Kobe Bryant - Los Angeles Lakers
Most Valuable Player

Western Conference Player of the Month for January and April ... Named Player of the Week five times ... Led the league in scoring and recorded the eighth highest scoring average of all-time at 35.4 points per game ... Scored 50 or more points six times, including the second highest scoring performance of all-time, 81 points against Toronto on 1/22.

Our take:
Let's not even try to imagine what the Lakers would look like without Kobe Bryant. For most Lakers fans it would be unfathomable, and the purple and gold would definitely be making tee times right now instead of prepping for Phoenix.

Let's take a look at why Kobe should be considered for NBA MVP:

-- He scored 81 points in a game, second highest total ever
-- He scored 62 through three quarters against Dallas. The Mavs had 61 through the same three quarters.
-- He averaged 35.4 points per game, the eighth highest in NBA history.
-- He is one of five players in history to score more than 2800 points (2832 to be exact) in a season.
-- He had six games of 50-plus points.
-- He had 27 games of 40-plus points.

And probably the most relevant statistic

-- He averaged 9.5 points per game in the fourth quarter

That means when it counts the most, Kobe could get you and get you good. No NBA player frightens opponents more than Kobe with the ball as the clock ticks toward zero. That, and he's ninth in the league in steals per game with 1.84. Love him or hate him, he's often the most dynamic -- and dominant -- player at both ends of the floor.
-- Rob Peterson

From the media:
This award isn't supposed to just go to the best player in the League (otherwise, Michael Jordan would own more than five), but there's no way we could deny Kobe this year. Not only will his 35 points a night win him the scoring crown, but Bryant also has the Lakers headed to the playoffs, where they could conceivably win a round or two due to No. 8 and No. 8 alone ... Long story short, no one else in the L is doing what Kobe has been doing all year. There was the 81-point game, the 62-point game, that ridiculous string of 45-point games, and as soon as you think he might be slumping, he'll give you 50 just to be safe. Not to mention, the guy rebounds, dishes and plays in-your-face defense.
-- Dime Magazine

I never thought Id say this either, but hes starting to make the other players around him better. Usually that requires the passing of the basketball, which he has been doing more of, especially as teammates such as Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown and Luke Walton have become more comfortable and emerged as offensive options. Yet his improved decision-making like not trying to break down three guys off the dribble, for instance keeps defenses on edge because theyre not sure if hes going to be the old Kobe and jack up shots, or the new one who will get the ball to the more sensible option at the right time.
-- NBC Sports

A fan's take:
Kobe Bryant is the best basketball player in the world right now. He is a constant threat both offensively and defensively. He leads the league in scoring and rarely has an off night. The number of minutes that he has to play each game is unreal. Injury and pain means nothing to him. But most importantly, his team would not have gotten far without him. Kobe is what keeps the Lakers above .500. Kobe's work ethic inspires the players around him to step up their game. He has proven that he can make the people around him better. The Lakers may not be one of the top five teams in the playoffs, but they are in it. That says a lot for the second youngest team in the NBA. Kobe is not only the most valuable player to the Lakers, but he is also the most valuable player to the NBA right now. People will buy a basketball ticket just to see Kobe play. No matter what team the Lakers play on the road, you can always find #8 Lakers jerseys in the stands. Moreover, the 81 point game was monumental for modern-day NBA. How many players gave the NBA the opportunity to sell special commemorative shirts documenting an astounding performance in a single game this season? Only one ... Kobe Bryant, the man who should without a doubt, be awarded 2005-06 NBA Most Valuable Player.
-- Shanae - Los Angeles, Cal.

The Numbers:
80 41.0 35.4 5.3 4.5 1.84 .38 .450 .347 .850

Most Valuable Player - The Candidates:
Chauncey Billups - Detroit Pistons
Elton Brand - Los Angeles Clippers
Kobe Bryant - Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers
Steve Nash - Phoenix Suns
Dirk Nowitzki - Dallas Mavericks
Dwyane Wade - Miami Heat

Others worth consideration: Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Shawn Marion

Most Improved Player
Rookie of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Sixth Man Award
Coach of the Year

Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images