Following the 2003-04 season, the Los Angeles Lakers traded away Shaquille O’Neal, handing the keys to the franchise to young Kobe Bryant. Things were a struggle for Kobe and the Lakers as they failed to get out of the first round in three ensuing seasons, but the 2007-08 season is when everything came together.
Undoubtedly boosted by the trade for big man Pau Gasol, Bryant put forth an outstanding season averaging 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.8 steals while leading the Lakers to a Western Conference-best 57-25 record. And on May 6, 2008, Bryant was rewarded by being named 2008 NBA MVP, easily besting New Orleans point guard Chris Paul and Boston big man Kevin Garnett for the award.
While this may not have been Kobe’s best statistical season, it is the year where he seemed to put everything together on the court as the clear leader of the team. Bryant was more trusting of his teammates and the addition of Gasol opened up an entirely new dimension for Kobe and the rest of the Lakers.
What also made Kobe great was his two-way prowess and even though he took the brunt of the offensive load, he didn’t let his defense slack off either. Bryant averaged nearly two steals a game and was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team as well, something that many of today’s perimeter stars could only dream of.
Of course, at the end of the day, the thing that matters most for Kobe is winning and the Lakers did plenty of that as well, going all the way to their first NBA Finals since 2002. As we all know, that didn’t end the way Bryant or the Lakers would have liked, but they would bounce back by hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in each of the following two seasons including exacting revenge on the Boston Celtics in 2010.
While there are many who believe that Bryant should have more than one MVP award, and there is a strong argument for that, it does nothing to take away from his legacy overall. Other seasons had more unreal moments, but it was Kobe’s performance this season that truly proved that he could dominate on the court while leading his team to victory regularly.
Everyone already knew that Kobe Bryant was the best player in the NBA at this point, but on this day in 2008, he got the hardware to leave no doubt about who stood at the top of the NBA mountain.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!