Near the end of last year, I was diagnosed with severe, proliferative diabetic retinopathy. By March my doctor told me I was legally blind, and up until last week my eyes were useless.
For over a month, I couldn't believe my ears.
While at least five or six teams were battling for the top spot in the Western Conference, one thing caught my attention quicker than Drew Gooden's goatee located on the back of his head.
The undying hate for Kobe Bryant.
Two seasons ago, Steve Nash claimed his second MVP award. Bryant had his best statistical season at that time, averaging over 35 points per game, outscoring the Dallas Mavericks through three quarters, and scoring 81 points on the Toronto Raptors.
Unfortunately for Bryant, the Lakers fought through injuries and pulled away with 45 wins, enough to make the playoffs.
John Stockton would be disappointed. He played a few seasons that matched, and sometimes outmatched, Nash's two MVP seasons. Still, Karl Malone snagged all the credit, while Amare Stoudemire was said to be a product of the unselfish Canadian.
Dominant scorer Kobe? Not good enough.
Last season, Bryant became everyone's favorite team player, changing his jersey number to signify the teammate in him—the new Kobe—all while leading the Lakers to another playoff berth with only 42 wins.
Teammate Kobe? Not good enough.
Many seem to forget that, years ago, Bryant was a stellar teammate. He ran the triangle offense and averaged a team-high in assists for all three dynasty seasons in Los Angeles. He also provided the team with a second option in himself, as well as clutch scoring and exceptional perimeter defense.
Kobe's efforts fell short, though, as Shaquille O'Neal helped split votes in the MVP race. O'Neal even won one despite Kobe's presence.
Championship, facilitator Kobe? Not good enough.
This season, Kobe Bryant is, yet again, the primary scoring option. He's also running the offense, finding open teammates, just as he did eight years ago.
Bryant is playing exceptional first-team perimeter defense. Instead of an average 45-win season, Kobe's Lakers are preparing for their 57th win of the season, top seed in the Western Conference.
With a tear in his finger, an injured Derek Fisher and Andrew Bynum, less than a third of a season with Pau Gasol, and no All-Star teammates to count on, Kobe Bryant has combined everything he has done in the last decade to make a run for the MVP award.
Perfect Kobe? Not good enough.
For reasons I have no explanation for, voters are standing for Chris Paul, who has David West (All-Star), Tyson Chandler (a very good center), and Peja Stojakovic (one of the best shooters in the NBA). Paul is somehow dragging in more support than ever in the second half of the season.
History tells us that if this were Bryant with these teammates in 2001, he would see few votes for MVP.
LeBron James, who has been a dominating statistical monster this season, has no chance of winning 50 games. If this were Bryant in 2006, the voters would put him in his place, at third or fourth in the race.
Boston's superstar forward Kevin Garnett won his only MVP award when he was with Minnesota, logging a 58-win season, similar to Kobe and the Lakers this year.
In the last eight or nine years, Kobe Bryant has done everything there is to do for the Los Angeles Lakers. In the past three or four years, he has been the best player in the NBA.
He may not be as complete as Michael Jordan, but he's as close as anyone can get to arguably the greatest player ever to grace the NBA.
Closest to Michael Jordan? Not good enough.
It's been quite a while since I've actually watched Kobe Bryant play, but quite frankly, I've heard enough. I couldn't help but wonder if these NBA analysts and commentators are suffering from the same disability I am at this time, because from what I've been hearing, all eyes are on Chris Paul.
This is Kobe's 12th NBA season, and zero times he has been named the most valuable player. He's never even been in second place.
It's true that Paul, LeBron, and Garnett may be most valuable to their teams.
But in a pool of 450 players, the one with the highest league value, the man all general managers would pay the most for one single season, the player that has deserved it for quite some time now, Kobe Bryant's reign as NBA most valuable player is long overdue.
Eyes on the prize, Kobe. We've both seen better days.
Want more discussion? Visit OTRBasketball.com today!