Kobe fans rejoice. Your favorite is now the favorite.
After having LeBron James and Kobe Bryant one-two in Race to the MVP for nearly two months, this week we've flipped the two. Last season, before Bryant won his first MVP award, we didn't move Kobe to the top spot until he faced off against the Hornets' and Chris Paul in late April.
Until then, the authors of Race to the MVP had Paul at No. 1 for most of the season's second half, and rightfully so. The Hornets had exceeded expectations by not only leading the Southwest Division, the NBA's toughest and but also challenging for the top seed in the rugged West.
But then, Kobe and the Lakers -- with the help of a Spanish import -- came on strong down the stretch and challenged the upstarts from the Crescent City for supremacy in the West. On April 11, 2008, Kobe had 28 points, 10 boards and nine assists as the Lakers topped New Orleans 107-104 en route to staking their claim to the No. 1 seed in the conference.
We bring up last season for two reasons: one, to illustrate how close we thought the race was between Paul and Bryant, and two, the speed with which Kobe overtook Paul.
But like most memories, ours have been clouded by time. We may have thought the race to be close, but when the votes were counted, it wasn't. Kobe was first on 82 of the 126 first place votes, with Paul receiving 28 first-place votes. That's a blowout.
Also, last year Kobe seemed to rocket into the No. 1 at the end. This year, Kobe's ascension into the No. 1 spot has had the feel of the tortoise vs. the hare, with Kobe calmly plotting, playing consistently excellent basketball after a slow statistical start. He subjugated his game to make his teammates better. "Isn't that what an MVP is supposed to do?" the e-mails said.
Yes, but LeBron had been making his teammates better as well as putting up incredible numbers. That's why we've had him at the top most of the season. That's why he may be No. 1 again next week.