|Bryant runaway winner of MVP award|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 06 May 2008 22:02|
``This is not an individual award,'' he said Tuesday. ``The special thing about this award is we have done it together.''
Finally, Luke Walton was moved to raise his hand and ask what seemed like a fair question: ``Are you going to be getting your teammates any sort of gifts?''
``That's a typical spoiled athlete nowadays,'' Bryant replied, suppressing a grin. ``Whatever happened to a handshake and a pat on the back? Whatever happened to an 'attaboy?''
Everyone laughed, of course. And why not? It's been a dream season for the Los Angeles Lakers after the chaos that existed just six months ago, when Bryant was booed on opening night and there were daily updates concerning a possible trade destination.
``It's been an emotional roller-coaster. It's been a heck of a journey,'' he said at a news conference attended by his teammates, club officials, his wife and two daughters. ``It's Hollywood. It's a movie script. The perfect ending would be for us to hold a championship trophy at the end of it.
``I can't thank these guys enough. These are my guys, these are my brothers. Let's get ready for tomorrow.''
The Lakers try to take a 2-0 lead against Utah in their Western Conference semifinal on Wednesday night. Bryant will receive the MVP trophy from commissioner David Stern before the game.
Bryant has heard the fans at Staples Center chant ``MVP, MVP'' throughout the season. And he'll certainly hear it Wednesday night.
``It'll feel more special,'' he said. ``I get goose bumps thinking about it. It's been a long ride. I've kind of been through the wars with all the people here.''
Bryant entered his 12th NBA season - all with the Lakers - as the league's two-time defending scoring champion. Despite being regarded as one of the league's best players for the past several years, he had never finished above third in the voting.
``I don't know anybody who's ever deserved this trophy more. I don't know anybody who's ever worked as hard to accomplish what he's accomplished,'' said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who had five-time MVP Michael Jordan with Chicago and was at the helm of the Lakers when Shaquille O'Neal won the award in 2000.
Bryant received 82 first-place votes and 1,100 points in the media vote. He was followed by New Orleans' Chris Paul (28 and 894), Boston's Kevin Garnett (15 and 670) and Cleveland's LeBron James (1 and 438).
``I've said since two, three years ago that Kobe Bryant is the best player in the league,'' James said before the Cavaliers faced the Celtics in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. ``He's been the best player the last five, six years. I'm glad he won it. His team had a great year.''
Bryant has said this was his best regular season and his most enjoyable - far different from his feelings last spring when, after the Lakers were eliminated by Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year, he challenged the team to upgrade its roster before demanding a trade.
Things quieted down and Bryant said all the right things during training camp, until Lakers owner Jerry Buss said he would listen to trade offers. That upset Bryant again, but he promised he would focus on basketball once the season began.
So he did, leading the Lakers to a 57-25 record - best in the rugged West. Bryant averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.84 steals while playing all 82 games despite tearing a ligament in his right pinkie in February. He put off surgery until after the Olympics.
When asked Tuesday about spending the rest of his career with the Lakers, Bryant replied: ``I would like to, absolutely.''
The knock on the 29-year-old Bryant had been that he didn't make those around him better.
``He's deserving in this particular season with all of the question marks and everything going on coming into the season and the uncertainty,'' teammate Derek Fisher said. ``Not only did he statistically have an MVP-type of season, everybody can reasonably say they were better this year because of what he did. He met the so-called criteria, elevating his teammates' games.''
Bryant, second in the NBA in scoring behind James, is the first Laker to win the MVP award since O'Neal. Other Lakers to win since the award was first presented in 1956 were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson - each three times. Abdul-Jabbar also won three with Milwaukee.
``I didn't expect this award would come to me,'' Bryant said. ``I'm surprised. I've played pretty well in other seasons (but) our team hasn't been as good. Things just fell into place.''
Bryant and O'Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive championships, from 2000-02, and a berth in the finals in 2004. But they hadn't won a playoff series since then until sweeping Denver in the first round last month.
``We've jelled, we clicked,'' Bryant said. ``We just have a great team.''
AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen contributed to this report from Boston.