Finally, Bryant Rises to the Top
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Jan. 15, 2008 -- Not that Iím into politics, but Iím sure that after this column, if I announced my intention to run for mayor of Los Angeles I would receive enough support to be considered a serious candidate.

After getting roasted on forums around the world and receiving thousands of e-mails pleading, and in some cases begging, for the Lakersí Kobe Bryant to be ranked first in the Race to the MVP, the day has finally arrived.

Bryant, aka 81, aka Black Mamba, aka KB24 is the one.

And it is well deserved.

Line of the Week
Marcus Camby, Nuggets
Loss vs. Bobcats, January 14
20 points, 23 rebounds, six assists, six blocked shots
For many years, Bryant has been considered the most complete player in the game. He is a fierce competitor, lock-you-down defender, and the leagueís greatest offensive weapon. His play on the court made people do the unthinkable: compare him to Michael Jordan.

Still, despite all of his accolades and praise, he has fallen short during his Hall of Fame career of receiving the Associationís highest individual honor. Could this be the year this changes? Yes.

Bryant means more to his team than any other superstar means to his. The only player who even comes close is Clevelandís LeBron James.

Everything about the Lakers revolves around Bryant. This season, the supporting cast in Los Angeles has gotten better so Bryant has decided to scale back his scoring a tad for the better of the team.

Instead of trying to score 40 every night, he trusts his teammates more, concentrating on the little things such as talking on defense and making sure that the players are in the right position on offense.

As a result, the Lakers have won nine out of 10 and with a record of 26-11, they are tied with the Suns for the top mark in Pacific Division.

Oh, and by the way, as the Sonics found out the hard way on Monday, he is still capable of erupting for almost 50 points if need be.

  • E-mail your feedback or talk about it in the R2MVP open forum.

    Biggest drop of the week: Paul Pierce, Celtics; Baron Davis, Warriors; Chauncey Billups, Pistons; Jason Kidd, Nets (-2).
    Biggest rise of the week: Chris Bosh, Raptors (+3).

    Race to the MVP - The Top 10
    1. Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers | Team Record: 26-11
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    27.6 5.8 5.0 2.1 0.5 .443 .854
  • Last Week's Rank - 2
    The Lakers, who have won seven games in a row, are our top-ranked team in the league. One of the ways to gauge an MVP is his ability to come up clutch. En route to notching his 87th career 40-point game, Bryant hit the game-winning shot against the Sonics and for one night eased the hurt felt by Lakers fans following the injury news about Andrew Bynum.

  • 2. Kevin Garnett, Boston | Team Record: 30-6
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    19.2 9.9 3.6 1.5 1.5 .551 .792
  • Last Week's Rank - 1
    Although he wouldn't get my vote, if the season ended today I believe Garnett would be named MVP in a landslide. Even with the three losses in the last four games, the Celtics are still 30-6. KG is getting criticized for averaging a double-double and being the heart and soul on the team with the best record in the league.

  • 3. Chris Paul, New Orleans | Team Record: 25-12
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    21.7 3.8 10.4 2.8 0.0 .488 .881
  • Last Week's Rank - 3
    I can't believe with the way that he has performed this season, coupled by the fact that the game is being held in New Orleans, that CP3 is not in the top six in voting among Western Conference guards for the NBA All-Star Game.

  • 4. Dwight Howard, Orlando | Team Record: 23-16
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    22.5 15.2 1.5 1.0 2.6 .600 .601
  • Last Week's Rank - 4
    What is going on in Orlando? The Magic have lost five of their past six and some of the buzz about the Beast of the East has cooled. Even though he was named Player of the Month in November and December, Howard's MVP campaign is losing steam.

  • 5. Steve Nash, Phoenix | Team Record: 26-11
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    17.2 3.6 11.9 0.7 0.1 .519 .896
  • Last Week's Rank - 6
    Nash missed Thursday's game because of the flu. How did he make up for being out of the lineup to his teammates? By scoring 35 points and giving out seven assists two nights later against the Bucks.

  • 6. LeBron James, Cleveland | Team Record: 19-18
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    29.1 7.7 7.5 2.0 1.1 .480 .706
  • Last Week's Rank - 7
    If the Cavaliers weren't struggling to stay above .500, the R2MVP would feature one player - LBJ. He is enjoying his finest season in the Association and his game last week against the Bobcats (31 points, career-high 19 rebounds, eight assists, four steals, three blocks) is as good as it gets.

  • 7. Paul Pierce, Boston | Team Record: 30-6
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    20.9 5.7 4.9 1.5 0.4 .443 .825
  • Last Week's Rank - 5
    You would think a team featuring a roster of Pierce, KG and Ray Allen would have no problem scoring points, but the C's struggled down the stretch of their loss to the Wizards on Monday, getting outscored 25-6 to end the game. Despite being Boston's leading scorer this season, Pierce has only been the high man once in the past eight games.

  • 8. Allen Iverson, Denver | Team Record: 22-14
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    26.8 2.9 7.0 2.1 0.2 .464 .825
  • Last Week's Rank - 8
    According to our good friends over at STATS, A.I. and Anthony Carter became the third pair of current teammates to have 20 points and 10 assists in the same game when they posted 21 and 13 and 21 and 11, respectively, in a win over the Magic on Friday.

  • 9. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas | Team Record: 26-12
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    22.2 8.4 3.7 0.7 0.9 .480 .862
  • Last Week's Rank - 10
    So much for that early-season experiment the Mavericks were performing of having Nowitzki defer to Josh Howard. This is the reigning MVP's team and Dallas has been winning more since he started increasing his point production.

  • 10. Brandon Roy, Portland | Team Record: 23-14
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
    19.0 4.6 5.7 0.9 0.2 .454 .781
  • Last Week's Rank - 11
    Sure it took two overtimes and it came in a loss, but the 33-point, 10-rebound, five-assist performance that Roy put up against the Raptors on Sunday was his signature moment of the season. He also forced the second overtime by draining a trey with two seconds on the clock.
  • On the Outside Looking In (averages - last week's rank)
    11. Baron Davis (GSW): 22.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 8.2 APG - (9)
    12. Caron Butler (WAS): 21.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4.3 APG - (12)
    13. Tim Duncan (SAS): 18.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.1 APG - (13)
    14. Carlos Boozer (UTA): 23.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.9 APG - (15)
    15. Carmelo Anthony (DEN): 25.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.4 APG - (16)
    16. Chauncey Billups (DET): 17.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 7.3 APG - (14)
    17. Chris Bosh (TOR): 21.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.2 APG - (20)
    18. Amare Stoudemire (PHX): 22.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.2 APG - (18)
    19. Jason Kidd (NJN): 11.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG. 10.6 APG - (17)
    20. Yao Ming (HOU): 22.1 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.4 APG - (NR)
  • Dropped out: Stephen Jackson (Warriors).

  • Running the Floor

    Garnett
    Although he lost his lofty position in the Race to the MVP, Celtics' forward Kevin Garnett still finds himself on top of one ranking. KG is in first place on the NBA's most popular jersey list. Being that he was just traded to Boston this offseason, his ranking makes sense because fans want to have the newest hot thing. The same can be said for Seattle rookie Kevin Durant who checks in at No. 11. Now if only someone can explain how the heck New York's Stephon Marbury is ranked No. 9?