Saturday, April 14, 2012

The ‘Jordan-factor’ has hurt Kobe Bryant in MVP race

The Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant is arguably one of the greatest players of all time but as good as Kobe has been it makes you wonder; why does Kobe only have one MVP award on his resume? Well there are a lot of reasons really and many of them can be traced back to Michael Jordan.

Kobe is a victim of the legacy that Jordan left. I mean you can’t fault Kobe for wanting to emulate the player who most consider the greatest player of all time but when you step into Jordan’s shadow you can expect to be overlooked at times.

Early on in his career Kobe was seen more as a sidekick. He was more Scottie Pippen than Jordan since most people saw Shaquille O’Neal as the dominant force behind the Lakers first three titles of the new millennium.

This idea was really hammered home when the Lakers advanced to the Finals during the 2003-2004 season and Kobe took shot after bad shot on the way to a 4-1 series defeat at the hands of the Detroit Pistons.

Despite playing on a team that also featured Shaq, Karl Malone and Gary Payton; Kobe led the Lakers in shot attempts every game of the series, failing to top 40% shooting in all four of the games that they lost. Kobe’s failed attempt to claim the Alpha-dog role on a team full of All-Stars showed that he wasn’t ready to be the man yet.

But Kobe got his game together and would go on to win two more championships in the Alpha-dog role he so cherished. He would win his lone MVP though in 2008; the first year the Lakers made it back to the Finals without Shaq in the lineup but unfortunately the Lakers fell to the Boston Celtics in six games.

That loss didn’t sit very well with Kobe though. The cynics were only too happy to portray Kobe as a Jordan-wanna-be who couldn’t get it done without Shaq carrying him. Those cynics used the fact that Shaq had won a title with the Miami Heat only two years after leaving the Lakers to further illustrate that Kobe was not worthy of the “next-Jordan” hype.

And that was all the fuel Kobe needed to will his team back to the Finals the very next year. This time he would seal the deal though.

And just to show people it wasn’t a fluke he would lead the Lakers back to the Finals for a third straight year; taking home the title that year also. But through all of this Kobe is still plagued by the legacy of the man he idolizes.

Those last two championships are tainted by Jordan leftovers. Two things that have remained constant during all five of Kobe’s championships are Phil Jackson and the triangle offense.

Many would argue that Jackson would never have won those first six championships without Jordan but people believe the opposite is true concerning Kobe though. They feel he wouldn’t have won a championship without Jackson.

Sure Kobe has a lot of similar traits to Jordan and has even been able to copy many of Jordan’s mannerisms but Kobe hasn’t been as dominant over the course of his career as Jordan was.

And the numbers bear it out. Sure Kobe has more Finals appearances than Jordan but out of seven trips to the NBA Finals, Kobe has only five rings to show for it. Do you think Jordan would let his team lose on basketball’s biggest stage? No which is why Jordan is a perfect six for six in Finals appearances.

Jordan averaged over 30 points per game for seven seasons straight and shot over 50% for five of those seasons. Kobe on the other hand has only had three seasons his entire career where he average 30 points and has never had a season where he shot 50% or better.

Even scarier is that Jordan did all this scoring when the league still allowed hand-checking on defense. He is a ten-time scoring champion, a five-time MVP, a three-time steals champion and he even has a Defensive Player of the year award to his credit.

Meanwhile Kobe has only two scoring championships and one MVP on his resume. There’s still time for Kobe to win two more rings and surpass Jordan in the championship category but even with that he would still pale to Jordan in terms of greatness.

There is one more obstacle that keeps Kobe from winning MVPs on a regular basis and that is the position he plays. The MVP award over the years has mostly been won by big men.

Power forwards and centers have been the biggest recipients of the award. After that point guards then wingmen.

Since Jordan took his last MVP award home back in 1998, a power forward has won the award five times, a point guard has won it four times, a small forward has won it twice and a center and shooting guard have taken it home once each.

Big men and point guards usually dominate two or three statistical categories which is why it is usually easy to make a case for them to win. LeBron James is the only small forward who has won the award since 1998 and that is because he puts up great rebounding and assist numbers on top of being a dominant scorer.

The last small forward to win before him? That would be none other than Larry Bird who was also a great rebounder, passer and scorer.

While Kobe is a decent assist man and rebounder, his only true claim to fame is his scoring which means he has to be extremely dominating on that side of the ball in order to garner MVP consideration. Kobe currently leads the league in scoring so far this season but most people believe that Durant is the front runner for this year’s MVP.

That brings us to the last ingredient for an MVP award; wins. Most MVP winners come from teams that either led the league or at least their conference in wins. Right now the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best record in the West which may be why Durant has such an edge over Kobe in MVP voting.

So even though Kobe is one of the best players in the game today and probably one of the best to ever play the game period; his chances of winning another MVP trophy are very thin. With a new breed of stars marking their place in the league and with Kobe turning 34 over the offseason; his window of opportunity for another MVP award is closing fast.

Closing but not closed and if we’ve learned anything about Kobe by now you know to never count him out.

Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.

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