Of course, there is still the little matter of his mass media tirade last spring. Not since Orson Welles scared the dickens out of listeners in 1938 with his fake broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” has a populace been so terrorized as it was when Kobe Bryant announced to Laker Nation that he wanted out.
Since then, general manager Mitch Kupchak brought Fisher and Gasol to the Lakers while standing firm and keeping young Andrew Bynum in the fold. The team prospered, Bryant looked around and liked what he saw, and the rest is the kind of history Kobe is only too happy to make.
Still, it would be nice if, while he hoists the MVP trophy, he also apologizes for publicly ripping the organization and failing to have faith in the people who have turned his team into a championship contender, allowing him the opportunity to reap the highest personal honor in the game.
But that aside, he has shown growth in other ways. He used to be a loner. Now he seems to want to be around his Laker brethren, and the feeling appears to be mutual. He is showing that he was always an excellent passer — the major qualifications for that designation are a knowledge of the game and a willingness to give up the rock — but is only now letting the world see it.
And, of course, he can score. He can take over a game whenever he wants to. Nobody can stop him. Many have tried. Many have cried.
He has officially become Jordanesque. In Jordan’s heyday, well after his early years as a spectacular novelty, he could score in deluges, but he also grasped the game and his teammates’ place in it. Now Kobe — at 29, after 12 NBA seasons, after 10 All-Star appearances, after three championship rings — finally gets it, too.
He now has a chance to become the first MVP to also win a championship in the same season since Tim Duncan in 2003, and the first Laker to do so since Shaq in 2000. The Most Valuable Player is an individual award, but it’s given with team in mind. If you average 40 points a game but you exist on an island, you have no shot. If you’re helping your team win — if you’re truly the most valuable at that — then you’re eligible.
Kobe Bryant may have been the best player in the game for a while. Now he’s the best team player. And he has the individual award to prove it.
PBT: The Pacers defeated the Heat 97-93 in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1, which now shifts to Indiana.
A look at the highs and lows of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's career.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
DPS: Is it really all about the rings?
DPS: Dan Patrick talks about Phil Jackson's comments about starting a team with Bill Russell now because of his championships and brings up the great question of, if it's all about championships, how come we don't talk about guys like Sam Jones, Frank Ramsey or John Havlicek who all have multiple rings?
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