Kobe Bryant has long been the best player in the NBA. Despite constant arguments from pundits claiming other players had surpassed him on the court he continued to prove why he was the best. But during the 2011 season he took a clear step backwards, as the beating his body has taken over the last decade finally seems to have caught up to him.
However, it was announced that Bryant was named to the first team All-NBA and first team All-Defense teams once again. While Bryant did have a good season and was one of the best players in the league, both those awards should have gone to somebody else.
Now I know that saying anything negative about Bryant is a good way to get ostracized from Los Angeles, but Bryant’s inclusion on those two teams is based on the reputation he has established over the last ten years, not his performance in the 2011 season.
Bryant did have a good season, but not one worthy of first team honors. The nod on both accounts should have gone to Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who had better numbers and better intangibles than Bryant this season. While the numbers were close, Wade’s were higher in every major category. When it came down to wins on the court the Heat had a better record than Los Angeles. And in head to head meetings the Heat won both times.
If you want to take an approach that is strictly statistical Wade has the advantage. Bryant averaged 25.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. While Wade’s numbers aren’t remarkably higher, he still put up 25.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Wade also averaged 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, both are higher than Bryant.
Now many will argue that since the numbers are so close Bryant deserves the spot. But if the purpose of the word is to determine the best, then shouldn’t the player with the best numbers receive recognition?
Other arguments will claim that Bryant provided more on the court than Wade, and that those extenuating circumstances are why Bryant deserves the award. But a closer look at their season once again favors Wade. One of the main problems for Bryant and the Lakers was closing out games. Usually an afterthought, in 2011 Bryant’s ability to close became iffy at best. On multiple occasions the Lakers relied on Bryant to close games out and more often than not he was unable to do it.
On the other hand we have Wade. Miami’s fourth quarter troubles were well documented for the first two-thirds of the season. However, once the Heat made it a priority to run their offense through Wade rather than LeBron James the team came together and began to win consistently. On multiple occasions Wade won big games for Miami late in the fourth quarter. While he certainly wasn’t the only player on his team capable of hitting big shots (James), he was the focal point of late-game offense.
Next: Squashing the LeBron James Theory
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