The NBA’s Most Valuable Player

by April 10, 2008
17

In these, my golden years, I enjoy the chance to peek in occasionally on the world of the young people. Like yourselves. That includes dabbling in such magical digital realms as MyBook and FaceSpace where, as a fellow 30-something pointed out the other day, “We use shots of our kids in our Profile photos to distract from the fact that we’re dirty old men trolling the internet.” To which I said, “Word.”

Anyway, in the space of a few hours the other day, two unrelated slamonline regulars shouted across the ether, IMing me or tagging my Facebook wall or some such silliness to ask me essentially the same question: “You’ve been quiet on this whole MVP business. What gives, old man? WHAT GIVES?” What gives is that I HAVE A F*CKING JOB, while every single one of you people appears to be unemployed. Where do you find the time for this? Do our advertisers know they’re pitching products to a virtual room full of welfare recipients? This business model makes the housing market look sturdy. We are screwed.

But—and this is good news for everyone, really—that’s only part of the answer. I don’t know the other part, so I’m going to avoid answering it by changing the subject and talking about the MVP race now.

First, let me start by making it more complicated than it needs to be. ‘Cause I’m good like that. Let’s say there’s, like, 20 guys whose names, if you’re really being thorough, you have to throw into the hat. I’m not talking about MVP “candidates” in the literal sense, just guys whose numbers and team records at least get them a brief mention in the conversation. We’ll include them now because their presence will help us cancel out some of their teammates. And that’ll be fun.

I’m talking about guys like Stephen Jackson and Manu Ginobili and Josh Howard and David West. They’re all really, really good players having great years, but I trust we can all agree they’re not actual MVP candidates. We can? Good.

(If I may, please allow me to address the players directly. It’s a cheap narrative tool that will help me write this more quickly. Thanks.)

So, peace, Jax, and take Monta Ellis and, yes, Baron Davis with you. Three great players with pretty similar numbers on a fun team that may not make the playoffs. And laterz, Josh Howard. Please don’t let the door hit Dirk on the way out. Despite typically great numbers, he’s also not a candidate, for reasons we all know and need not discuss further.

David West, hang around, preferably off stage. We don’t want to confuse anyone, but we might need you to say a few words on someone else’s behalf later on. Thanks, big guy.

Manu, seriously, you’re starting to look like a senator with that combover. Just shave it and move on, dude! Anyway, you can leave, and you should probably ask Tony and Tim if they need a ride. Can anyone even pretend to know which of you is the most important player on that team? I know, it’s Tim, of course, but in any given game (or half, or quarter), Tony or Manu are unstoppable, and I just get so confused. You guys may very well end up with the best record in the West, and you might even finally figure out how to repeat. But you’re just so damn complementary, and that doesn’t help us at all.

Melo. AI. Has a dream matchup ever been more off the radar? Maybe Deron and ‘Los, actually — and at least those guys know they’ll be playing in two weeks. In both cases, though, y’all are a little too comparable in your contributions to team. This is an individual award. You remember those, Allen. Take care fellas.

What’ve we got, nine left? Alright, that’s doable. We’ll start with you, Steve. Your numbers are generally better than they were in ’04-05, when you won the first of your two MVP awards: You’re scoring more and shooting a higher percentage from the field, the arc and the line. Logically, you should be a lock, and so, of course, you’re not. Also, there’d be even further accusations about David Duke running the voting process if we picked you over Amare — 25 and 9 on 59 percent shooting is hard to ignore. Still, is he only good because he’s playing with you? Or is it the other way around. Again, these things are confusing. It’s probably better if you just leave.

Now. Who’s next…

Ah. Dwight. Great numbers. Ridiculous numbers. Especially-scary-because-they’ll- only-get-better numbers. The free-throw shooting and turnover numbers are a little off-putting, though. Also, your team has not even a sliver of a fraction of a chance of winning the NBA championship this season. So you can’t win this award. Come back in, what, two years? Three? We’ll be here.

Tracy. Dog. That whole “F*ck you if you think I’ma let this team tank with Yao gone” run was very, very impressive. The fact that your statistically second-best player is currently Rafer F*cking Alston, and yet you’re still in the mix for homecourt in the West? Inconceivable. Yet your numbers, while very good, are not great. Certainly not LBJ and KB great. Plus, we know your history. So.

So.

Kevin Garnett. Who thought we’d see you so soon? Back in October, I picked your team to win the NBA Championship. I still think you’ll do it. Good for you. You deserve it, you big silly kid. You’re good at basketball! Plus, you have a nice smile. I like you a lot. I don’t think you’re the MVP though.

My “friend” Myles and I had a brief, nasty IM chat about this the other day. Myles was coked out as usual (I don’t have to tell you, do I Kevin? Minny’s not a big town…) and he was all like “You can’t hold it against KG that he’s got good teammates,” and I’m all like “Dude, I totally can.” And Kevin, here’s what I’m saying: Dude, I totally can. Do you like Jeopardy!? No? F*ck you anyway, let’s play:

Answer: Points per game; blocks per game; steals per game; assists per game; free-throw percentage; field-goal percentage; minutes per game.

Question: What is, “Statistical categories in which Kevin Garnett does not lead the 2007-08 Boston Celtics?”

That’s right! Told you this game was fun. Listen, I know, it’s not all about the statistics. I know your leadership skills and intensity and sh*t like that “don’t show up in a box score,” though I can’t figure out why Bill James or one of those other nerds hasn’t figured out how to make that happen yet. Like I said, you’re really good. But I’m honestly, honestly not sure if you’re more “valuable” to your team than Paul Pierce is. Does that make me crazy? Kevin?

Dude totally just walked out. D*ck.

Hey there, Chris Paul. You know what I like to do? I like to remind people that once, a couple years ago, during a nationally televised ACC game, you punched Julius Hodge in the nuts. I may enjoy this too much, actually, and I’m going to try and stop now. I hope we’re cool. Anyway, you’re having quite the season. Maybe more surprisingly, your team is having quite the season. Great numbers, lots of wins. Good for you.

Seriously, though, this is about Kobe and LeBron. When people debate the best player alive, they don’t mention Chris Paul’s name. They just don’t. They talk about you, Kobe Bryant, whose team has a lot more wins than yours, LeBron James. In fairness, KB, you’ve had more help, and better luck with your health… and in fairness, Bron, you play in a really sh*tty conference. I figure that can work both ways — it’s tougher to win games in the West, no question, but there’s also more motivation to win when you know 50 wins might leave you in the Lottery, while 43 wins should get you homecourt in the East. But whatever.

Both of your numbers are awfully good, but Bron’s are better, pretty much across the board. That 30-8-7 is the best since that Michael Jackson or Jefferson or whatever the heck back in the late ’80s — though not, as my friend Russ points out, quite as good. But really, really f*cking good nonetheless.

Beyond that, there’s the intangible, unaswerable question of who’s most important to their team. It’s hard for me to imagine a universe in which that’s not LeBron. You’ve missed, what, seven or eight games this year? And the Cavs are, what, 0-7 or 0-8 in those games? I’m just saying.

So, for me, it’s LeBron over Kobe. Surprised?

I meant for second place. Surprised?

Chris Paul is the Most Valuable Player in the NBA this season, and not only because Tyson Chandler compares CP3 to his girlfriend. Given the groupie culture and rate of cheating in the NBA, I would be reluctant to take this as a compliment if I were Chris. But that’s not my problem.

Chris Paul is averaging 21.3 points, a League-best 11.4 assists and League-best 2.7 steals per game. Motherf*cker’s efficient, too: Second only to Nash in assists per 48 minutes, and he kills Steve in assist-to-turnover ratio. He also shoots a better percentage from the floor —a Nash-esque 49 percent — than his 20-and-9-averaging partner David West. He is dope, and he has been clearly the best player on what is, as I type this, the best team in the best conference in the League. He has my non-existent vote.

That’s all. Please don’t post any comments below. I’d like this to be just about me. Thanks.