Bryant will win first MVP award
It took 12 seasons, but Kobe Bryant has finally been selected the NBA's most valuable player, The Times has learned.
Sources familiar with the outcome who were not authorized to speak publicly about the award until the official announcement from the league said Commissioner David Stern will be in Los Angeles next week to present the trophy to Bryant.
Bryant's season capped a massive turnaround from a tumultuous off-season in which he asked to be traded.
The Lakers went from shaky preseason forecasts to winning the top spot in the tough West at 57-25. The Lakers then swept Denver in the first round of the playoffs, with Bryant averaging 33.5 points, although the votes had been cast by then.
Bryant, 29, lost a little in the scoring column during the regular season after winning scoring titles the last two years at 35.4 and 31.6 points a game. He was second to LeBron James at 28.3 a game during the 2007-08 season, but his defense was notably better and he averaged 6.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists, numbers that were tied for the second- and fourth-best outputs of his career.
He also deferred to teammates much more than in the last few seasons and rarely forced his will on games, a trait that saddled him in the past.
Despite his explosive on-court ability, Bryant never engendered much MVP support until this season. He was third in the voting last season, fourth two seasons ago, and did not receive a vote three years ago when the Lakers failed to make the playoffs.
He was fifth when the Lakers last advanced to the NBA Finals, in 2004.
As the 2007-08 regular season wound down, Bryant spoke about the MVP award.
"MVP nowadays is not an individual award," he said last month. "You really have to make your teammates better and elevate your ballclub. For me to be nominated in that race is a tremendous honor because that's really been one of the criticisms that people have had of me, is how well do I make my teammates better. From that standpoint, I feel like I've already won."
The Lakers usually let the fortunes of their players rest on their own achievements, but the team took the added step of creating a Bryant-for-MVP campaign by sending material to NBA writers around the league.
The concept mimicked an old-style political election campaign and consisted of bumper stickers, campaign buttons, red suspenders and a letter from "campaign manager" Jerry Buss, who urged writers to vote for Bryant.
It might have lent a helping hand, although Bryant's season-long play ultimately had the final say.
Bryant is the fourth Laker to win the MVP award. Shaquille O'Neal won in 2000, Magic Johnson won three times, the last in 1990, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the MVP three times as a Laker, the last time in 1980.