SECAUCUS, N.J., Oct. 23, 2007 -- The Celticsí Kevin Garnett, who is holding down the top spot in the Race to the MVP preseason rankings, is already owner of one Maurice Podoloff Trophy. The Mavericksí Dirk Nowitzki got his last season, and the Sunsí Steve Nash is trying to join the game's all-time elite as a three-time MVP award winner.

That got me to thinking: Who is the best current player to never be voted MVP? While that trio of standouts has all been rewarded for their out-of-this-world individual exploits, the Cavaliersí LeBron James and Lakersí Kobe Bryant have not.

For all of the glad-I-have TIVO moments the duo has provided, they are still MVP-less.

While the en vogue thing in sports right now is to talk about the friendly rivalry that quarterbacks Tom Brady of the Patriots and Peyton Manning of the Colts are waging, let us not forget that LJ23 and KB24 are vying for the honor to be named the best basketball player of our generation.

Letís go to the tale of the tape.

LeBron took the next step towards superstardom last season when he led the Cavaliers, who many experts didnít think would reach the conference finals, all the way to the NBA Finals.

Kobe won three championships, although it helped that Shaquille O'Neal was roaming around in the middle for Los Angeles back then.
Advantage: Kobe

LeBron is only 22-years-old and a scary thought for the league is that he is still getting better.

Kobe, who just turned 29, is probably as good as he is going to get.
Advantage: LeBron

Kobe is fast and strong. LeBron is fast and stronger.
Advantage: LeBron

LeBron's jumper is a work in progress. Kobe's jumper leaves every defender not named Bruce Bowen with nightmares.
Advantage: Kobe

LeBron trusts his teammates and is a good team defender. Kobe would rather give up the deed to his house before he would let an offensive player score on him.
Advantage: Kobe

LeBron is a triple-double waiting to happen. He rebounds like a power forward and passes like a point guard. He doesnít force the action. He lets the game come to him.

Kobe, aka Mr. 81 points in a game, is a scoring machine. The two-time scoring champion churns out 50-point games at the same rate that tabloid television shows give updates on the custody of Britney Spearsí kids. Donít get it twisted, he boards and dishes too, itís just that scoring points is his calling card.
Advantage: Even

LeBron is the unquestioned leader in Cleveland. From his decision making in the final seconds of close games, to explaining how a play could have been run better, to exhibiting patience with his teammates, the Cavaliers take their cue from King James.

The same things I wrote about LeBron also apply to Kobe. It has been that way since Shaq packed up and went to Miami and despite the presence of a Hall of Fame coach.
Advantage: Even

Like choosing which gaming system to buy, Nintendo Wii or Playstation 3 - picking between Kobe and LeBron for who is the best player never to be voted MVP is a close call. Personally, I'll go with Bryant. For now.

Here are the preseason player rankings.

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    Race to the MVP - The Top 10
    1. Kevin Garnett, Boston
  • Last Week's Rank - 1
    Yes, it is only the preseason, but KG has been as good as advertised for the Celtics. He is averaging a double-double and anchoring the defense with his 2.5 rejections per contest.

  • 2. LeBron James, Cleveland
  • Last Week's Rank - 2
    You can go ahead and ignore the below-average numbers (13 points per game) LeBron has put up this month. After carrying the Cavaliers to The Finals almost by himself last spring, there is no doubt about what the King brings to the table.

  • 3. Steve Nash, Phoenix
  • Last Week's Rank - 3
    Talk about being spoiled. The two-time MVP winner already had more toys to play with than a millionaire's kid, and then Suns management went out and got him Grant Hill. It almost seems unfair.

  • 4. Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
  • Last Week's Rank - 4
    I don't want to hear anything else about Kobe's supporting cast. If LeBron can take the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, then Kobe, who plays on a squad with equal talent, should be capable of the same. And yeah, I know the Lakers are in the West.

  • 5. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
  • Last Week's Rank - 5
    I have e-mail buddies all over Europe and it has nothing to do with the fact that I spent five of the first six years of my life living in Germany. Nowitzki supporters appreciate the fact that I held Nowitzki down all season even during the playoffs. I expect a motivated Nowitzki to have a better season than last year's MVP-winning campaign.

  • 6. Tim Duncan, San Antonio
  • Last Week's Rank - 6
    The emergence of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker means Duncan doesn't have to do as much of the heavy lifting during the regular season as some of the other stars around the league. Still, the pursuit of a ring for his thumb means another season of 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds for TD.

  • 7. Yao Ming, Houston
  • Last Week's Rank - 7
    Despite their past postseason failures, the Rockets are my choice to make it to the Western Conference Finals this season and the biggest reason (literally) will be the play of Yao. Houston will score more in head coach Rick Adelman's system and don't be surprised to see a spike in Yao's assist numbers.

  • 8. Carmelo Anthony, Denver
  • Last Week's Rank - 8
    Anthony deserves props for how well he shared the rock with Allen Iverson last season. The duo showed good chemistry on the floor and Melo showed that all he cares about is wins and losses. As he showed this summer while playing for Team USA, offensively, there is nothing he can't do.

  • 9. Gilbert Arenas, Washington
  • Last Week's Rank - 9
    Last season was a career year for Arenas. He finished third in the league in scoring (28.4 points), while handing out six assists and grabbing almost five rebounds a game. What will he do for an encore? You can bet the league will be watching.

  • 10. Chris Bosh, Toronto
  • Last Week's Rank - 10
    After playing in Toronto's first couple of preseason games, Bosh has been on the sidelines resting his sore and swollen left knee. Although that doesn't sound good for Raptors' fans, he is not expected to miss any time when the league starts playing for real.
  • On the Outside Looking In (last week's rank)
    11. Tracy McGrady, Houston - (12)
    12. Dwight Howard, Orlando - (14)
    13. Carlos Boozer, Utah - (13)
    14. Baron Davis, Golden State - (14)
    15. Chauncey Billups, Detroit - (17)
    16. Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana - (19)
    17. Luol Deng, Chicago - (20)
    18. Vince Carter, New Jersey - (23)
    19. Chris Paul, New Orleans: - (18)
    20. Deron Williams, Utah - (25)

    Running the Floor

    Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, New Jersey's Jason Kidd and Miami's Dwyane Wade aren't included in the rankings this week because they have all been dealing with health issues this preseason.
    In case you were wondering, No. 21 would have been Denver's Allen Iverson. Also, San Antonio's Tony Parker, who got one ring this summer (wedding) and gets another one on opening night (championship) - is not included because he has only appeared in one preseason game.