As a Los Angeles sports fan, I’m inclined to like Kobe Bryant. Putting his past aside, he’s really an incredible athlete and probably the best player in the NBA.

But with my never-ending infatuation with No. 24 comes my realization that this year, unlike last season, Kobe might not be the Most Valuable Player.

In fact, I don’t think he should even be in the running for the MVP Award, considering how stacked the entire Lakers team is.

To go along with big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers have players like Shannon Brown, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic and Jordan Farmar.

All off the bench.

I forgot to mention that forward Trevor Ariza, who isn’t exactly a prolific scorer, can defend almost anybody in the league

Now, I’m not saying Kobe hasn’t been good this season — that would be a complete lie. His 27.1 points per game stand out with Dwyane Wade’s and LeBron James’, and he’s taking better care of the ball than ever before, dropping his turnover average by .5 from last season.

As for James, his sidekick Zydrunas Ilgauskas (12.9 points, 7.5 rebounds per game) isn’t exactly an ideal big man, and although Mo Williams averages a solid 17.9 points per game, they don’t exactly stack up to what Kobe has around him.

Game after game, James has shown that he can do it all by himself. Whether it be hitting a game-winning shot, knocking it down from a distance or doing one of his now-patented slam dunks, he displays the true essence of what it means to be an MVP.

Oh, and the super-stacked Lakers don’t match up record-wise with LeBron’s Cavaliers, either.

Obviously, James and the Cavaliers don’t have to face as tough opponents as often as the Lakers do. I mean, aside from the Celtics and Magic, the Cavs don’t face much competition at all. But don’t take that away from LeBron.

Wade, who is in a similar albeit a bit worse situation as James, hasn’t performed well enough to push the Heat into serious contention for a spot in the NBA Finals.

Even while leading the league in scoring with 29.9 points per game and making game-winners like he did against the Chicago Bulls on March 10, it seems like Wade hasn’t continually displayed the heroics necessary to get the Heat to where they want to be.

Maybe that’s why Miami is only sitting in fifth place in the weak Eastern Conference. Simply put, if Wade wants his name with Kobe and LeBron, he needs to push other players on his team to perform the way they should.

But at least for now, with the Lakers and Cavs with the Western and Eastern conference’s MVPs, respectively, a possible NBA Finals matchup keeps looking better and better. Kobe might not be by himself on this one, but since Shaq left he hasn’t won a championship, and you can bet he’ll be playing as hard as he can to win it all, especially with his current supporting cast.

As for LeBron, he might not have as much around him as Kobe does, but he’ll want to show everyone that he deserves the MVP Award, and he might even have more motivation to prove that he is the best player in the NBA by winning a title without another superstar on the roster.

Unfortunately for James, he may have saved his MVP season for the wrong year. As much as he deserves the award, it will be as sour as Bryant’s was last season, when he was dubbed MVP but lost in the NBA Finals. For LeBron, he has yet to prove that he and the Cavs can top the big three in Boston or even Dwight Howard and the Magic.

So for LeBron, that championship might have to wait a season, but standing at a youthful 24-years old, it will be a treat to see him get better as the years progress.

What will be even more intriguing, however, is if he ever surpasses Kobe altogether. It might not be this year, but looking at where Kobe was at the same age, you’ve got to be excited.

Jonah is a sophomore majoring in journalism and Hebrew and Semitic studies. Who is this year’s NBA Most Valuable Player? Does LeBron really deserve it more than Kobe? Send your thoughts to [email protected]