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Laker wins without Kobe do not make LeBron MVP

Feb 11, 2010, 12:03 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for nba_james1_250.jpgKobe Bryant has now missed three straight games due to his sprained ankle. Each game was decisive Lakers victory, complete with ball and player movement that have been all too rare this season. The Lakers have looked as good as they have all season.

For some, that is proof that LeBron James should be MVP.

The theory is that if a team is without its star player, and still plays well, then said player must not be very important to his team. So, if the Lakers are 3-0 without Kobe, is he that valuable to his team?

That’s some horrifically flawed logic. Teams often over perform without their stars (Bill Simmons called it the “Ewing Theory” for when the Knicks played over their head without the great center). Last year’s Rockets team played the eventual-champion Lakers tough without center Yao Ming. Where the Rockets a better team without the best center on the planet (when healthy)? No. Not even close. No, but they were scrappy and had some matchups that worked for them.

This happens all the time in sport, it proves nothing about the worth of the player. You can make a good case for LeBron as MVP without denigrating Kobe. Bryant’s fans could do the same thing. But for some reason this debate always devolves into insults and why one isn’t as good as the other.

Two different players. Two different games. It is possible to appreciate them both, to exalt them both. And to say one should be MVP without that being a slight to the other.

  1. Craig - Feb 11, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    Lebron is the best player on the best team, which is pretty much the criteria for MVP. He has the stats and has the wins and has no other all stars on his team. I think the MVP case is closed.

  2. Anonymous - Feb 11, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    Kobe is all about the ring, did LeBron ever find Kobes 4 cahmpionship rings, maybe Kobe will let him keep one.

  3. Brent - Feb 11, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    Man, the Bulls sure did overachieve back during Jordan Retirement #1.
    I don’t understand (1) why it would be “denigrating” to Kobe to use LA’s sucess in his absence to point out why his productivity isn’t as valuable to his team as LeBron’s and (2) why pointing out a few anecdotes of overacheiving sans superstars is somehow superior logic. I could point to Steve Nash’s first MVP in 2005 and how his absence during a terrible losing streak actually built some momentum for his campaign that year.
    And there is only one MVP. This is something of a zero-sum debate. LeBron being MVP means Kobe isn’t MVP, and vice versa. Unless you call it a tie or something. You have to have some point of reference here. You can’t just say LeBron or Kobe is the MVP because he’s way better than the average player. They’re good enough that you have to raise the standard and compare them to each other, or D-Wade, or Dwight Howard, or whomever.

  4. Brent - Feb 11, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    Brent – for one we’re talking 3 games. I’m sure at any in a season most upper echelon teams can put together a 3 game winning streak of inspired ball without their leader if the right teams were there. Especially if the opposing team has never seen what it’s like to defend against the lineup. That’s not to suggest that Lebron isn’t the MVP. He was frontrunner in my book for about the last month or so. But using a couple games of inspired play as part or a lithmus test for how much the team needs you is silly. Years ago, the lakers went on a 10 game or so winning streak without Shaq during the Shaq Kobe years. It would be silly to suggest Shaq’s impact was less than previously though. Knowing your guy is coming back has a deeper impact on how a team plays short term as well.

  5. jonathan - Feb 11, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    there is no way LeBron is touching kobe westside alday

  6. brownsac - Feb 11, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    Lebron is playing at such a high level right now it wouldn’t matter if Kobe was injured or not. He’s proven he’s the best player in the world and easily MVP.
    The only thing Kobe is better at him anymore is midrange jumpshooting. If Lebron was on that Laker team they would win over 70 games easily.
    Do you not see how nicely the Lakers play together now that Kobe isn’t jacking up 30 shots a game? Kobe jacks up so many shots even when his shot is way off, and Pau and Bynum are shooting over 50 percent.
    MVP case is over to anyone that knows more than the casual fan about basketball.

  7. brownsac - Feb 11, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    Rings is the only argument Kobe fans have anymore, because Lebron is clearly the best player. Do you honestly think Lebron wouldn’t have won at least 3 rings with a prime Shaq (who by the way was the finals MVP for all of those rings); he would have likely won more since he’s much less selfish than Kobe.
    The truth is Lebron has never had close to the talent on his team that Kobe does now. Do you not remember Kobe threatening to be traded until the Lakers got Gasol. Kobe is dependent on dominant big men and could never win a ring with the talent Lebron has had to play with.
    Rings are a team achievement.

  8. Drew - Feb 11, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    I’m sorry, but how the team plays without their star player IS important criteria in determining the MVP. It’s not the only criteria, but it matters. The Lakers have not only won without him, they’ve won convincingly against good teams. Would they win a championship without Bryant? Of course not.
    But, the wins without Bryant are merely icing on the cake. The hard truth is Lebron is such a dominating player who is statistically better in virtually every category (scoring is a wash), while playing with mainly a cast of decent supporting players. Lebron has done it every year he’s been in the league, including taking an average-to-good team to the NBA finals. On top of that, Lebron makes so many players look good in his presence. I can’t say the same about Kobe.

  9. cbgalt - Feb 11, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    Rings talk; BS walks

  10. Ryan O. - Feb 11, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    6. Brownsac “MVP case is over to anyone that knows more than the casual fan about basketball.”
    I assume you’d include yourself among that “above average” group? Kobe’s averaging 22 shots/game this year in 51 games, 14 of which were without Gasol, necessitating that he take more shots. To suggest that he “jacks up 30 shots a game” is exactly something a “casual” fan would do.
    You also base your entire argument on hypotheticals: the Lakers *would* win *at least* 70 games with Lebron, Lebron *would* have won *at least* 3 rings with Shaq, Kobe *could* never win a ring with the talent Lebron has played with. Did your crystal ball tell you all that? And Lebron *hasn’t* won a ring with the talent surrounding him either, and so I don’t really see the point you’re trying to make.
    I’m not saying Lebron’s not the MVP this year; he’s playing at a level that outstrips everyone in the league this year, Kobe included. But you missed the point of Kurt’s post entirely: it shouldn’t be necessary to denigrate one player in order to appreciate the other. Even worse than missing the point, your arguments are snide, dismissive, and riddled with pseudo-logic and general nonsense.

  11. Brownsac - Feb 11, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    Actually Ryan, Kobe has shot over 30 attempts 5 times this year. On a team with as much talent as the lakers have that is ridiculous.
    Check out this awesome game
    Kobe had 37 attempts that game while shooting 37%. Two of his teammates (odom and artest were shooting over 50%; odom at 77%!
    Do you know how many times Lebron has shot over 30 attempts this year….one! One time, yet he leads the league in scoring.
    Kobe is averaging 22.4 shots this year, despite his “injuries”. HE IS LEADING THE NBA IN SHOT ATTEMPTS!While a perfectly healthy Lebron is attempting 19.9. Thats two more shots a game for a man who is supposed to be injured and who is surounded by talent.
    Kobe’s too into the individual aspect of basketball this is what I was basing my argument on. Apparently you, Ryan did not get the author’s point. His point wasn’t that you don’t have to denigrate another player to appreciate another; his point was that you can’t use the Laker’s wins in Kobe’s absense to justify Lebron’s MVP.
    How else are you supposed to compare players

  12. Brownsac - Feb 11, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    “And Lebron *hasn’t* won a ring with the talent surrounding him either, and so I don’t really see the point you’re trying to make.”
    Do you even watch basketball Ryan? Quite honestly, I don’t think it’s even worth replying to someone who would make this stupid of a comment.
    Since when has Lebron been surrounded by talent. This is the first year he has a decent team around him. Mo Williams is their second best player, think about that. Mo Williams would be about the sixth best player on the Laker’s after Kobe, Pau, Bynum, Odom, and Artest.
    Yet you don’t see the point I’m trying to make. So are you blind then, or just that dense.

  13. Jonny Mac - Feb 11, 2010 at 6:30 PM

    GOT RINGS ?…….

  14. Anonymous - Feb 11, 2010 at 6:49 PM

    How can they call James a “king” without a ring?? Kobe has how many??? 4

  15. John - Feb 11, 2010 at 7:06 PM

    LeBron being the frontrunner for MVP has nothing to do with Kobe’s absence in the past 3 Lakers’ games. It is simply because LeBron is the best player in the league, on the best team in the league.
    @ Anonymous (the 2nd post from the top): Kobe having 4 rings has nothing to do with an MVP race. By your logic, Shaq and Tim Duncan should be on top of the list with Kobe, right? Same with Derek Fisher. And Manu Ginobili. Good thinking.

  16. tiana - Feb 11, 2010 at 7:06 PM

    i believe if lebron ever got hurt then his team would still be a good team. not championship material but they r not now either. but lebron never seems to get hurt so how will u even know if his team could or couldn’t win without him. im fine with lebron having the nba mvp cuz to me its the finals mvp that counts more. how is he even an nba mvp if he can’t even get his team to win the finals. he reminds me much of like post shaq n before 2009 champion kobe. lead his team to the playoffs n such but never was rewarded mvp until 2008 which is the yr he got back to the finals. cleveland may have the best record right now but need i remind u last yr they had a win streak of 13 n 12 made it to the ecf n lost also they ended up with the best record. u can play good in the regular season but it is the playoffs that matter most n lets face it lebron n his team choke in the playoffs. haha. n plus there aint no way lebron n co is gonna defeat or anyone is gonna defeat my Lakers come playoff time. cuz as this article states we can win gms without kobe which means we obviously have the best team lebron has the best record but not best team. who cares if they won us regular season cuz it dont matter. i still vote orlando to beat cleveland they r like the lakers last yr sad they lost the finals. take that losers

  17. usesmx06 - Feb 11, 2010 at 7:16 PM

    I’ve been following basketball since ’88 and let me tell you. Both Lebron and Kobe are great players. Matter of fact, they are the best the league has to offer at this moment. I still have to give the edge to kobe. For one, he has championships. A few with shaq and one without him. Kobe is the closes player I have ever seen to mimic Michael Jordan the closest. And we all know what Michael represents. The best player of all time. My personal opinion, Kobe is the MVP and is still the better player. If you know anything about basketball, it’s not just about dunks. Can you hit buzzer beaters to win games. Can you make midrange shots? Lebron is definitely getting closer and may surpase kobe in a year or two, but I still don’t see that killer instinct that both Kobe and Michael possesed. Once he get’s that ( more buzzer beaters, a championship or two) than he will have surpassed kobe. I’m a fan of both and think lebron is awesome, but he is still missing something.

  18. MAX LAYNE - Feb 11, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    All you retards out there….Lebron has it easy playing in the WEAK EAST….the CAVS record wouldn’t be nearly what it is now if they played in the wicked WEST….CAVS got hammered by a weak Orlando team last year in the playoffs as the Lakers HAMMERED them…Lebron has talent or he wouldn’t be getting 9 assists a game….Lebron is incredible but lacks the killer instinct to go all the way…AS Kobe will rip your heart out when it means something….Lebron needs to get out of Cleveland….that city is miserable…

  19. thecornerthree - Feb 11, 2010 at 7:57 PM

    Kobe/Laker fans…stop using “rings” as an argument. a) Lebron is considerably younger and has had less time in the L b) Lebron never had Shaq, Pau Gasol, or Lamar Odom on his team c) Lebron did make it to the finals one year with the the same or wore talent during Kobe’s post Shaq/Pre-Pau years. That argument just doesn’t hold up–MVP is about this season and this season alone. You can’t use previous rings to justify this season’s MVP, it’s fundamentally retarded.
    And to everyone who says Kobe is a better mid-range shooter and has a killer instinct…Over the past couple years LeBron has superior clutch stats and he also is shooting better from the field, from mid-range, and from 3pt this season.
    I am not a LeBron fan or a Kobe fan. I am a basketball fan and LeBron is unquestionably better–at least right now and this season. In career achievements, Kobe has more, but that is because he a) he is much older and has more years in the league and b) because had Shaq and Phil Jackson and Pau Gasol while LeBron had Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgasukas

  20. MAX LAYNE - Feb 11, 2010 at 8:27 PM

    to the corner three…..DUDE like i said….he is in the weak east…..he should be in the finals every year for godsakes….go to youtube and type in COMMENTS ON KOBE VOLUMES 1,2,and 3….and listen to LEBRON say 4 times along with all kinds of other B-Ball stars and coaches in the league say KOBE is the best player in the league……in the east you have 2 to three teams that dont even have a 500 record and will make the playoffs…..there are three to four teams in the west with a 500 record or better that wouldn t even make it…..only one finals appearance for Lebron…..DOnt kid Lebron is Incredible but he does have some talent on his team…..ERRRRR during the regular season he does but when it comes to crunch time….forget it Kobe hands down…..Lebron HAS TO make it to the finals this year…if not where is there to go……OUT OF CLEVELAND thats for sure…..KOBE is a far better defender even at his old age….Lebron does get some good blocks in but i would like to see lebron guard a point guard….Magic Johnson could why cant LEBRON

  21. Brownsac - Feb 11, 2010 at 9:49 PM

    For all of you saying Lebron wins because he is in the weak East, you should consider the Cavs winning record against the West. And the fact that Lebron’s stats and win percentage against the West is actually higher than against the East, believe it or not.
    And to the guy talking about Kobe having a better jumper than Lebron; sure that’s true, he has a better jumper, not from 3 point range though. And also, you fail to point out that Lebron is better than Kobe at driving, finishing, passing, rebounding, and playmaking…. LOL, pretty much everything but midrange shooting. He’s lacking something though, lol!
    As soon as Lebron wins a ring he will be considered the undisputed best, that’s the only reason some people are reluctant to say he’s the best…even though he is the best and has been for some time. Remember a ring is a team accomplishment. Robert Horry has 7 rings, he’s not better than Charles Barkley who has zero.

  22. Anonymous - Feb 12, 2010 at 1:44 AM

    Can someone tell me whats wins championships…??? DEFENSE Kobe ALL Defense

  23. mike lee - Feb 12, 2010 at 2:26 AM

    Lebron plays in the East…where teams under .500 can make the playoffs. Kobe plays in the West where teams need over .500 just to make the playoffs.
    I won’t throw the ring discussion in here cause that’s a team effort.
    But if you look at skills and experience. Kobe over LeBron.
    Kobe = more buzzer beaters.
    Kobe = plays in the West conf
    Kobe = mid range shooter
    Kobe = killer instinct.
    Sorry LeBron…you’ll have to wait a yr or two.
    For Pete’s sake…LeBron couldn’t even get past Orlando last yr.
    MVP’s take their teams to the homeland no matter what.
    Kobe’s done that….LeBron hasn’t

  24. Redp - Feb 12, 2010 at 4:01 AM

    You need ring to win SEASON MVP??? Thats what the finals mvp is for. Lebron is playing better this season than kobe, Better stats and more wins. How else could kobe win? If the lakers end up having more wins at the end of the season then you could make an arguement KB is mvp. But if the Cavs do and with LBJs numbers, You cant.
    Also NO ONE IS SAYING LBJ HAS A BETTER CAREER THAN KOBE. Which all your “NUMber of rings, finals appearace… etc…” arguement can be presented.

  25. MICHELLE - Feb 12, 2010 at 8:05 AM

    Lebron and kobe supporters should both be happy. They both have great teams. They are the two best players on the planet.. and they both won an Mvp trophy last year. In my humble opinion The season mvp means nothing, the league should do away with it. Because in June nobody cares about the regular season.

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