NBA Conundrum: Hating LeBron And Loving Kobe?

After writing a piece on why in my estimation LeBron James was the league MVP, it wasonly natural for me to expect a huge contingent of Lakers fans to throw jabs at me telling me to get off LBJ’s scrotum, not because they felt as though I was biased towards him; but rather because I chose to write a piece detailing the Heat star’s place in the league without mentioning Kobe Bryant. I fully comprehend that not all Lakers fans are as such; but far too often they get defensive when praise is thrown at the Akron product. It seems as though they take it as personal attack to the Black Mamba that people might potentially see that the best player in the league is someone other than Bryant.


So as a result, I feel compelled to include Kobe Bryant’s name in the discussion but not for the reasons mentioned above. Instead, I’m throwing a nice little curve ball to Lakers fans: the reasons for which you hate LeBron James are the exact same reasons why you love Kobe Bryant. As Tupac once said: “this is the realest sh*t I ever wrote”.

The other day a Lakers fan (I won’t post his name and give him any type of publicity) posted on his Facebookwall that he had no respect for LeBron James because he quit on the Cavaliers in last year’s Eastern CofnerenceSemi Finals against the Celtics. I then posted a reply stating that Kobe Bryant had done the exact same thing a few years ago in Game 7 against the Phoenix Suns. His reaction? This person proceeded to block me on Facebook because I struck a nerve. Imagine what would have happened if I had mentioned Game 6 of the 2008 Finals against the Celtics.But wait there’s more.

In the summer of 2007, it seemed as though Kobe Bryant had granted interviews to practically every sportswriter out there in which he stated his desire to be traded from the Lakers because they had failed to surround him with adequate talent. Mitch Kupchak then orchestrated a coup in acquiring Pau Gasol, which more than satisfied Kobe’s thirst to have quality elite help on his team. James left Cleveland to go to another team with the hope of having the same quality elite type of help on his team in order to win a championship; and yet he was branded as a sidekick that just could not carry the load.

In 2007, Kobe emptied every bullet in his gun as he tried to shoot his Lakers past the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs as he averaged 32.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists in five games. The sad reality was that Steve Nash’s Suns were just too talented for the former Lower Merion star to take them all alone. But he was still treated with respect for trying his damned best to will his team to victory against a team that completely outmatched his. Coincidentally, the same happened to LeBron’s Cavaliers in the 2009 playoffs as he averaged an insane 35.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 7.3 assists through 14 games but was defeated by a Magic team that just seemed to have more talent than the Cavs. And yet, James was treated as a loser because his team lost to Dwight Howard’s Magic.

Aren’t the similarities intriguing? Let me put it to you this way: just because we refuse to accept the similarities between say Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson; it doesn’t mean that they are not there. Hate him or love him, Biebs (as the people in the streets call him) has captivated the world at a young age with his music and has become a global icon. Once again, some of you might not like the comparisons, but they do hold up to a certain extent (you know the apocalypse is near when Justin Bieber has a street name).

Before we go, let me make the comment all of you: “Hey, at least Kobe didn’t have the ridiculous idea for The Decision”. Fair point, but then again LeBron James was not accused of sexual assault. Let the record show that Mr. Bryant was never actually exonerated from all charges. So I ask you Lakers fans, just who exactly is it that you despise so much? The facts seem to prove that you despise a player that is individually the mirror image of the guy you root for. Just food for thought.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at Shyne@Sbgorillas.com. You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name ShyneIV.

LeBron James....



Still the league’s Most Valuable Player. The public opinion on LeBron James has changed ever since that fateful day on July 8th, 2010 when he announced to the world that he was joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Whether we care to admit it or not, it was quite a coup by Team LeBron. The Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans will never forgive him for the show that he put on prior to choosing to sign with the Miami Heat and we can all understand why; however most people I know watched The Decision and were left completely confused and yet intrigued by the idea that the two time league MVP was headed to South Beach.

The basketball message boards were flooded with comments detailing how James had essentially now become a sidekick and the Cleveland Cavaliers fans went as far as to chant the name of Scottie Pippen in reference to just that when the Heat visited the Quicken Loans arena in early December. But all the talk and criticism of anything related to LeBron seems to have made the world forget one thing: he is still the best player in the NBA.

Although the Heat have not completely figured out how to play on offense, James has slowly figured out how to subjugate his game to allow stars like Bosh and Wade to get their points within the scheme of their offense. The Heat’s new #6 goes from facilitator to scorer whenever he sees appropriate and finds ways to keep the defense off balance with his shift in aggressiveness during games.

The teammates, the uniform, the coaching staff and the fans might be different, but the player is the same. Have a look at his career averages:

PPG
RPG
APG
SPG
FG%
27.7
7.0
7.0
1.7
47.5

Now compare those to what LeBron James has done when playing in nationally televised games with the world watching:

Opponent
RESULT
PTS
FGM
REBS
ASS
STL
at Boston
L
31
10-21
4
3
1
vs. Orlando
W
15
6-13
6
7
0
vs. Utah
L
20
5-18
11
14
0
vs. Boston
W
35
9-21
10
9
3
vs. Phoenix
W
20
9-15
8
9
3
at Orlando
L
25
9-18
6
4
1
at Dallas
L
23
5-19
8
4
1
at Cleveland
W
38
15-25
5
8
1
at Utah
W
33
12-20
7
9
0
at Golden State
W
25
10-18
7
9
1
at New York
W
32
14-23
11
10
1
vs. Dallas
L
19
6-17
10
7
0
at Phoenix
W
36
13-22
6
4
3
at Los Angeles
W
27
8-14
11
10
4
TOTAL

379
131-264
110
107
19
AVERAGES

27.1
9.4-18.9
7.9
7.6
1.4

His performances in these spotlight games (record of 9-4 in those games by the way) are right on par (49.6% field goal shooting in these games) with what he has done throughout his career. But then again, basketball is not just about putting up numbers. Let’s be honest, Andrea Bargnani is accumulating stats in Toronto, but does that make him one of the best that the league has to offer? Not exactly.

As a result, we need to devise a way to measure the King’s contributions to winning basketball games. And right on cue, I present to you Win Shares. It is a formula that calculates how a player’s output directly impacts the team’s ability to get wins. If you require more in depth information on it, click here. If you do not feel like clicking on it, let me simplify it all for you: the more win shares a player gets; the more impact he has on helping his team get wins. So just who rounds up our top five in win shares so far this season?

Rank
Player
WS
1
Chris Paul
6.2
2
LeBron James
5.8
3
Pau Gasol
5.4
4
Al Horford
5.0
5
Deron Williams
4.9

At first glance the list might surprise some but after giving it some careful thought; it makes total sense. A player that brings several things to the table without taking a lot off of it will have a big impact on whether or not his team wins or loses. Let me put it this way: if you had to steal something from a vault Inside Man style, you would surround yourself with smart people that would get you in the best possible position to complete your heist without deviating from the plan.

And wouldn’t you know it, the five players listed above do a great job of maximizing their opportunities. They all average a relatively low amount of shot attempts (less than 20 per game), shoot a high percentage, score in the teens, get a fair share of either rebounds and/or assists and get you some steals and blocks.

Miami's 3 Unit.
Chris Paul leads the way with 6.2 win shares while LeBron James comes in second with 5.8. And it would be tough to argue that any other player is more valuable to their team than CP3 given the drop off of talent on the Hornets roster once you look passed Paul; whereas James still has Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to lean on.

Mind you, we might need just a bit more to measure a player’s value to his team other than just win shares. Consequently, allow me to use the now fairly commonly used player efficiency ratings (PER) by ESPN’s John Hollinger. If you wish to have a detailed description of just what PER entails, click here. If you prefer to short version, it helps measure a player’s per minute productivity on the court. Therefore, it is easier to compare J.R. “my name is Earl” Smith’s production (24.1 minutes per game) to Jason Richardson (32.0 minutes per game).  Now with that said, let’s have a look at the players leading the league in player efficiency ratings:

Rank
Player
PER
1
Chris Paul
26.4
2
LeBron James
25.7
3
Kobe Bryant
24.6
4
Dirk Nowitzki
24.5
5
Dwight Howard
24.5

Chris Paul once again gets the top spot and rightfully so if you have ever watched the Hornets play. The former Demon Deacon conducts his team’s offense masterfully as he gets the right players to put up shots and also contributes with his scoring (19.1 PPG). Also, he does an incredible job of pressuring his opponents with his league leading 2.7 steals per game. So why would I go with LeBron James right now over Chris Paul? Simply put, history.

Maurice Podoloff Trophy
Players enjoying great statistical seasons as well as team success are usually the ones rewarded with the Maurice Podoloff trophy. Let’s take a stroll through memory lane and have a look at the league MVP’s from the past two decades:

Season
MVP
Team Record of MVP
2009-10
L. James
61-21
2008-09
L. James
66-16
2007-08
K. Bryant
57-25
2006-07
D. Nowitzki
67-15
2005-06
S. Nash
54-28
2004-05
S. Nash
62-20
2003-04
K. Garnett
58-24
2002-03
T. Duncan
60-22
2001-02
T. Duncan
58-24
2000-01
A. Iverson
56-26
1999-00
S. O'Neal
67-15
1998-99*
K. Malone
37-13
1997-98
M. Jordan
62-20
1996-97
K. Malone
64-18
1995-96
M. Jordan
72-10
1994-95
D. Robinson
62-20
1993-94
H. Olajuwon
58-24
1992-93
C. Barkley
62-20
1991-92
M. Jordan
67-15
1990-91
M. Jordan
61-21
*lockout season
The thing that stands out (besides the names of current or future Hall of Fame caliber players) is the team records. Looking back at the past 20 NBA seasons, the league MVP’s teams have averaged 60 wins (excluding lock out season). Which begs the question: how do the Heat and Hornets fare in this department? If the New Orleans Hornets maintain their winning percentage for the remainder of the season; they project to win 49 games. The Heat on the other hand project to win 59.

Consequently, I can make the bold statement that LeBron James will be the three time league MVP by season’s end….today. However, I reserve the right to change my mind considering that you know, there’s still another four months worth of basketball left in the season. So LBJ gets the nod today, but don’t ask me tomorrow though….


Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at Shyne@Sbgorillas.com. You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name ShyneIV.