Kobe for MVP?

kobe-mvp-2013

Before Kobe Bryant‘s post-Memphis adjustment (after the team meeting), I would have my top MVP candidates as such: (1) LeBron James (2) Chris Paul (3) Tony Parker (4) James Harden (5) Carmelo Anthony.

I’m sure  – at the time – many had a similar list to mine, with some exceptions. In light of Kobe’s recent play and the Lakers currently in the 8th seed with the potential to steal the 7th (1 GB) or 6th (2 GB) seeds, some on Twitter have argued that Kobe win MVP or, at least, merits consideration. Laker legend Magic Johnson said – during the halftime show of the Lakers/Bulls game (March 10) – that Kobe is playing at an MVP level. Following that context, I will discuss why the Vino-powered Mamba is a legit MVP candidate and how he must help his case.

Now it is extremely important to acknowledge the competition for the MVP award – it’s steep. The only players I see as being a threat in front of Kobe are Kevin Durant and LeBron because CP3 has fallen out a favour a bit and Tony Parker is injured.

DURANT VS. KOBE

Let’s start with KD. KD is better as a pure shooter, but Kobe is far superior in defense and his overall offensive game is more developed. However, Russell Westbrook‘s impact on KD’s success (i.e. open shot opportunities, pressure reduction, etc.) – in my opinion – is terribly underrated. He is often portrayed as the villain and KD the angel, however, these past couple seasons of watching OKC closely have showed me how interdependent the Westbrook/KD duo. It is very different from the Kobe/Shaq duo where both players were clearly independent forces being joined together. Westbrook/KD are not independent forces put together, they’re two halfs of a great offensive explosion.

Example: what would happen if teams could actually key-in ENTIRELY on KD? Durant hasn’t developed a post game, he doesn’t have a complete point-forward skillset, he would have less open shot opportunities, he doesn’t have the handle of a Kobe or LeBron to split double teams as effectively. This would lead to many difficult isolation scenarios for KD who, though a better pure shooter, is not the ‘tough shot’ maker that the Lakers have in Kobe. So, in my opinion, it’s unlikely that he’d be as efficient (28 PER) or score as easily without Westbrook.

The same goes the other way, but I’m talking about KD because he’s recognized as a legit MVP candidate (Westbrook is always dismissed as the ‘villain’). This is not to take away from KD being the scoring leader (28.5 ppg), his team defense, and his efforts to add to his dimension game (4.7 apg/7.8 rpg), but Westbrook (23.4 ppg/ 7.7 apg/5.2 rpg) has improved as well. Both players have a ways to go in their development – there’s nothing wrong with that when they’re below 25 yrs old and played in college. My bias: both he and Westbrook  share an equal and interlinked impact on OKC’s success. So for me, KD is not a clear cut MVP – if you think about value to his team relative to the other candidates and Kobe.

So Kobe is quite easily a 2nd place candidate and top 2 player. As of March 8 2013, he’s listed ahead of KD on NBA.com’s MVP power rankings.

LEBRON VS. KOBE

As for LeBron vs Kobe, both players are both the most valuable to their teams and carry their teams on an equal level which is unparalled in the NBA. LeBron is significantly more efficent (PER 31.4 > 23.7), but does that mean ‘better’ (i.e. Tony Parker 24.4 > 23.7)? That’s a question you hardly hear being asked. So it really depends on how much you value PER – the significant statiscal area where LeBron has an advantage over Kobe.

I see LeBron’s higher level of efficiency as an advantage over Kobe – not as something which makes him ‘undeniably’ better. That said, I’ll turn down phenomenal transition game and ‘super’ efficency for ‘high’ efficency, diverse skillset, and mentally stronger player (for reasons best discussed in depth elsewhere for now).

Futhermore, Kobe’s recent play statistically disproves the notion that he is one-dimensional, but he’s always had the skillset to put up the all around numbers that LeBron does. In fact, Phil Jackson even said that he tried to get Kobe to play more like ‘LeBron’ – in regards to facilitating more than scoring. However, I beg to differ with Phil Jackson in this sense: his Laker teams needed the assassain in Kobe – who has had his fair share of great passing performances before (i.e. 30/7 in the ’09 finals).

Now, the D’Antoni coached Lakers NEED an all-around Kobe Bryant, so he’s delivering statistically. This shows that Kobe truly will do what he must in order to win. So to accept Kobe as better or even equal, it depends how you view the recent adjustments Kobe has made and the value one places on PER. However, I’m curious to know what Kobe’s PER during this adjustment period (after the 2nd game vs Grizzlies). I would suspect that it is higher than his overall PER of 23.7.

EDIT by Ross Pickering: according to NBA.com‘s “Efficiency Per Game” stats, Kobe has an EFF of 31.6 since the All-Star break. LeBron is just ahead with 32.3. In the month of March, Kobe is way ahead of the pack at 32.8 – the next closest is Durant with 29.0.

kobe-lebron-block

So Kobe, in terms of his individual play, is quite comparable to LeBron and may still be the best player in the game – contrary to popular opinion. However, the main point is: the Lakers now NEED all-around stats from Kobe and he is DOING IT – that should put him right up there with James.

That said, I would – right now – put LeBron James ahead. Here is why: winning matters. In the context of career achievement: the lack of mulitiple championships keeps LeBron down in the all-time top 5 and G.O.A.T conversation – rightfully so. This applies to MVP candidacy as well (which it should). The Heat have played better as a team and LeBron is the – unquestionable – leader of this team (though sometimes Wade and Bosh’s contributions are marginalized in publicity). Also, LeBron has been giving all-around stats his whole career. Kobe, aside from 2002/2003 season, is only doing this recently and in the latter half of the season. LeBron has the consistency over Kobe – which may very well make him unreachable. The burden of proof falls on Kobe Bryant – as it should. So, in my opinion, two things need to happen for Kobe to have a chance at first place votes or to be considered a legit example of an MVP snub (as he was in 05/06).

HOW KOBE CAN WIN MVP

MY conditions for Kobe to trump LeBron or have a legit argument against LeBron as MVP: (1) Lakers need to win 46-50 games (hopefully that lands a 6th seed). However, I think it is obviously unlikely that the Lakers will go 17-0 for 50, I see 47 wins on a 14-3 run as the highest the Lakers will go. Such a record rwould be higher than the w-l record of  Kobe’s historic 05/06 season (45-37) when he was a 2nd place candidate and is still considered an MVP snub for losing to Nash. (2) Kobe must maintain his all-around statistics and high FG%. Under those conditions, Kobe is a great argument for MVP over LeBron. Let me explain why:

There are a few reasons. First, the emotionial/sympathetic logic: Kobe only has one MVP and got snubbed multiple times (2001, 2003, 2004, 2006), while LeBron has 3 MVPs. In other words, it’s okay for LeBron to be snubbed when Kobe has been several times. Kobe’s lone MVP does question the integrity of the MVP race. This may sway the voters – whether its objective logic or not. But then why snub LeBron for Kobe if you want to keep the integrity of the race? Well it wouldn’t be a ‘snub’ for LeBron because Kobe has a legit and unique case which my other reasons will solidify.

Second, Kobe is doing whatever his team needs him to do in order to win (i.e. getting Howard involved more, looking for teammates more than normal, etc.) with their backs against the wall in the midst of injuries, mulitiple coaching changes, and adversity (things stat sheets cannot show us). Also, he is looking good – so far – on his playoff guarantee and is delievering 33/7/7 since the guarantee.

Third, awarding to Kobe the 2013 MVP would be the best way to show appreciation to both the metaphysical (leadership and perserverance) and empirical (i.e. statistical) aspects of great leadership which an MVP should have. Only Kobe Bryant’s season is showing what a true NBA leader does in BOTH great times and – most important – in very bad times – whatever he must. An MVP – whether he is primarily a scorer, passer, rebounder or ‘all-around’ – should always be the undisputed leader of his team.

Overall, assuming the conditions I outlined are met, Kobe Bryant should win the MVP award for being the best leader.

Written by TS

TS is a student of ancient History and a Laker fan since '99 and a Kobe fan since '01.

  • Rance

    i believe too that Kobe should win the MVP award once the Lakers have gotten to the playoff. Lebron’s team are consistent yes, that would make you the best player for your team is winning.. but think of the hardships that Kobe went through to bring his team back, that HEART, that PERSEVERANCE, that FAITH, those CLUTCH plays, those HEARTFUL dunks.. the willingness to WIN, his fighting spirit, despite of the struggles of the whole team, he’s been there, he stick through of what he believes in, of what he wants, another ring, he guaranteed a playoff, and he’s showing good sign of making it.. i don’t think I can see another player who has the spirit like Kobe. NBA should not snub him this time.

  • I have a question…

    and this argument makes a world of difference in what type of player Kobe would be if he had Lebron’s physical build?

    Would Kobe be more more dominant at 6’6/6’7″ 220 lb/ or at 6’8″ 280 lb?

    In my opinion, that is what separates the argument of who may be the better player, and I am going with Kobe on this; winner by a very slight edge. With his offensive arsenal and defense, I can’t even imagine what a player of Kobe’s ‘fire’ and passion for the game could do on the courts if he had Lebron’s height, weight, size and muscle mass!!

    And when arguing in finer detail, the positions they have played throughout their careers are distinctly different so it is difficult to compare. In addition, the team personnel that each player has played with during their careers to date, plays a HUGE role in final stats, an X factor that no one can precisely calculate how influential their teammates play dictates their play.

    Would like to hear others opinions on this argument?

    Perhaps when each of their careers are over, I will watch 2013 season of Kobe at 34, and then watch Lebron’s season when he is 34 years old. Then maybe we will have a clearer picture.

  • and KD, shit, he shouldn’t even be in the picture of comparing – they should be comparing him to other 6’10+ players!!!! This is why I always marveled at Allen Iverson!! For his size and how he humiliated players that were 100+ lbs and a foot or more taller than him, ridiculous!!

    I played the game for over 20 years; still playing today (literally). Being able to dunk (white boy) at 5’10 3/4″ in my early twenties and dominating a lot of playgrounds in so cal in my early days, if I was 6’11” and could see the rim eye level when I shoot a jumper….GOOD GOD!!!

    I would have had a shooting avg around 75% consistently… and I am confident at that!! I avg’d 50% away from the rim when I played almost every day of the week for 5 years straight in my early twenties and won many game winners on my own. It was awesome – I know what it feels like to be on fire and it doesn’t matter who’s guarding you. Best feeling is when opposition keeps making changes on D to try to stop you, but it doesn’t matter – when you are on fire, everything drops!!

    I love this game!

  • Guest

    KD vs. Kobe???? shit, KD shouldn’t even be in the argument of comparison. Analysts should really be comparing KD to other 6’10+ players! This is why I always marveled at Allen Iverson!! For his size and how he humiliated players that were 100+ lbs and a foot or more taller than him, ridiculous!! Imagine that dude playing with a 6’8″ 280 lb athletic frame! you can compare them – both were athletically gifted and I can see AI with an athletic build playing just as well and better at 6’8″ 280.

    I played the game for over 20 years; still playing today (literally). Being able to dunk (white boy) at 5’10 3/4″ in my early twenties and dominating a lot of playgrounds from Azusa to Venice and throughout so cal in my early days, man, if I was 6’11” and could see the rim… eye level when I shot a jumper….GOOD GOD, I would be in the pro’s and playing vs KD himself and probly dominating him!

  • Guest

    KD vs. Kobe???? shit, KD shouldn’t even be in the argument of comparison. Analysts should really be comparing KD to other 6’10+ players! This is why I always marveled at Allen Iverson!! For his size and how he humiliated players that were 100+ lbs and a foot or more taller than him, ridiculous!! Imagine AI playing with a 6’8″ 280 lb athletic frame…

    I played the game (playground style) for over 20 years; still playing today (literally). Being able to dunk (white boy) at 5’10 3/4″ in my early twenties and dominating a lot of playgrounds from Azusa to Venice and throughout so cal in my early days, man, if I was 6’11” and could see the rim… eye level when I shot a jumper….GOOD GOD, I would be in the pro’s and playing vs KD himself and probly dominating him!

  • Guest

    KD vs. Kobe???? shit, KD shouldn’t even be in the argument of comparison. Analysts should really be comparing KD to other 6’10+ players! This is why I always marveled at Allen Iverson!! For his size and how he humiliated players that were 100+ lbs and a foot or more taller than him, ridiculous!! Imagine what AI could do at 6’8″ 280 lb

    I played the game (playground style) for over 20 years; still playing today (literally). Being able to dunk (white boy) at 5’10 3/4″ in my early twenties and dominating a lot of playgrounds from Azusa to Venice and throughout so cal in my early days, man, if I was 6’11” and could see the rim… eye level when I shot a jumper….GOOD GOD, I would be in the pro’s and playing vs KD himself and probly dominating him!

  • Guest

    KD vs. Kobe???? shit, KD shouldn’t even be in the argument of comparison. Analysts should really be comparing KD to other 6’10+ players! This is why I always marveled at Allen Iverson!! For his size and how he humiliated players that were 100+ lbs and a foot or more taller than him, ridiculous!! Imagine what AI could do at 6’8″ 280 lb

    I played the game (playground style) for over 20 years; still playing today (literally). Being able to dunk (white boy) at 5’10 3/4″ in my early twenties and dominating a lot of playgrounds throughout so cal in my early days, and man, if I were 6’11” (wish i was a little bit taller) and could see the rim… eye level when I shot a jumper….GOOD GOD, I cant even imagine! woulda made it to the pro’s no doubt!

  • Guest

    KD vs. Kobe???? shit, KD shouldn’t even be in the argument of comparison. Analysts should really be comparing KD to other 6’10+ players! This is why I always marveled at Allen Iverson!! For his size and how he humiliated players that were 100+ lbs and a foot or more taller than him, ridiculous!! Imagine what AI could do at 6’8″ 280 lb

    I played the game (playground style) for over 20 years; still playing today (literally). Being able to dunk (white boy) at 5’10 3/4″ in my early twenties and dominating a lot of playgrounds throughout so cal in my early days, and man, if I were 6’11” (wish i was a little bit taller) and could see the rim… eye level when I shot a jumper….GOOD GOD, I cant even imagine the damage I could have done!!!

  • KD vs. Kobe???? shit, KD shouldn’t even be in the argument of comparison. Analysts should really be comparing KD to other 6’10+ players! This is why I always marveled at Allen Iverson!! For his size and how he humiliated players that were 100+ lbs and a foot or more taller than him, ridiculous!! Imagine what AI could do at 6’8″ 280 lb

    I played the game (playground style) for over 20 years; still playing today (literally). Being able to dunk (white boy) at 5’10 3/4″ in my early twenties and dominating a lot of playgrounds throughout so cal in my early days, damn, if I were 6’11” (wish i was a little bit taller) and could see the rim at eye level when I shot a jumper….ha, GOOD GOD, I cant even imagine the damage I could have done!!!

  • KD vs. Kobe???? shit, KD shouldn’t even be in the argument of comparison. Analysts should really be
    comparing KD to other 6’10+ players! This is why I always marveled at Allen Iverson!! For his size and how he humiliated players that were 100+ lbs and a foot or more taller than him, ridiculous!! Imagine what AI could do at 6’8″ 280 lb

    I played the game (playground style) for over 20 years; still playing today (literally). Being able to dunk (white boy) at 5’10 3/4″ in my early twenties and dominating a lot of playgrounds throughout so cal in my early days, damn, if I were 6’11” (wish i was a little bit taller) and could see the rim at eye level when I shot a jumper….ha, GOOD GOD, I cant even imagine the damage I could have done!!!

    sorry KD lovers, he’s good, but I can’t give props to a 6’11” player – I already think most bball players over 6’3″ get way too much credit!

    I would love to see Allen Iverson play a 5’10” 160 lb Lebron James!! lol

  • Kobe Mamba

    Just wanted to say Your comparison for Lebron James already being better then jordan or Kobe is one of the stupidest things I have ever read. Its not a matter of how many rings a player has even though Kobe has 4 more. Lebron James has a Career High of 56 points. Jordan has a Career High of 69 Points. Kobe Bryant has a Career High of 81 points(Second Highest Individual NBA Scoring Record Ever!). Kobe Bryant has scored 60+ points in a game 5 times in his Career. Michael Jordan has scored 60+ points 5 times in his Career. Kobe Has outscored Lebron james’s Career High 8 times! Kobe has scored 50+ points 25 times in his Career. Jordan has scored 50+ points 32 times in his Career. Lebron James has had only 9 50+ point games in his Career. In the 2006-2007 season alone Kobe Bryant scored 50+ points in ten games (More then Lebron James Entire Career). Kobe Bryant also had 4 of those 50 points games come consecutive in a row. Kobe Has scored 62 Points in 3 quarters Sitting out the entire 4th quarter. Lebron James has yet to have a single 60 Point game!! Kobe Has also Tied Lebron James’s Career High of 56 points In a single Half!! Lebron has had 7 game winners while Kobe has had 21 game winning shots and MJ has had 22. Kobe Bryant has the record for most 3 pointers in a NBA Game with 12 and most 3 pointers in a NBA Half with 8. Kobe Bryant has elevated the Jump shot to another level and neither jordan, Lebron or anyone else in the history of the NBA has been able to hit contested shots from anywhere on the court the way he does. The Article question should be is Kobe Bryant better then Jordan. Lebron is a great player but he has never had achievements on as high of a level as Kobe Bryant and it already seems as if his scoring prime has passed him. Kobe has also been with a sole franchise his whole Career. Kobe has had countless amazing final fourth quarter comebacks which dont count as game winners and still does today!! Come on Man. Not even Comparable.

  • Kobe Mamba

    Durant has two 50 poin games in his career. Tracy mcgrady would shit on him and has outscored his career high 6 times Including 2 60 point plus efforts. Durant and James are not on the same level as kobe although talented there have been many better scorers in the past decade during basketballs early 2000 golden era with Kobe, Tracy and Iverson. They will never be as good as kobe!