The Best Player is Finally Recognized as the "Most Valuable"The worst kept secret in the NBA was officially confirmed at about 5:45 p.m. when the NBA held a press conference in order to announce that Kobe Bryant has won the 2007-08 regular season MVP award. Bryant received 82 first place votes and 1100 total points, easily outdistancing second place finisher Chris Paul, who received 28 first place votes and 894 total points. Kevin Garnett (15; 670) and LeBron James (1; 438) rounded out the top four.
For several years, Bryant has been widely acknowledged to be the best player in the NBA, the player who is most feared both taking the last shot and defending an opposing player who is taking the last shot. However, despite holding that unofficial title, Bryant had never even finished second in MVP voting and by winning his first MVP in his 12th season he tied Karl Malone's record for most years played before winning an MVP.
Before Bryant was presented with the trophy, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson spoke briefly, saying, "I don't know anybody who has ever deserved this trophy more. I've never known anybody who has worked as hard to accomplish what he has accomplished in this game as Kobe has."
Although in years past Bryant understandably downplayed his disappointment at not winning the MVP, he was clearly very happy and excited that his hard work and excellence have finally received official recognition; Bryant literally could not wipe the smile off of his face and he later admitted, "I'm nervous and I don't usually get nervous."
After receiving the trophy, Bryant said, "I really don't what to say, to be honest with you. I think that this is really such a blessing and such an honor to be here and receive this award. I can go through a list of thank yous, starting with my family; they enable me to be the best I can be by training every day and they give up so much--sacrifice so much--for me to be able to train and prepare and focus on games. I am just very honored and very blessed for them to be here, see my kids sitting there in the front row and my agent Rob Pelinka and my friends from the league and my teammates and the man who brought me into the league, Jerry West. This is a beautiful day, this is a very special day for me. I am just deeply, deeply honored to be here."
He concluded, "I couldn't have won this award without my teammates...These are my guys, these are my brothers. We won MVP." Later, in response to a question from a reporter, Bryant reiterated this point, calling the MVP a team award, adding "I couldn't have done it without them."
There is a false perception among the general public that Bryant is not a likable person and/or is not well liked around the league. Frankly, I've never understood why that should have any bearing on the MVP voting, but at this press conference the public got a glimpse of a side of Bryant that they have probably never seen before: his teammate Luke Walton took a microphone and jokingly asked Bryant if he planned to get anything for his teammates since this is a "team award." Bryant laughed, quipped about "spoiled athletes" and jokingly asked, "What ever happened to the pat on the back, the 'atta boy?'" before saying that of course he plans to get something for his teammates. A Spanish reporter asked Bryant a question in Spanish and requested that he answer in that language. Bryant seemed to be doing OK for a minute but then threw in some English words and said with a smile, "That's Spanglish. I should have asked Pau (Gasol) for a cheat sheet."
Longtime Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter took a microphone and said that there is something he has always wanted to ask Kobe: "How do you like the Triangle (Offense)?"
Of course, Bryant--like Michael Jordan before him--has sometimes chafed at running the Triangle but he also understands that overall the Triangle Offense has been very good for him. Bryant replied, "I love it, Tex." Bryant then recalled how he met with Winter right after Jackson first became the Lakers coach and he said of Jackson and Winter, "They are responsible for me seeing the game differently than most of my peers do. That is why I call him (Tex Winter) 'Master Yoda.'"
posted by David Friedman @ 6:46 PM