people are focusing on the throwaway part of the column where I explain my personal preference, rather than what I think is the truly interesting historical implications of this MVP vote.

  • Laydeebball

    Figuring out who should be the MVP is easy. Take each candidate, flip-flop them around. First, let’s switch Kobe and Nash, would the Lakers be better, would they remain the same or would they get worse, vice-a-versa for the Suns, would they be better, the same or worse. The answer to MVP is in this formula. ANY WAY YOU LOOK AT IT, KOBE WOULD FIT AND IMPROVE EVERY TEAM!!!! Could you say the same for any of the other players? My opinion, “I think not”!


  • 1) Again, this column isn’t about who should be the MVP.

    2) That is probably the most subjective, least reliable method of determining the MVP you could ever use. There is no way to know what would happen. I certainly thought Houston would be better with T-Mac than they were with Francis and Mobley, but they’re not. Most people assumed that Chris Webber might make the Sixers a little better. Nope, they got worse. It is absolutely impossible to know how players would do on different teams, in different systems. You claim that Kobe would be the obvious pick “any way you look at it,” but others might say the exact opposite. Skip Bayless of ESPN used this EXACT same argument as his reason for picking Nash over Kobe, saying that Nash would have led the Lakers to the 2 seed, while Kobe wouldn’t have been able to get the Suns in the playoffs. Granted, Bayless is ridiculous and I don’t agree with this opinon, but the fact is, using such a “method” is totally arbitrary.

    The best you can do is decide what “value” is supposed to mean (again, the point of the column was to show what value means in terms of the 50-year history of this award) and who best fits the description. Kobe is absolutely one choice, albeit an unconventional one. But in a year where Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker are the best “conventional” candidates (coming from a top two team, as 90% of the winners have throughout history), we are bound to see someone different win anyway. And because the vote is going to be split among the players that are closer to the norm, I think that Kobe is going to vault past all the other reasonable choices and win the award.

  • Q

    I think this topic and the writer has done a fabolous job researching his mvp awards but there still leaves a lot to argue..I mean his facts..Lets take a good look at some things that were written.

    “Lamar was more consistent with Wade..than with Kobe” Maybe, I mean 2 thangs: One), lamar is playn in a new offense which is so intricate to grasp..so he’s not jus gonna start puttn up consistent #’s until recently it’s all clicking..
    two) was lamar really better with wade cuz his #’s doesn’t show it…I mean his FG was 43% and 3pt was 29.8%. where as with kobe his fg and 3pt are all time highs 48% and 37.4% respectively. So u do the math who really makes him better.
    All this stuff I’m writing have been researched by the way.

    “Luke, Mihm and Brown should be improving..”
    Yeah u right they are all having career years..
    Luke fg% is 41% and all time high 3pts and ppg: 33% and 5ppg.
    Mihm fg% is all time high with kobe last year 51% and this year 50.4%.
    And Brown we all know brown is having a career year with Kobe by posting fg% of 52%

    So what did u mean that kobe doesn’t make his teammates better.

    “Bryant has had several 40-point performances without tallying a single assist, which is practically impossible for a guy with the ball in his hands as much as Kobe has it”

    Once again chk the stats when kobe doesn’t score as much..the lakers have a losing record. #2 have u heard the saying when mj was going thru the same thang..that “u can’t make chicken salad out of chicken.” Clearly after I’m done posting the numbers u will see that Kobeless lakers don’t have high field goal % like Nash’s team, Lebron’s team. He’s needs to score and this creates double teams and ez opportunities for his team mates which is why they are having career seasons!

    Why award those folks with MVP when it’s clear that they are playn with guys who can really shoot the ball.

    “He did have 0 assists in the Dallas game, and he had a 40-point game with 1 assist, and two with only two assists. Still hard to believe. Compare that to Allen Iverson, who never had less than 5 dimes in a 40-plus night, and had four 40-10 games” Common Adam..where’s AI in the playoffs..oh my bad he didn’t show up till late to the game. I mean are u sayn that one makes his teammates better when he passes the ball alot. I mean what are u saying. Kobe is feared and it’s because of his shoot first/talented ways that open up opportunity for his teammates. Lamar Odom is the facilitator, passer wateva u wanna call it. Kobe puts the ball in the hole..So ya stop with that garbage that kobe doesn’t make his team mates better because that’s a false stmt…he jus does it in a subliminal way…I’ve always said.. Nash, Kobe, Lebron all play different roles on their team. Nash is not a scorer, Kobe is…Lebron looks for teammates and scores..woohoo..big deal..At the end of the day we are all in the playoffs and those guys have players with higher shooting %s.

    “My criticism of Kobe’s game is minor. It doesn’t appear he’s much fun to play with and he has a propensity” He doesn’t appear, are u talkn facts on appearance. when did u become such as appearance specialist..” comn Adam b4 u go around posting stuff like this do ya research on every so-called fact..not jus the one on Past mvps.
    I usually to reply to blogs but ya stop findn reasons why Kobe shouldn’t win it and appreciate greatness at it’s best. THANK YOU

    Oh Adam, I know the point of the post was to show what the 50yrs history of mvp has been..Ya opinions tho r wat we see flaws in…forget 50yrs history..kobe for mvp this yr..is definitely rewriting it’s own history.

    Suns: fg% 3pt%
    Barbosa shoots 48% 45%
    Career 47% 41%

    Tim Thomas shoots.43% 39%
    career 44% 37%

    Raja Bell shoots 46% 44%
    career 44% 412%

    James Jones shoots 42% 38%
    career 41% 38%

    Eddie House 42% 39%
    Career 41% .37%

    My point is what is Nash doin that’s soo big. Amare and 3 starters left last year…RIGHT. but look wat he got in return..These guys can light up the building if they had somebody to draw double team and pass them for open shots. KOBE BRYANT DOES NOT HAVE THIS LUXURY. no wonder phoenix shoots close to 39% 3s per nite..these dudes are on point.

  • – I appreciate the initial compliment.

    – Much of this has been covered in comments back-and-forth (including “career numbers” and how hard it is to pinpoint the reason for that”).

    – Honestly, it was kind of hard to read your whole post because of all the choppy grammar and misspelled words. I appreciate the time you took, but when it is hard to read, I tend to gloss over it and not take it seriously at all.

  • No matter how many times I repeat that this column is about voting patterns and how that might shape the 2006 MVP Award, it appears that this is doomed to be “the Kobe thread.” Obviously, Kobe fans are very passionate about this topic, given the fairly hostile responses to the piece. I was hoping to avoid responding to all of these side issues, but since I made the mistake of tossing in my opinion regarding Kobe’s game (which apparently I’m not entitled to), I suppose I should respond to some of the major complaints. So here we go:

    1. I do not have anything against Kobe as a player or as an MVP candidate. I think he’s had an amazing season and is legit all the way around. The only reason I even spent two paragraphs discussing Kobe is because I felt like I owed it to those who might be confused. I had just posted a column tabbing LeBron as my MVP choice, so I wanted to make it clear what was happening in this column. Apparently, I shouldn’t have wasted my time doing that.

    2. “Kobe doesn’t make his teammates better.” This has been an explosive issue. I totally admit to getting sloppy here and just throwing out my personal opinion. However, I don’t think calling this Bryant’s biggest flaw is some sort of egregious statement. When you watch Lakers games, the announcers often comment on how well everyone else plays when Kobe is out of the game. They may not be a better team without him (certainly they are not), but almost every guy plays better when he’s out. In my opinion this is because Kobe tends to restrict his teammates rather than free them to play above their abilities. Guys seem timid when he’s on the floor. This is a testament to how freaking good he is, but to me it also means that his ability to lift teammates to a higher place isn’t really a strength in his game. This isn’t a huge deal, he’s still sick. But when you are splitting hairs, it is worth noting.

    Not only that, but this particular opinion is shared by people who know a lot more about the NBA game that I do (and probably more than any of you either). Steve Kerr wrote a terrific column on this.

    “Making teammates better” is ultimately a very subjective thing and I never should have used it as a reason for or against Kobe because of that. However, from watching at least 25 Lakers game this year and looking at all of the available data, it is my opinion that it’s not the strength of his game.

    3. The clutch thing. Kobe is in my top five of guys that I would want taking the last shot, but the numbers simply aren’t good. You make a great point though that there are reasons for that. If anything, it makes Melo’s ridiculous stats in that department look even better.

    4. Lamar Odom’s lack of consistency. I don’t think you could find a single NBA player, coach, GM, or scout that would call Odom “consistent” this year. He’s played very well lately and has had some great stretches where his talent shines, but he’s been all over the map this year. I’m not saying that Odom is a bad player, but I don’t think there is any way you could argue that he has been consistent this year. This was another throwaway line that I shouldn’t have made (because it took away from the real point of the column), but I certainly don’t take this one back.

    There might be more issues and if so, I will try to get to all of them. I will say this much though, Kobe has surprisingly loyal fans.

  • aj

    look why doesnt kobe get assist, its not because he doesnt pass it, he does and they miss it, why isnt anyone talking about that, excuss the grammer im in a hurry.he has no team but you see now he does have a team he has given them a swagger and we will overcome all to win a ring!they are playing very well now and kobe is still putting up numbers.so dont say what he is doing is wrong whatever it takes to win kobe will do!!!!

  • Mac

    Well I think the main reason nobody’s responding to the beef of your post (i.e. the historical stats that could predict whether or not Kobe can win the MVP given his team’s overall record) is because you’ve stated your case well and it’s hard to refute any of the stats you’ve provided. It’s like the 2000 presidential election… the Nader vote is widely believed to have dilluted Gore’s voter base, giving Bush the victory. I’m sure that no matter who wins the MVP this year, it will be by a slim margin and it’s nearly impossible to predict right now because we don’t know which MVP candidates votes will be dilluted the most. Realistically, I think Kobe, Nash, and Lebron all have an equal shot at winning it.

    This is a unique year, in that Kobe has been so phenomenal, and the team has ended with a better record than nearly everyone predicted, that it’s become a battle of stats versus common sense. During Jordan’s early years when he had high scoring averages but didn’t win the MVP (like his 37.1 average year when the team went 40-42), his team just wasn’t very good and Jordan hadn’t yet learned how to control a game…all he did was score a lot of points. And of course he didn’t have any games like 81 or 62 in 3 quarters. To some of us, it seems absurd that Kobe might not win the MVP this year… it seems like a no brainer, in spite of what historical stats might indicate. He is having one of the best seasons by an individual player in NBA history, probably in the top 5, and he’s almost singlehandedly pulled his team into the playoffs despite what most people predicted. If the Lakers were in the East, they would have won at least 50 games. And most of those 10 or 12 games that the Lakers lost in the closing seconds this season they lost due to turnovers or missed shots by guys other than Kobe. I would rather have Kobe take the game winning shot at half-court with three guys on him than to have Odom or Kwame Brown try to win it with an unguarded layup. I know that sounds ridiculous, but that’s how valuable Kobe is to the Lakers. My sense is that Nash got his due last year, and that Lebron hasn’t yet done his time to be deserving of the MVP, even though he has had an incredible year. Kobe also has to battle the negative image many people have of him; I think some people wouldn’t give him the MVP no matter how many wins the Lakers have. It’s like even if Barry Bonds hit .500 this year and the Giants won 100 games, there’s no way he’d be getting another MVP trophy. I think Kobe’s still in that no-man’s land for a lot of people. I guess I just think that stats don’t always tell the whole story, and if nearly everyone feels that Kobe is having by far the best individual season of any of the MVP candidates, and that the Lakers are better than expected, then why isn’t that enough to earn him the MVP? I think as you proved with the numbers you posted, all he needs is something like 30% of the first place votes and he wins… hardly a landslide.

  • So, am I hearing this correctly? No votes for Shawn Bradley?

  • Matt, I’m afraid so. I’ve been holding out hope that Yinka Dare could sneak in there, but that doesn’t seem likely either.

    Mac, fantastic post. I think one of the really interesting things about this is that Kobe really seems to be going against three “opponents” if you will:

    1. Nash (and the “intangible” vote)
    2. LeBron (and the “also incredible stats with more wins and no two-game suspension for elbowing Mike Miller” vote)
    3. History.

    You would think that having to overcome all those hurdles would be enough to eliminate his chances, but because two of those hurdles are also players (who will split the vote with Dirk as well), I think he gets it. In fact, because of this late push, I think he’s going to win easily. I say he gets the 30% that is voting for “best individual player” as described in the column, but I also think he’s going to get 10-15% of the votes from the more traditional voters. There will still be 40-60% of the voters who either can’t fathom giving the MVP to a guy from a seventh-place team or (as you mentioned) simply don’t like Kobe. However, 40% is going to be enough to win easily, I think.

    The irony for Nash is that it won’t be Kobe that keeps him from repeating, but instead Dirk, Wade, and LeBron. All three of those guys came on strong while Nash was slumping and they forced themselves into the conversation. Now he is going to a large portion of “his” share of the votes (that 60%) to those guys. And it won’t leave him with nearly enough to beat Kobe. Without those players in the mix, Nash might prevail in a 60/40 type situation. Because the reality is that Kobe has a ceiling on how much of the vote he can get, but that he will get that entire portion. Whereas the other guys have a bigger piece of the pie, but they are all sharing it with each other. I’ve probably over-analyzed this beyond anything that could be considered “sane” but the end result is that I think Kobe has this in the bag.

    (An interesting side point here is trying to figure out how much better Kobe was than LeBron, statistically, if at all. Should we go there?)

  • Mac

    why not. The direct comparisons:
    Points: Kobe +4
    Assists: Lebron +2.1
    Rebounds: Lebron +1.7
    Steals: Kobe +.16
    Turnovers: Kobe -.14
    Team Wins (after 81 games): Lebron +5

    I’d say it’s a toss up based on stats. Kobe’s extra points make up for Lebron’s extra assists. Lebron averages more rebounds but also more turnovers and less steals. I think Lebron’s extra five wins doesn’t count for much because the West is a little more competetive top to bottom and Lebron has better teammates. I really think their stats are comparable. Lebron’s Field Goal % is better, but Kobe shoots a ton of end of quarter or end of shot clock shots that drag his percentage down (several “wasted” shots a game). I give the edge to Kobe based on experience, much better defense, better clutch shooting, and that infamous killer instinct. Opponents are afraid of Kobe. A couple other considerations– You add Kobe’s points and assists together, either adding the assists at face value or multiplying them by two to account for a basket, and his total is better than Lebron’s (barely) and Nash’s (by a lot). Many of Nash’s assists actualy went to three point baskets which would probably close the gap, but there’s no way to account for that. There’s also no way to account for how many perfect passes Kobe has sent to a teammate who then missed a gimme. I think the ONLY thing Kobe has against him is team wins.

  • Mac

    One other observation– it’s surprising (to me at least) that Kobe actually averages the fewest turnovers of the three:

    Kobe: 3.15
    Nash: 3.5
    Lebron: 3.29

  • I didn’t realize that either, although I noted that his TO’s were going down as the year went on (helping my fantasy team).

    As for the stats breakdown, it is really, really hard to separate Kobe and LeBron this year. I think that is a credit to how incredible James has been, because everyone knows how good Kobe’s stats are because of the 81 and the 62 and the 35.4 ppg. You threw together a nice breakdown, but here are some more ways to look at this:

    – LeBron played more minutes, leading the league at 42.5. Not sure if that matters.

    – I like your instinct to try to compare Kobe and LeBron by combining points and assists. I’ve actually used that stat for years, noting that it is flawed (not being able to count three’s, for instance), but calling it “Points Created” and just using it to shed some light on various players. You are also right that they are in a virtual dead heat on that front. LeBron is at 44.6 points created per game and Kobe at 44.4. Perhaps more impressive is how those seasons stack up against the best of recent history. Here is a list of every 44.0+ “PC” season of the past 25 years:

    1. Isiah (84-85): 49.0
    2. Jordan (88-89): 48.5
    3. Magic (86-87): 48.3
    4. Magic (88-89): 48.1
    5. Iverson (05-06): 47.8
    6. M. Adams (90-91): 47.5
    7. Jordan (87-88) 46.8
    8. Iverson (04-05): 46.7
    9. Jordan (86-87) 46.7
    10. Jordan (89-90) 46.2
    11. Stockton (89-90): 46.0
    12. Stockton (90-91): 45.4
    13. KJ (89-90): 45.3
    14. Magic (89-90): 45.0
    15. KJ (88-89): 44.8
    16. LeBron (05-06): 44.6
    17. Kobe (05-06): 44.4
    18. Magic (90-91): 44.4
    19. Stockton (88-89): 44.3
    20. Magic (85-86): 44.0

    LeBron and Kobe go 16-17 on that list, which is impressive enough. However, you can tell from the list (and also from intuition) that this stat favors point guards, who have an easier time racking up assists. Here is the list of non-point guards to reach the 44.0 mark. (Note: Iverson’s two appearances on the list were as a PG, so he’s left out.)

    1. Jordan (88-89): 48.5
    2. Jordan (87-88) 46.8
    3. Jordan (86-87) 46.7
    4. Jordan (89-90) 46.2
    5. LeBron (05-06): 44.6
    6. Kobe (05-06): 44.4

    Not only does this second list show how incredible Jordan really was in the late 80’s, but it also makes it clear that LeBron and Kobe have been doing some amazing things this year. To join MJ as the only swingmen of the past 25 years to “create” 44 points a game is amazing.

    Anyway, this one is a toss up, but it led to some interesting findings.

    – PER. Hollinger’s pet stat gives the slight edge to LeBron who leads the NBA at 28.15, while Kobe is right behind at 27.90, in third place. (Dirk is second.)

    – LeBron also has the slight edge in TSP (true shooting percentage), another Hollinger favorite. James’ TSP is .568, Kobe’s is .558.

    – “Glamour stats.” Kobe had the 81 and 62 point games, and went over 50 points in six games. LeBron had four triple-doubles and went over 50 twice. Edge to Kobe here.

    – This might not mean anything, but LeBron seems to have the ability to take over games as a passer and rebounder in ways that Kobe doesn’t. Kobe only hit double-digits in either boards or assists twice this year, both times getting 10 or more rebounds. Meanwhile, LeBron has done it 25 times (18 times on the glass, seven times with dimes). This is the biggest disparity between them.

    Anyway, all of these stats are probably more interesting just to think about, they don’t really reveal a true winner. As for the extra wins, I think it is more the fact that Cleveland finished with the third-best record in the East than the specific number of wins (although 50 has a nice ring to it). Even though the East is weak, they still vaulted past New Jersey, who is allegedly a contender (I have my doubts), so that counts for something. The Cavs also had a better winning percentage against Western Conference teams than the Lakers did. (Although it is very close and I didn’t bother to research the composition of that schedule, so take that with a grain of salt.) It was enough for me to give LeBron the edge.

  • I went ahead and looked it up. Kobe’s Lakers won had a .519 winning percentage playing against Western Conference teams that finished the season with a combined winning percentage of .544. LeBron’s Cavs won at a .533 clip against Western Conference teams. They played every team twice and the total winning percentage in the West was .522. So the Cavs had a slightly better track record, but because of the imbalanced schedules, the Lakers were arguably slightly better against teams from the West.

    (As for the East though, the Cavs were quite a bit better, going .653 to the Lakers .600 against Eastern Conference teams. And like the Lakers in the West, the imbalanced schedule forced the Cavs to play more quality teams than they would have if they had just faced each team the same number of games. They drew four games against Detroit, Miami, and all the other playoff teams.)

  • Huang Gang


    Once again your “common sense” argument is flawed. Kobe’s teammates played better when they are playing with him with an plus in their efficiency and scoring. When they aren’t playing with him, they are in the minus efficiency. Maybe check some stats will really help you.

  • nick


    lamar odom points created in miami was 25.33
    lamar odom points created this season was 25.9

    as you can see all of kobe’s teammates are having career years, and now that kwame and lamar understand the traingle offense nest year they will have monster seasons

  • HG – By all means, feel free to post these stats. Not that it matters, as I was making a comment about my own personal opinion. It has nothin to do with “common sense,” which you somehow quoted me on when I never used that phrase. All I was saying is that when I watch Lakers games and Kobe goes out of the game, certain guys (particularly Walton) tend to play much better and they look more relaxed. There could be a lot of reasons for that, I suppose, but it was just an observation. But if every player on the Lakers really has a negative efficiency rating, please post those stats, because that would probably be some sort of NBA record and I’d love to see it.

    Nick – That is an interesting observation, but if anything, all it proves is that for being such a “great passer,” Odom really has had a disappointing career. I’m not putting that on Kobe, far from it. But if Lamar is in the 25-26 range for points created as a 6’10” forward with point guard skills, well, that’s really not that great. So beyond whether he’s having a career year or not, I was surprised at how low those numbers were.

    I’m not sure that the 25.9-25.3 disparity really proves anything though. For one thing, he’s playing almost 3 more minutes per game, which offsets the .6 gain in PC. His “points created” per 48 minutes is 30.8 this year, and 32.4 in 03-04 with Miami. I’m not a huge fan of per-minute numbers, but perhaps the only reason that particular number is up is because Phil Jackson is playing him a few more minutes each game. Which leads to the discussion: is that stat up because of Phil and the triangle or because Kobe “makes Odom better”? As you can see, this could go on forever and become as circular as you want to make it. Throw in the fact that Odom’s real “career year” as far as points created goes was as a Clipper during his second season in 2000-01 (27.4 per game, 35.3 per 48 minutes), and things get really hard to figure out. Was Odom better that year than he is now? Better than he was in Miami?

    I guess the point I am making is that I’m sure there are dozens of stats out there than can be used to make a point, but just as often, you can spin the stats another way.

  • Joe

    “This might not mean anything, but LeBron seems to have the ability to take over games as a passer and rebounder in ways that Kobe doesn’t. Kobe only hit double-digits in either boards or assists twice this year, both times getting 10 or more rebounds. Meanwhile, LeBron has done it 25 times (18 times on the glass, seven times with dimes). This is the biggest disparity between them.”

    It’s easy to “take over games” as a passer when you have teammates who can hit a shot. Also, are you really comparing the rebounding of a 220lb guard to that of a 245lb forward? That’s quite ridiculous…

    PS: Guess who leads all SGs in assists?

  • Mac

    Well I guess we’ll know soon enough if Kobe dodged history by winning despite his team having just 45 wins, or if Lebron dodged history by becoming the youngest MVP, or if Nash joins an elite club by becoming a back-to-back winner. Also has there ever been a non-American win MVP? Nash or Dirk could be the first.

  • Mac

    oops, disregard my comment about Nash or Dirk being the first international players to possibly win the MVP. Of course Nash has already won it once.

  • True enough.

    Joe, as for you comments … come on. If you’ve seen a Cavs game, you know LeBron’s teammates can’t shoot either. Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall have to have more missed wide open threes than any duo in the leagu. Hughes was out all year. Igauskas isn’t the beneficiary of many LeBron dimes because when he gets the ball it is in that horribly stagnant “force it into the post” set they run where Z dribbles 16 times then shoots a jump hook. The simple fact is that James passes more (as evidenced by both his assist totals and the fact that he takes 4 fewer shots a game in more minutes) and better. I really don’t think you are going to find many people that will argue with the idea that LeBron is a better passer. Whether that makes him the MVP is a whole different thing. And as for their size difference, I would say a couple of different things: 1) They are both swingmen, so getting 10 boards in a game from either the SG or SF spot is impressive, 2) if James is bigger and has more weight, than good for him. Since when do we discount accomplishments because of someone’s size? If anything, the fact that he’s 6’8″ and 240 makes his assists and three-point shooting even more impressive than frail little Kobe. I’m sorry, but your post is just further proof that you can take any stat, any accolade, ANYTHING, and spin it into a negative. Now it is somehow ridiculous to compare LeBron and Kobe’s numbers? What?

    (Also, Kobe doesn’t lead all SG’s in assists. Far from it. Here are the leaders:

    Total assists:
    1. Joe Johnson, 536
    2. Kirk Hinrich, 514
    3. Dwyane Wade, 503
    4. Ricky Davis, 394
    5. Paul Pierce, 375
    6. Kobe Bryant, 360

    Assists Per Game:
    1. Wade, 6.7
    2. Johnson, 6.5
    3. Hinrich, 6.3
    4. Davis, 5.1
    5. Tracy McGrady, 4.8
    6. Pierce, 4.7
    7. Bryant, 4.5
    8. Vince Carter, 4.3

    Granted, some of these guys kind play kind of blended positions. Joe Johnson could be considered a PG since he plays so many crunch time minutes there (Lue and Ivey start, but they suck and usually exit the game by the fourth quarter). Hinrich is technically a shooting guard (Duhon and Gordon are announced as the point guards), but he really plays more of a point guard position. Ricky Davis and Paul Pierce are swingmen that sometimes line up against threes, but are pretty much exclusively shooting guards. McGrady was hurt much of the year, so his APG doesn’t really count.

    Even if you eliminate all those names though, that still leaves Wade miles ahead. (And contrary to what some people might think, he is not a point guard. Jason Williams and Gary Payton clearly occupy that position for the Heat. Wade is nothing if not a shooting guard.) So no, Kobe doesn’t lead all SG’s in assists.

  • Joe

    1. Wade, 6.7 – I’ll give you this one but he really plays PG. GP and J-Will just camp at the arc
    2. Johnson, 6.5 – usually plays PG
    3. Hinrich, 6.3 – plays PG
    4. Davis, 5.1 – plays PG
    5. Tracy McGrady, 4.8 – Hasn’t played enough games to be listed for stats
    6. Pierce, 4.7 – usually plays SF

    Kobe’s assists are down not just because he shoots more but because he doesn’t have the ball in his hands as much and because there are less reliable scoring options on the team (Chucky and Caron were solid scorers last year).

    Lamar and Smush run the offense now and Kobe usually gets it to score..

    My main point is that while folks point to his assists as a lack of “getting other involved”, nothing is said about the 90+% of other SGs with less APG? It makes no sense…

  • That whole “SG” thing got me thinking …

    While we are comparing LeBron and Kobe, how about looking at their dominance at the position.

    Among SG’s Kobe is (per game averages):
    #1 in scoring (obviously)
    #1 in PER
    #3 in steals
    #4 in threes
    #5 in assists (I took out Johnson and Hinrich)
    #9 in rebounding
    #14 in TSP (true shooting percentage)
    #17 in blocks

    LeBron is:
    #1 in scoring
    #1 in PER (obviously)
    #1 in assists
    #4 in rebounding
    #4 in steals
    #5 in blocks
    #7 in threes
    #9 in TSP (true shooting percentage)

    Among players at their positions, LeBron leads in more categories, is top five in more categories, and is top 10 in more categories. Of course, the flip side is that shooting guards are usually better than small forwards, so Kobe had tougher competition.

    I think once again you have set of stats that can be whatever you want them to be and probably amount to a whole lot of nothing. More food for thought though.

    (Also, this is just more proof – as if any is needed – that these guys are absolutely sick and have put together seasons for the ages.)

  • I see your point, but Wade is NOT a point guard. His versatility and ability to create for others – nor the role in the offense that affords him – can not be held against him. Bryant and Odom have the ball far more than Smush Parker, but that doesn’t make them the point guard.

    And Ricky Davis? I don’t think he played point guard for a single play this year.

  • Mac

    Lost in all this is the fact that the offensive system can make a huge difference in a player’s ability to make plays for other guys. The Triangle Offense used by the Lakers is intended to create the plays and the shots itself through player positioning and movement… it’s not setup to allow playmaking in a more traditional sense where a PG or SG has the ball for long enough periods of time to find the open guy and make an assist. When the Triangle is played effectively (which truth be told is only some of the time), any one of the five guys on the court could be the assist maker. I doubt Steve Nash could average 10 assists playing the Triangle properly, and even though Odom has had a couple triple doubles recently it’s actually very difficult to do in the offense. Of course Kobe plays outside the offense many times, but not always. My point is that under a different offensive system, the criteria used to judge a player’s impact on the team is different. Also, it takes months for a team to start to gel under the Triangle… it’s why Phil Jackson’s teams traditionally finish much better than the start, it’s why the Lakers are playing better now than they were a few months back, it’s also why the Lakers self-destructed last year… the Triangle was installed shortly after Rudy T’s departure in the middle of the season, and it was a very bad time to install a new offense. Anyway I think it makes it difficult to compare players directly; how can you possibly compare Nash’s stats in a run and gun offense to that of Billups in Detroit? All of this leads me to believe that stats are not a good enough indicator to determine an MVP… you have to look at the whole situation and go with what your gut tells you. And as for the Lebron/Kobe comparison, it was very clear to everyone that Lebron was the playmaker for the Cavs. Meanwhile, with the Lakers, Phil Jackson spent the entire season trying to develop Smush Parker and Lamar Odom into better playmakers; Kobe’s role was much more defined as a scorer. Which to me makes it all the more remarkable that his stats compare so favorably to Lebron’s.

  • Joe

    I thought that was Baron Davis for some reason :p

  • More good points. The only problem with saying “wow, look at how well Kobe did in spite of the triangle offense is that Kobe had the highest usage rate in the league by a pretty wide margin. It is pretty well decided that Iverson dominates the ball in Philly, but was still way behind Kobe this year. Triangle or not, Kobe “uses” (shoots, passes to the final shot, gets fouled, or turns it over) more possessions than other player in the league. This tells me that he had every opportunity to be a playmaker/scorer that anyone else had. I would certainly agree that the triangle offense and the fact that most of Kobe’s playmaker/scorer opportunities fall to the latter, but it doesn’t appear that he was put at any sort of disadvantage for accumulating stats.

    Looking further at usage rates, it really highlights how few times a Kobe “possession” ended in an assist. Obviously, guys like Nash and Billups lead the way here (36.2% and 33.1%, respectively), but even “shooters” and “finishers” generally do better than Kobe. Here are just a few random players’ assist rates:

    Hinrich – 26.8
    Wade – 19.8
    Gasol – 17.9
    Iverson – 17.9
    LeBron – 17.6
    Arenas – 17.3
    KG – 16.3
    Gordon – 14.2
    Allen – 13.4
    Okur – 11.5
    Bryant – 11.5

    Again, that number is the percentage of time that a “possession” by that player ends in a dime. I know the Lakers are bad, but this list tells me that Kobe isn’t doing a whole lot of passing, particularly as it relates to his opportunities to do so. If anything, the only reason he as so many assists is because he gets more possessions than any other player in the league. If he had as many possessions as Andre Igoudala, he would only average 1.5 dimes a game. I mean, when Ben Gordon is finishing more possessions with an assist than you are, you can’t possibly be excelling in this area. Right?

    I hate to get bogged down on this, because it is obviously not Kobe’s role on the Lakers to rack up assists. He is supposed to score. And based on the fact that he’s “creating” 44.4 points per game, he’s playing his role very, very well. But there is simply no way to say that Kobe is as effective of a passer than James. There just isn’t. Again though, that is okay. Not only is LeBron’s passing skill the very thing that makes him so special and unique (thus, it would be absolutely crazy to expect Kobe to be on his level in this area), but it’s also not the deciding issue regarding who is the better player or who is the MVP. It is just one aspect of the game that seems to favor LeBron.

  • Folks.. time to find a MVP formula…it could be painfully complex .. i don’t really care.. but tons of legit points have been discussed in the thread (of course with the issues AH discussed) .. let’s quantify 🙂

  • Mac

    I don’t think it can be quantified. I think Adam has attempted to do that somewhat by showing what the stats concerning previoius MVPs were, and those of this year’s candidates. But just the fact that there are so many legitimate candidates makes it seem to me that sometimes the stats don’t get you anywhere. There are so many intangibles. For one, sometimes guys on the better teams don’t play as much… say the game is over after the 3rd quarter and the star player doesn’t even play in the 4th. Their stats would be less impressive than a guy on a team that is battling to stay in each and every game. Or a team that has so many great players that one guy doesn’t need to stand out too much (think Detroit, as opposed to the Lakers. Billups wouldn’t even be in the discussion if we were just dealing with some formula). I don’t think it can be quantified, and even if somebody came up with some crazy system (the BCS for college football?), it still can yield strange results. In Baseball you can legitimately name an MVP based on nothing but stats… it’s a game where stats give you an extremely accurate representation of how valuable a guy is. It’s not the case in basketall… Magic Johnson’s stats were never that impressive… his assists were great but not that different from what Nash or Kidd do regularly, and not as impressive as John Stockton’s stats. But Magic did so much just by being on the court… there’s no way a formula could represent that. I think Kobe’s having one of those kind of years… yes his numbers have been gaudy, but when I’ve seen him play, he gives 110% every single position. I don’t think there’s ever been a harder worker or a more determined player in the NBA. If Lebron develops that kind of mind set, he will be a beast. Kobe already is.

    My take is that you look at the big picture, and you try to figure out who had the most impact on their team and to the league in general. Which player seems to transcend the game more than any other. It’s very subjective of course, but when you’ve got 120+ votes I think the true MVP emerges as the winner. Sorry for the long winded posts, but this has been a great thread.

  • Huang Gang

    “Why can’t he make his teammates better, like all the greats did?” they

    Well, he does. Over at 82games.com, friend of this site Kevin Pelton did the detailed work and it shows that when Kobe is on the floor, all the Lakers are better.

    I am disturb that when someone puts down Kobe, it is with their perception, their feelings, and their opinions.

    Why not use facts? Stats shows when Kobe is on the court, his teammates play better. So why not be honest and say maybe the percetion, the feelings, and the observations are just not subjective enough to go with the facts?

  • Thanks Adam for this wonderful BLOG! After reading all the comments, I now know that Kobe really deserves to have the MVP award.


  • SAM

    Adam, I must admit this is a great topic. I was going over each post , just wishing I could get involved. One thing I will say to add to all the other reasons Kobe should win is this. Watching Kobe is like Magic. I get the same feeling for Kobe, as I did with Jordan at one time. This man can. This man can ruin any team, at any time, with or without much help from others. He can just do it.

  • Mac

    Well it looks like we were all wrong– Nash appears to be the runaway winner. But what’s shocking to me is that Kobe got so few votes…

    “With nearly 60 percent of the ballots counted in early exit polls, it appears Steve Nash is headed for his second straight Most Valuable Player award. In a Tribune survey of 75 of the 127 writers and broadcasters who cast official MVP ballots with the NBA, Nash has a sizable lead over Cleveland’s LeBron James for the award.

    Nash received 30 first-place votes, 24 second-place votes and 549 total points in the Tribune survey, giving him a 141-point lead over James — who has 408 points but only garnered 11 first-place votes.

    Dirk Nowitzki ranks third in total points (370) and second in first-place votes (12), but the Dallas Morning News, citing several league sources, reported Tuesday that Nowitzki did not win the MVP award. Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, the league’s leading scorer at 35.4 points per game, received 11 first-place votes and ranks fourth in total points (279), but 48 of the 75 writers polled had Bryant listed either fourth (18), fifth (17) or left him off their ballots completely (13). Chauncey Billups of Detroit placed fifth in the survey with 246 points and 10 first-place votes.”

  • joff of philippines


  • kobe for mvp? hm. who is that guy who plays with that other guy who kobe doesn’t know and who never got hugs as a kid?

    kobe who gave up like a baby in game 7?

    mvp? sure: Most Valuable Pussy.