M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!
By Steve Kerr, Yahoo! Sports
January 23, 2006
More on Kobe: One-man Showtime
Sorry Chauncey Billups, Elton Brand, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki – you're no longer in the hunt for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award. Kobe Bryant locked up the award Sunday night with his stunning 81-point barrage in the Los Angeles Lakers' come-from-behind victory over Toronto.
Think about that: 81 points! That's right, eighty-one. The second most points ever scored in a game in league history, behind only Wilt Chamberlain's record of 100. It was more than Michael Jordan ever scored and more than Oscar Robertson or Kareem Abdul-Jabaar ever had. It was as many or more than the Houston Rockets have scored 12 times this season.
Bryant's performance – especially since it rallied the Lakers from a second-half, 18-point deficit – ranks as the greatest show I have ever seen in the NBA. And I was in Cleveland back in 1990 with the Cavaliers when Jordan scored his career-high of 69. (I had two points.) I never thought I'd see anyone top that. But Kobe did.
The scary thing is that we all should have seen this coming. Since Dec. 20, Kobe is averaging 43.4 points per game. In his 62-point outing against Dallas, Bryant didn't even play in the fourth quarter. How much would he have scored had the game been close? On Thursday in Sacramento, he had an off night – and still scored 51.
His point totals have been so ridiculous that his 37-point effort in Phoenix on Friday was barely noticed. For almost anyone else, 37 would be a career night. For Kobe? It's a subpar game.
The question now is how high the bar should be raised. Is 90 points a possibility? Think about how preposterous that sounds, yet Kobe has actually made it a valid question. What if the Lakers play the Suns – who scored 149 points Sunday night and still lost – and Bryant gets hot? Then what? Could he score 100?
The man is virtually unguardable. His shooting range goes way beyond the three-point line, and his ball-handling ability allows him to get to any spot on the floor. His strength and fearlessness puts him at the free-throw line time and again, and his steely nature at the end of games makes him lethal in the clutch. He is a basketball machine.
What this all means is that Bryant has to win the NBA's MVP award. Brand was the early-season favorite after his fast start, and Nash has been mentioned as a repeat winner for leading the Suns to first place in the Pacific Division. Nowitzki also deserves consideration for his play and for the success of the Mavericks. But Kobe has elevated his game to an entirely different level – one that has rarely been seen in the history of the NBA.
He is far and away the best player in the league, and he deserves to be honored. After the show he put on Sunday, can anyone argue that he's not the MVP?
Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send him a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.