How and Why Kobe Bryant Will Win the 2011 NBA MVP
Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant sits in the stands during a practice session in Barcelona October 6, 2010. The Lakers will play against Barcelona in an NBA Europe Live basketball game at Palau Sant Jordi on Thursday. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Kobe Bryant is 32 years old and about to enter his 14th NBA season.  For the first time I can remember, Kobe has come into training camp not in the best of shape and not at full health.  In the past, Kobe’s relentless worth ethic and obsession with being the best caused him to treat his summer like a private training session where he’d tinker on his game and re-invent himself each season.  Then, armed with a new array of moves and skills, Kobe would start the season on a one-man terror, almost as if he was obsessed with showing everyone else he was the best.  This year, I don’t see that.

It’s not that Kobe seems indifferent or uncaring, but Kobe seems different.  It’s not that Kobe doesn’t want to win, in my opinion he’s just as obsessed with winning as before—but he’s learned to channel his fanaticism.  In recent years, the media and fans have seen a different side of Kobe.  We’ve seen that he’s managed to find balance in his life by becoming a family man and he’s stopped being as closed off to his teammates and the media.

Kobe Bryant understands the history of the game as much as anyone else, and he knows he has already left an indelible mark on NBA history throughout the course of his career.  I hope that Kobe’s indifference at the start of this season is a sign that he’s not wasting his energy with proving that he’s the best, and I hope he’s finally committed to winning as a team.  Kobe is admittedly still hobbling from his knee surgery and other injuries, but I have no doubt he’ll be ready to play when the season starts. Ironically, if he would embrace being a team player, he could win more personal accolades and extend his career.

Kobe is still chasing history and there’s no doubt he’s still hungry.   I have a message for Kobe, the NBA, and all the Laker fans out there:  Kobe Bryant should re-invent himself one last time this season and win the 2011 NBA MVP award.

Next: What Defines an MVP

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