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|Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant have been fighting for position in the MVP race, just like their respective teams -- the Hornets and Lakers -- have been battling it out in the West.|
The hot names early in the season were Kevin Garnett (for Boston's 29-3 start), Dwight Howard (for Orlando streaking on the road) and LeBron James (for being LeBron).
Then as it dawned on everyone that the Lakers and the Hornets were for real, and might not fade as in seasons past, two more names broke through: Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.
From there, it became a question of what voters (and fans) valued most:
• Garnett's defense and leadership toward the biggest team improvement in NBA history;
• Howard's impersonation of Shaq and Superman;
• LeBron's amazing numbers in the face of team turmoil;
• Paul's mastery of the point guard position and firm control of the surprising Hornets;
• Bryant's key role in leading the Lakers while holding the unofficial title of Best Two-Way Player in the Game.
In the end, KB24 prevailed narrowly over CP3 on ESPN.com's ballots, as many expect to happen in the official voting results. Bryant's supporters made clear their vote was not a "lifetime achievement award," but at the same time, many have wondered how long he must wait to win. Since Paul is just 22 years old, and James is only 23, presumably their time will come, some would say. And Garnett took home his MVP trophy four years ago.
We will remember 2007-08 for many things, including the rebirth of the Celtics (thanks, KG) and the New Orleans renaissance (thanks, CP). And it remains to be seen what dramatic stories are in front of us in the next 10 weeks. But in any case, we won't be able to tell the tale of this past season without Kobe, from his heated accusations of last spring and summer to his success with Team USA to his surprising and gratifying star turn as the leader of a potentially great Lakers team.
For those reasons and many more, Kobe Bean Bryant is the ESPN.com choice for NBA MVP.
|ESPN.com's NBA MVP Ballot|
Los Angeles Lakers
Team record: 56-25
|Points per game: 28.4
Rebounds per game: 6.3
Assists per game: 5.4
Kobe's complete statistics
New Orleans Hornets
Team record: 55-25
|Points per game: 21.1
Assists per game: 11.6
Steals per game: 2.7
Paul's complete statistics
Team record: 64-16
|Points per game: 19.0
Rebounds per game: 9.3
Assists per game: 3.5
Garnett's complete statistics
Team record: 44-36
|Points per game: 30.0
Rebounds per game: 7.9
Assists per game: 7.2
Team record: 50-30
|Points per game: 20.9
Rebounds per game: 14.3
Blocks per game: 2.2
Five points awarded for first-place votes, four points for second place, and so on.
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