Kobe Bryant finally won his NBA MVP trophy during the 2007-08 season. But frankly he deserved it more the couple years before that.
If you watched the post Shaq-trade Lakers, Kobe carried that team. Bynum was raw and learning, Lamar Odom was inconsistent (some things never change) and Kobe dragged a team that STARTED Kwame Brown and Smush Parker to 45 wins and the playoffs. That team never should have made it that far, Kobe willed it there.
Which brings us to this great story by Kobe about the team just before the Pau Gasol trade, as reported by Michael Lee at the Washington Post.
“But like, the game before we traded for Pau, were playing Detroit and I had like 40 points towards the end of the game. This is back when Detroit had Rasheed [Wallace], Chauncey [Billups] and those guys, so we had no business being in the game. So down the stretch of the game, they put in a box and one. So I’m surrounded by these players, Detroit players, and Kwame is under the basket, all by himself. Literally, like all by himself. So I pass him the ball, he bobbled it and it goes out of bounds.
“So we go back to the timeout and I’m [upset], right? He goes, ‘I was wide open.’ ‘Yeah, I know.’ This is how I’m talking to him, like, during the game. I said, ‘You’re going to be open again, Kwame, because Rasheed is just totally ignoring you.’ He said, ‘Well, if I’m open don’t throw it to me.’ I was like, ‘Huh?’ He said, ‘Don’t throw it to me.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, well, ‘I’m nervous. If I catch it and he foul me, I won’t make the free throws.’ I said, ‘Hell no!’
“I go to Phil [Jackson], I say, ‘Hey Phil, take him out of the game.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, let him figure it out.’ So, we lose the game, I go the locker room, I’m steaming. Steaming. I’m furious. Then, finally I get a call, they said, ‘You know what, we got something that’s happening with Pau.’ I was like, ‘Alright. Cool.’…That’s what I had to deal with the whole year.”
That is just vintage Kwame, complete with the hands of stone that fumbled away so many great Kobe dishes. And vintage Jackson (“Nah, let him figure it out”). If the Lakers had not traded for Gasol, Kobe would have forced his way off the team that next summer. That or Kobe would have just gone postal in the locker room one night.
By the way, Kobe said right before all this he knew this was public, he wasn’t trying to say this behind anyone’ back. He knew what he was saying.