NBA writers and broadcasters appear genuinely conflicted.
They want to cast their MVP vote for Kobe Bryant now, but the rules prohibit them from doing so until the regular season finishes in two months. Their solution has been to drum up straw-man candidates to make it look like they are really stewing over this as if it were a difficult decision.
First, their was the Kobe-LeBron debate, a debate that peaked when Kobe and LeBron were trading 40 and 50 point outings over the course of a week.
But that debate quickly fizzled when "28-loss" Lebron became "29-loss" LeBron, and some guy named DeShawn Stevenson held LeBron to 9-22 from the field, including 1-7 from three, and proceeded to proclaim the King overrated.
The pundits couldn't be made to look the fool. So off they went in search of the next staw man.
I like Chris Paul. Chris Paul is a great player. But he's on a good team, not a great team. League MVPs don't go to the best player on a good team. They go to the best player on the best team.
Just ask Larry Bird. He won three of them from 1984-1986.
He was surrounded by guys named McHale, Parish, DJ, Walton, and Maxwell. Now tell me whether LeBron James, Kobe Byrant, or Chris Paul have any teammates of that caliber?
Of course not.
And yet the fact the KG is surrounded by a better supporting cast than the Kobe-LeBron-Paul triumvirate somehow disqualifies the Ticket from legitimate contention for MVP honors this year.
At least that's what we are to believe when NBA pundits are talking out of one side of their collective mouth.
When they are talking out of the other side, we hear that the Lakers would be favored to win an NBA Finals match-up against the Celtics because the Lakers are deeper and more talented in positions 4-12. Funny this point is never made when they are minimizing KG as a viable MVP candidate on the grounds of his superior supporting cast.
It's not so much the supporting cast that disqualifies KG from serious consideration, the pundits might counter, as it is those nine games KG missed due to injury. The Celtics won seven of those nine games, offering evidence that KG really wasn't responsible for the team's gaudy record.
If injuries serve as another ground for disqualification from winning MVP, then this ground, too, could have been applied to disqualify Bird from winning at least one of his.
Bird began the 1985-86 season with a back injury that was serious enough to negatively impact the quality of his play over the first two months of the season. Bird was playing so poorly and McHale was playing so well that many observers, including Bird, had McHale pegged as league MVP when Christmas arrived. The Celtics hardly missed a beat because of Bird's poor play, starting the year 17-3, and heading into January with the second best record in the NBA.
If we're going to hold the Celtics winning without KG against Garnett, then we'll have to hold the Celtics winning despite Bird's poor play against Larry Legend.
Yet somehow Bird managed to run-away with the MVP that year, despite his suffering from a lingering injury, despite him playing with a strong supporting cast, and despite the Celtics piling up wins while he underperformed.
He was the best player on the best team.
So the only conclusion I can reach is that the MVP voters of the mid-1980s were either smoking crack or just plain wrong. Judged by today's criteria, Bird simply didn't deserve any of his MVPs. The same criteria that are now apparently disqualifying KG from serious consideration should also have served as grounds to deny Bird the three MVPs he won under the old, now discredited standards.
And while we're at it, let's throw Russell's five MVPs on the scrap heap, too, as his supporting cast was even more impressive than Bird's.
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- #05 (Walton)
- #08 (Wedman)
- #12 (Sichting)
- 1971-72 Lakers
- 2007-08 Scores
- Banner 17
- Grassy Knoll Network
- Green Mile
- Larry & Magic
- NBA Scoreboard
- Russell v. Chamberlain
- Walton Gang (1977)