"However, even though the game's story is not particularly interesting I do have an interesting story from the game, namely my conversation with a veteran NBA scout who offered some very candid and insightful comments on a wide variety of subjects. He stated without equivocation that Bryant is the best player in the NBA, declaring, "LeBron's interested in his brand. Kobe is interested in championships." The scout added, with admiration, that Bryant is a killer on the court, in the mold of "#23 (Michael Jordan) and that guy sitting near the baseline wearing a suit (Pacers President Larry Bird)."
The most fascinating part of our conversation concerned what it means to be an MVP level player and some of the fallacies concerning how "stat gurus" evaluate the NBA game. When I told the scout the way that Coach Jackson answered my question about what it means to be an MVP level player (see Courtside Notes) he agreed completely, noting that there is a big difference between being a team's main option and being a team's second option: an MVP level player "performs under duress" (Jackson's phrase) in terms of overcoming nagging injuries, fighting through fatigue, dealing with physical play/double teaming defenses and still finding a way to lead his team to victories; a second option player is able to perform at a high level at times--particularly when the defense is tilted toward the first option--but he cannot sustain quite the same level as the first option can nor can the second option overcome quite as much "duress."
I mentioned that many "stat gurus" contend that Gasol is actually more valuable than Bryant and the scout immediately retorted, "That just shows their stupidity. You watch this game and it is very clear who the best player is, the way they defer to him--and they should." I noted that the "stat gurus" simply look at Gasol's high field goal percentage and his rebounding numbers without examining why he is producing those statistics: Gasol's field goal percentage and offensive rebounding increased after he joined the Lakers largely because of the extra defensive attention that Bryant draws. Few All-Star players get to play one on one very often, but Gasol has that luxury whenever he and Bryant are on the court at the same time, particularly if they are involved in a screen/roll action together."
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