March 4, 2008

Oh, what a race!

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

Manu for MVP? It’s getting pretty easy to build a case for him after the incredible run he’s been on. Leading the loaded Spurs back to the top of the league, for a time without Tony Parker, is worthy of mentioning. But honestly now, a white guy winning the MVP for the fourth season in a row is utterly ridiculous. So let’s move onto the the two real candidates. Kobe and LeBron.

It’s been a few seasons since I’ve seen such a tight heat for the prestigious award. And let’s get this straight, I don’t think Steve Nash deserved his two MVPs, but he did deserve to win over Dirk (who was great, but not the best) last year.

While many will look at numbers to judge who the winner should be, there’s a lot more to it. Both Kobe and LBJ have exhibited stunning leadership, taking hold of teams that were thought to be not quite top-rung, and carrying them (sometimes singlehandedly) towards the apex. There have been times when you would have been shocked had they missed a circus shot, that’s how on they can get.

The case for Kobe is intensified by the situation he was in to start the season. After demanding a trade after failing to get help in the offseason, he still gave it his all and even raised the talents of his teammates. Who would’ve thought that Andrew Bynum would get this good (before getting injured). How about Sasha Vujacic who now looks like one of the better shooters out there? Now, with Pau Gasol, it’s not unrealistic that the Lakers could not only take home the championship this year, but next as well. He’s consistantly called the best scorer — even player — in the league and he’s living up to that title this year. Oh, and let’s not forget that he’s playing through a torn ligament in his pinky finger.

Then there’ LeBron James. It seems like every game he’s got his motor running all out which he didn’t have going for the first half of last season. He’s getting better on defence and at rebounding while leading the league in scoring. He’s the guy that the powerhouse Celtics and the Pistons don’t want to face any time in the playoffs because they and everyone else know that when King James steps on the floor, there’s nobody better out there. At crunch time, the only player who comes close to his ability to score is Kobe, but I’d take James nine times out of 10.

The race in the West may get billed as the one to watch in the NBA’s stretch run (nine 50 win teams? are you serious?) but Kobe vs. LeBron for MVP is what I’ll be looking at.

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