One of the hottest topics as the 2008-09 NBA regular season winds down is who will take home the NBA MVP award. Kobe Bryant won it last year, and is in the running for the MVP award again this year after leading his LA Lakers to the #1 seed in the Western Conference. He faces pretty stiff competition, however, from three other superstars:
- LeBron James, Cleveland
- Dwyane Wade, Miami
- Yi Jianlian, Milwaukee (via Japan)
Just kidding on the last one. It’s early, so just trying to make sure you’re all awake.
Seriously, I don’t think anyone disputes that the battle for the NBA MVP is a three horse race between Kobe, LeBron, and D-Wade. For Kobe it would be his second MVP, while LeBron and Dwyane Wade are still in search of their first. And all three of them are worthy candidates who would be surefire selections were it not for the presence and greatness of the other two.
(Not sure who to credit the picture of LeBron, Kobe, and D-Wade to, but I found it at The Love of Sports.)
Before we delve into an analysis of the Kobe-LeBron-DWade MVP debate, let’s first take a quick jog through NBA history, with an assist from the NBA.com Encyclopedia that provides a list of the past NBA MVP winners. Here is a quick glance at the list that LeBron and Dwyane Wade are trying to join:
NBA History: List of NBA MVP Award Winners
|2007-08||Kobe Bryant||LA Lakers|
|2002-03||Tim Duncan||San Antonio|
|2001-02||Tim Duncan||San Antonio|
|1999-00||Shaquille O'Neal||LA Lakers|
|1994-95||David Robinson||San Antonio|
|1989-90||Magic Johnson||LA Lakers|
|1988-89||Magic Johnson||LA Lakers|
|1986-87||Magic Johnson||LA Lakers|
|1979-80||Kareem Abdul-Jabbar||LA Lakers|
|1976-77||Kareem Abdul-Jabbar||LA Lakers|
|1975-76||Kareem Abdul-Jabbar||LA Lakers|
|1969-70||Willis Reed||New York|
|1958-59||Bob Pettit||St. Louis|
|1955-56||Bob Pettit||St. Louis|
And to break it down even further, here is the list that Kobe is looking to join: multiple NBA MVP award winners:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6)
- Michael Jordan and Bill Russell (5)
- Wilt Chamberlain (4)
- Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Moses Malone (3)
- Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, Steve Nash, Bob Pettit (2)
So who has the advantage in this year’s race? Let’s take a closer look.
Kobe Bryant MVP Credentials
- PPG: 26.8 (3rd in NBA)
- RPG: 5.20
- APG: 4.90
- Player efficiency rating: +24.18
- Minutes per game: 36.1
- Lakers are the #1 seed in the Western Conference and no other team in the West was close.
LeBron James MVP Credentials
- PPG: 28.4 (2nd in NBA)
- RPG: 7.60
- APG: 7.20 (9th in NBA)
- Player efficiency rating: +30.88
- Minutes per game: 37.7
- Cleveland is the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and will finish the regular season with the best record in the NBA and home court advantage.
Dwyane Wade MVP Credentials
- PPG: 30.2 (1st in NBA)
- RPG: 5.00
- APG: 7.5 (8th in NBA)
- SPG: 2.19 (2nd in NBA)
- Player efficiency rating: +29.29
- Minutes per game: 38.6
- The Heat, coming off of their awful season last year and with a bunch of new, young players, have locked up the #5 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Anyone want Yi’s stats? Okay good, I didn’t think so.
The way I look at it, this year’s NBA MVP race is actually just a two-horse race. While Kobe Bryant has been outstanding, and would certainly make a very good choice in another season, I think he is a slight notch below LeBron and Wade. While Bryant may be the most killer clutch player in the league, his numbers across the board this year are less than those of James and Wade. Plus, I think if you rated the supporting casts and coaches of the Lakers, Cavs, and Heat, the Lakers would come out on top.
So that leaves us with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two guys who will hopefully be staging MVP battles like this year’s (along with Kobe) until late into the next decade. It is splitting hairs to choose between these two guys, but I’m going with LeBron.
Dwyane Wade’s stats are amazing, and he has literally carried a young Heat team with a young coach on his back. Without Wade, there is no telling how bad the Heat would be. Wait a minute, yes there is: last year; and the Heat were awful.
Still, I don’t think LeBron’s influence on his team can be overestimated. Just because he has helped to lift up and improve his supporting cast (along with steady improvement and maturity from Mike Brown) over the course of the last few years does not mean that he should not get credit for being such a leader. The difference between LeBron’s Cavs and Wade’s Heat is that the majority of the Cavs roster has had a few years to gel together. Mix in additions like Mo Williams and it creates the continuity and dominance we’ve seen this year. I believe that Wade and the Heat can develop something similar to what the Cavs have, but they are a few years away.
In the end, LeBron scores a little less but he rebounds more and is overall a more efficient player. And I think you have to give him a bonus for being the undisputed leader on the team that has proven itself to be the best over the long haul of the NBA regular season.
Like I said, you can’t go wrong picking LeBron or Dwyane Wade, but my vote would go to LeBron James.
What do you think?