Thursday, June 18, 2009

NBA MVP 2009: Nail in the Coffin

We’ve heard everyone analyze practically everything related to Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Lebron James. We’ve analyzed the statistical comparisons to Michael Jordan. We’ve seen how these players are all basketball gods who bring excitement to the game. And almost all of us agree that these three guys are the best players in the game right now, and that Lebron James deserves to win the NBA MVP this year because of his stats, his team’s record, his defensive improvement, and his ability to close out games.

So I just want to put the icing on the cake to prevent further discussion, regardless of what happens in the last three weeks of the regular season.

Analysis #1: Kobe Bryant

Quote: “These young guys are playing checkers. I’m out there playing chess.”

If this is true, then I’d like to nominate Andre Iguodola as the best checkers players in the NBA. Iguodola is a very good player, but I have yet to see his game climb to a second dimension. He and Andre Miller are leading Philly to the playoffs without Elton Brand, which is impressive, but they stand no chance against anyone they face in the playoffs.

Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, has a very multi-dimensional approach to the game, as if he really is playing Chess. From off-season conditioning to on-the-court leadership to locker room interviews to an undeniable hunger to win, he has pawns capturing knights, bishops annihilating kings, and he has the entire western conference under checkmate.

Analysis #2: Dwyane Wade

Quote: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

If this is true, then I think the game that suits Dwyane Wade the best is the board game called Risk. Now, Dwyane Wade is strikingly heroic, with prolific offense, armed and dangerous defense, and quickness that can only be defined by a Flash. But is this deceiving? After a year of sub-par, injury-prone performance, a devastatingly good Olympic summer followed by a commendable effort in carrying a young team to the playoffs, can we expect the same next year? How RISKY is his approach to the game if he goes kamikaze at the basket every time? Yes, his offensive percentage is off the charts, especially in the paint, but if he falls an eighth time, how long will that sideline him for?

I can only come to this conclusion. If Dwyane Wade were playing Chess against Kobe, then the game would result in a stalemate, and I expect their MVP votes to be pretty darn close as well. But since Dwade’s teammates are playing Checkers and Kobe’s are playing Chess without pawns, Kobe’s team would obviously win a series against Wade’s.

Analysis #3: Lebron James

Quote: “There is a lot of pressure put on me, but I don't put a lot of pressure on myself. I feel if I play my game, it will take care of itself.”

The most impressive element of Lebron James’s game is exactly that: he doesn’t put pressure on himself. Lebron distinguishes himself from Kobe and Dwyane by playing a more complex game called Stratego. In Stratego, just as in Chess and Risk, one must use strategy to win. However, one must also dodge bombs to avoid added pressure.

Kobe’s Bombs:

1) Personal: Colorado

2) Basketball Knacks: His feud with Shaq, his disappearing act in Game 7 against the Phoenix Suns in the 2006 playoffs, his trade demands prior to the 07-08 season

3) No Shaq, No Championship

Dwyane’s Bombs:

1) Personal: An ugly divorce from his wife

2) Basketball Knacks: Career-limiting play, accused of intentionally shutting it down last season so his team gets a high draft pick

3) No Shaq, No Championship

Now, maybe Kobe and Dwyane won’t see these as pressure-adding obstacles that affect their performance. After all, they are strong-willed individuals with a winning mentality who are hard to influence when it comes to basketball. But I’m sure that sometimes, these pressures are building up in the back of their minds, like the way Tracy McGrady knows he is infamous for losing every playoff series he’s been in. If the Rockets win a series this year, Tracy McGrady will inevitably feel a knife cutting through his wounds.

But back to the lecture at hand, Lebron James hasn’t really been involved in any situations either on or off the court that have really added pressure on him. The main pressure may be Free Agency in 2010, but he has dealt with that so professionally that even if the economy were booming instead of busting, I highly doubt Lebron’s play or attitude this year would be affected. Granted, he is younger than both Kobe and Dywane, and there’s always time to falter, but he hasn’t yet. And unlike those two, he hasn’t even won a championship yet, which I think keeps him more focused.

Of the three games I’ve discussed, Chess, Risk and Stratego, it metaphorically takes the most skill to play Stratego on the basketball court. On any given night, any one of these three guys can be the best in the world, but over the course of the season, it has definitely been Lebron, the 2008-2009 NBA MVP.

Food for thought: Who is the hungriest of the three for a championship? Easy. While Dwade is playing X-Box with Sir Charles and Superman, and Lebron is dancing to Kidd ‘N Play, Kobe is looking you right in the eyes, dead serious about winning it all this year. And rightfully so, Kobe and his Lakers will take home the trophy. Period.

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