There is no one right answer to this category. There are instead four players who deserve the award. James has put together a sensational year, and with a team of better talent or fewer injuries he might be the front-runner. Paul has been a leader in all ways for New Orleans, and I have no good reason for not voting him No. 1. My feeling is that Garnett and Bryant have been even more valuable.
Garnett has transformed the Celtics in all kinds of ways, and he is the closest thing there is to
The Lakers looked like a terminal franchise at the start of the year, yet Bryant had them in contention long before their breakthrough midseason trade for
Put it this way: Among these four deserving candidates, Bryant did the most to earn the award.
Bryant was great. Paul was sensational. James put up ridiculous stats. But no player was more valuable to his team -- and the NBA -- than Garnett.
The Celtics -- and their return to relevance -- are what people will remember most about this 2007-08 regular season. Boston's 65 wins (and counting) are way more than the rest of the pack -- including either Paul's Hornets or Bryant's Lakers. The Celtics' incredible 41-win improvement from last year's 24-58 team is the biggest in NBA history.
Garnett is the
Garnett might not be able to match Bryant, Paul, James or any number of other players in terms of numbers, but no one made a bigger impact in the standings than the 2004 MVP. He provided all the intangibles, sacrificing for the good of his team and bringing that fierce mien to the floor each and every night. Garnett simply refused to let the Celtics ease up all season.
In a season with several deserving MVP candidates, how does one choose? Maybe by asking which player will be most identified with the season when paging through the history book 20 years from now. For 2007-08, the player who will leap to mind is Garnett.
I have nothing bad to say about the four guys I didn't pick. Nothing. If you want to diss my choice, feel free, but don't begin your argument by saying, "How can you not pick ..." If any one of the first four names on my list wins the award, I have no problem with it.
Regarding picks three through five ...
True, no one can imagine the Cavs without James unless your imagination takes you into the D-League. But Cleveland still finished exactly where it was supposed to finish, no higher. Garnett has been splendid -- witness my nod to him as Defensive Player of the Year. But you could make a case that Pierce has been the most valuable Celtic. Stoudemire might be the most unstoppable offensive player in the league right now, and perhaps his time will come.
But the choice for me came down to Bryant or Paul, and I've never had a tougher one. I agonized. I made phone calls to coaches. I consulted my wife, who believes Paul is the most exciting player to come along in a long while, not to mention kind of cute. Paul's season is analogous to the one
But I went with Bryant. His Lakers, like Paul's Hornets, are much better than we thought they would be and he is the primary reason. He plays both ends better than anyone. At the opening tip, Bryant is the most feared player on the court. At the end of games, he's the most feared player on the court.
Bryant has been the game's best all-around player since