Saturday, May 31, 2008

Academic Break Pt. 2: The Black Athlete in the NFL

For the second part of the series, I’ll look at the NFL. This is a league that doesn’t seem to have a problem with a shortage of black athletes. In fact, this Jason Whitlock article is one of the few articles I’ve been able to find about this topic in relation to the NFL.

Jason Whitlock is a writer who frequently talks about race and is someone people either love or hate. He is especially critical of young black athletes and the hip-hop culture. However, his article does show that black athletes can even be replaced in the NFL and it also touches on some of the reasons why this might happen.

A lot of black athletes come with baggage. Some of this may be related to hip-hop, but a lot of it probably just comes from their background. The Michael Vick’s and Pac Man Jones’ of the world can’t seem to shake their past. Even though they are millionaires, a lot of players still behave with a street mentality.

This isn’t something confined to the NFL, it happens with a lot of black athletes. It’s not even confined to being poor. Larry Johnson, who is frequently criticized by Whitlock and others for his attitude, comes from a pretty well off family as his father is one of Joe Paterno’s top assistants at Penn State.

In the case of Johnson and people like him, what’s usually blamed in place of poverty is hip-hop. While the messages in mainstream hip-hop can have a negative influence on some, it’s difficult to judge any of these athletes without knowing them.

Ironically, it may the stereotypes that are prevalent in the NFL that keeps black athletes prevalent in the sport. In the NFL, blacks are perceived to be less cerebral than white players, but in a lot of cases bigger, faster and stronger.

While a lot of these stereotypes are dated and no one likes to talk about it (or race really), they clearly still have an impact. Look at the NFL’s rosters. Check the running backs, wide receivers and corner backs. They’re almost all black. Those are also positions where the perception is athleticism is more important than intelligence. Quarterback is the position most associated with thinking in the NFL. Coincidentally, it’s a mostly white position in a sport with a majority of African-American players.

Some of these stereotypes are currently being broken down in college football, where you see things like black quarterbacks, white running backs and receivers, etc. at a much higher rate than in the NFL. We’ll see if these changes have any true impact in the league.

Another thing that has prevented the black athlete in the NFL from becoming undesirable is the way the NFL is marketed to the consumers. We get to “know” very few of the players off the field. Those we do see in commercials and feature stories are usually the cleaner cut players, the Peyton Mannings, Tom Brady’s and LaDanian Tomlinsons.

Part of the reason we don’t really get to know the players is the way the game is played. Players are covered in equipment from head to toe. A few years ago, the NFL even banned players from taking off their helmet when scoring a touchdown.

We don’t see their tattoos or earrings, and during this past offseason the league considered banning long hair so we couldn’t see players’ dreadlocks either. This prevents the players from being judged on their appearance, like the NBA.

More NFL players probably get in trouble than NBA players, but which league has an image problem? Which league is full of “thugs?”

Without saying so, the NFL has been able to essentially hide most of its black athletes from the mostly white fans that fill its arenas. With the race of the players covered up, it becomes something you don’t think about as much as you would watching an NBA game.

So, interestingly enough, stereotypes and marketing tactics might be what keeps black athletes flourishing in the NFL.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Decline of the American-born Black Athlete????? (Sportsology Academic Break) Pt. 1

I am 15 days away from graduating from Drexel University. My emotions are mix of excitement and anxiety over the uncertainty of my future. That said, I’ll be finished with classes this time next week.

For my Sociology 380 Media Sociology class, I was given the assignment to come up with a piece of media and present it to class. Since I already had the blog, I figured I’d use it to come up with some food for thought. That food will be the decline of the American born-black athlete in American sports.

In four parts, I’ll look at this phenomenon from a historical standpoint and see how it’s affecting the three major sports leagues in the U.S.; the NBA, NFL, and MLB.

There are two inspirations for this work. One is this Jason Whitlock article, which I’ll discuss more in the NFL section, where he notes that many of the more successful teams in the NFL are the ones with mostly white players.

The other is one of my favorite books, Forty Million Dollar Slaves, written by the New York Times’ Bill Rhoden. If you haven’t read this book, please do so immediately.

It’s an excellent historical view of the rise and fall of the black athlete and some of the contributing factors.

The name of the book comes from a fan’s response to Larry Johnson referring to the Knicks as rebel slaves.

The book is centered on the situation of black athletes in America, which is still the same today. On one hand, many black athletes have dominated their sports. On the other hand, the success on the field hasn’t translated into success off the field. By this I mean blacks have no ownership in the sports they dominate, which puts them in a vulnerable position.

There is only one black owner in American professional sports, Bob Johnson, who is already under fire for some of his tactics with his Charlotte Bobcats, a franchise not even ten years old.

In his book, Rhoden showed how the vulnerability has often left black athletes in an exploitable position. Before, in sports like boxing, horse racing (most of the best jockey’s were black in the mid-1800s before racism excluded them from participating), cycling, etc., black’s lack of ownership put them in positions to be excluded from participation.

Now, their lack of ownership has them in a subservient position, where they are mostly confined to worker positions (playing and coaching) and have limited executive power. I’m not going to make this a book review, just go read the book.

Here’s how it relates to the situation of black athletes today. When blacks had their own leagues, like the Negro Leagues, and the best black athletes went to HBCU’s, they would protect each other.

Now, they are simply money making objects. In the MLB section, I’ll talk about how the absence of the Negro Leagues pretty much destroyed baseball in the black community (if I remember).

Back to the point, the lack of ownership and black executives in these leagues puts black athletes in a position where they can become extinct at any moment. Blacks have been replaced by Latin and now Japanese players in baseball; European and Asian players are becoming more prevalent in the NBA; white and African-born players are replacing the black American athlete in the NFL.

I use Whitlock’s article for balance, its not just the man’s fault. Black athletes were very eager to move on to the big money sports leagues in the mid-1900s. This was a very profitable relationship for black athletes and white owners at first. Now, with the baggage that comes with many black athletes and the behavior of the Pac Man Jones’ of the world, owners are starting to look elsewhere.

Maybe I’m looking into this too deeply. Maybe these leagues are becoming more diverse and are recruiting international talent to expand their fan base globally. I’ll do my best to present the facts during the next three days and give you something to think about. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

100th Post

Nuff Said

Latest NBA Conspiracy Theory!!!!

Well, Brent Barry was blatantly fouled last night at the end of their close game with the Lakers. Of course the foul wasn't called and the Spurs lost by 2 points. Peep the footage

The NBA isn't stupid, a Celtics/Lakers finals would have phenomenal ratings and boost the league's popularity heading into next year. After a thrilling playoffs, it would be the best case scenario for David Stern and Co. Now, I'm not going to accuse them of fixing the game, the Spurs definitely had their fair share of opportunities to win that game. However, the fact that a call that obvious wasn't made is going to have people speculating, especially with Tim Donaghy lingering.

I think its more indicative of a new trend in basketball in the past 4-5 years. This trend is to not call fouls during the waning seconds of a game, unless the player involved is a star. Even with a star involved, its not a guarantee that a foul will be called. I guess the logic behind that is let the players decide the game on the court.

I say that there really is no good reason to not call fouls down the stretch. Just because there's only 10 seconds left shouldn't give anyone licence to hack. I guess me and the league will agree to disagree.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Worst NBA Coach?

Who is the worst coach in the NBA? This is a debate that many people engage in with their friends all of the time. Bill Simmons often writes about how horrible Doc Rivers is as a coach. Coaches are probably criticized more than they are praised, and like referees and GM's, everyone thinks they can do a better job than the coach.

Have no fear my friends, I like doing this stuff too. Without further Ado, here is Sportsology's coach countdown (excluding the vacant jobs in Phoenix and Chicago).

Hall of Famers

1. Greg Popovich, San Antonio - He is a master at making adjustments. He's somehow kept the same group of guys together and interested in playing with each other. He also seems to find the best mix of guys to put with Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.
2. Phil Jackson, LA Lakers - I've always been somewhat critical of Jackson because of his tendency to only coach talent. However, there aren't many guys in the history of the game that can get more out of talent than Jackson.

Good Coaches (Right Now)

3. Byron Scott, NO Hornets
- He went toe-to-toe with Pop and almost won. Besides not playing Julian Wright enough against the Spurs, Scott seems to push all the right buttons. He's also loosened up the reigns and lets Chris Paul play, something many coaches below him wouldn't.
4. Flip Saunders, Pistons - Say what you want about Flip, but he hasn't prevented Detroit from making it to the conference finals each year. It would be tough for anybody to keep this moody group of guys playing their hardest every night.
5. Jerry Sloan, Jazz - Apparently he's a pain to play for, but he doesn't get enough credit. Kudos to Sloan for letting his boys run with Deron Williams, and being smart enough to shift the focus to D. Will and Boozer from Kirilenko.
6. Maurice Cheeks, 76ers - He's definitely a winner. He made the playoffs, and pushed the Pistons, with this roster.
7. Nate McMillan, Trailblazers - He had Portland playing better than anyone else during the middle of the season. Lookout for them to make a run next year.
8. Larry Brown, Bobcats - He comes, he wins, he leaves (except for in NY). Just having him on the bench pushes Charlotte's expectations to at least a playoff experience.
9. Mike D’Antoni, Knicks - You have to wonder how he will run and gun with Zack Randolph and Eddy Curry. He also doesn't play the bench/rookies enough.
10. Rick Adelman, Rockets - Nice change of pace in Houston from the Jeff Van Gundy years. Kudos for using Carl Landry and letting him develop.

Decent Coaches (Right Now)

11. Stan Van Gundy, Magic
- He will always be remembered for getting strong-armed for his job by Pat Riley.
12. Eddie Jordan, Washington - I'd love to see what he can do with a decent roster. Besides the big three, he has trash in Washington.
13. Rick Carlisle, Mavericks - It will be interesting to see how Dallas deals with Carlisle if they couldn't tolerate Avery Johnson.
14. George Karl, Nuggets - You just get the feeling Denver should be doing more than what they do every year.

Average, (or Below Average) With a Name

15. Scott Skiles, Bucks
- Another pain to play for, without the clout to keep players listening longer than a few seasons.
16. Lawrence Frank, Nets - The jury may be out on him until he leaves New Jersey and wins somewhere else.
17. Don Nelson, Golden State - He doesn't do much coaching, which is better than what nearly half of the coaches in the league do.
18. Jim O’Brien, Pacers - His teams consistently underachieve, but the Pacers will be no good until they get rid of Jermaine O'Neal's contract and attitude.
19. Mike Dunleavy, LA Clippers - Teams also consistently underachieve.
20. P.J. Carlesimo, ???? Sonics - Coaching deficiencies will be overlooked by Spreewell incident.

No Name, Possibly Below Average, Possibly Better Than Average

21. Mike Woodson, Hawks
- He has the talent, finally. Lets see him do something with it.
22. Reggie Theus, Kings - The Kings are pretty talented on the low. Watch out for them if they can stay healthy.
23. Randy Whittman, T'Wolves - Can't say I saw a T'Wolves game this year, so I really have no clue how good (or bad) he is.
24. Mark Ivaroni, Grizzlies - I've always wished him the best since he bestowed some basketball knowledge on me during a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Phoneix during the late 90s. I was riding alone, on my way to California to visit my dad, when they huge guy sits next to me. He could barely fit in the seats, but was very personable. He told me he was an assistant coach for the Cavs headed to a camp in Phoenix. He also told me that Shawn Kemp was wayyyyyyyy overweight, foreshadowing his demise. Good guy, good luck.
25. Eric Spoelstra, Heat - I have no clue who he is, but he has to be better than these guys.


26. Sam Mitchell, Toronto
- Watch a Raptors game and tell me what you think. Pay close attention to how well Jose Calderon plays and how well he meshes with his teammates versus T.J. Ford (a personal favorite). Try to come up with a good reason why Jose is riding the bench.
27. Mike Brown, Cavaliers - His signature play for LeBron: LBJ gets the ball at the top of the key and starts dribbling. The other four players stand around and watch for 10-15 seconds. Finally, the center will come attempt to set a pick, at which point LeBron will either shoot, pass or dribble some more then shoot. He's bad at calling plays and bad at rotations.
28. Doc Rivers, Celtics - After watching the first few games of the Pistons series, I have one question: Where the hell did Tony Allen come from? Remember when Doc put Tony Allen in to check Billups at the end of one of their regular season games, but Allen was basically in street clothes. He promptly came in the game and fouled Chauncey, game over. I can go on and on about Doc, but that's Bill Simmons' job.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Problems Ahead for NFL????

Yesterday the NFL Owners Unanimously voted to opt out of their CBA with the NFLPA in 2010, setting up the possibility of a lockout in 2011.

What more could they want? They own teams worth upwards of a billion dollars. Their sport is the most popular sport in America. Perhaps most perplexing, they have the most control over players' salaries. The NFL is the only league where contracts essentially mean nothing.

Whenever a player signs for "7 years and $70 million," its likely a 3 year, $25 million dollar contract, which has a ridiculous bonus going into the fourth year that will either force the team and player to renegotiate or the player will be cut.

This has the potential to be very bad. Baseball's strike helped the NFL become America's past time. NHL's lockout in 1994 prevented them from surpassing the NBA in popularity, and their lockout in 2004-05 has the sport on life support. And of course, the NBA's lockout hurt their popularity severely and was the birthplace of Pat Ewing's famous quote: "We make a lot but we spend a lot."

I know this is a slippery slope and there is a good chance the NFL will avoid a labor stoppage, but they better hope they can get it together with the players.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Quick Hits 5/16


Will anybody win on the road? I watched the Hornets/Spurs game last night until it got out of hand, frustrated that the Hornets (my new favorite team as CP3 has supplanted Steve Nash as my favorite player) couldn't close the deal. However, watching that game, I realized two things that have kept many teams from winning on the road this playoffs.

1. Teams just shoot better at home. Paying close attention to that series in particular, both teams have shot significantly better on their home courts. Guys like Bruce Bowen and Ime Udoka get the same amount of open looks in N.O. and S.A. In the Big Easy, they usually play like garbage, while they shoot like B.J. Armstrong and Craig Hodges in the "Insert Phone Company Name" Arena/Dome/Edifice. Also, just peep D. West's stats this series:

At Home: 26 pts, 11 reb, 4 ast, 53% FG
On Road: 14 pts, 8 reb, 1 ast, 38% FG

It will be interesting to see if the Lakers and Celtics, who are also David Stern's favorites to make the NBA Finals, can close the deal. Speaking of which, you have to wonder if Stern would prefer 3 seven game series or for the Lakers and Celtics to wrap things up tonight.


I still haven't really paid much attention to the diamond this year. That said, here are a few things that have surprised me, or stand out this season so far.

The Rays on fire, the Baby Backs in Arizona solidifying themselves as beasts while the Young Brewers still struggle, that Fukodome being the real thing, Chipper Jones hitting .400 + this far in the season, Lance Berkman is the man, Brandon Webb is also the man, Andruw Jones might be done, Dontrelle Willis as well, Barry Zito's definitely done, what the hell is up with the Tigers and Justin Verlander? And of course, the Upton brothers are holding down the 757 tremendously.


I might be the only person not tired of "Spygate," but we do need to get down to the bottom of it. The Patriots and NFL are pulling out all the stops to keep things from going further. But, as we often do in America, the public (fueled by the media) is tired of relevant, bad news and wants to pay attention to other things. (The Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina are recent issues that come to mind.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

OJ Mayo got paid, grass is green, the sky is blue

So O.J. Mayo got paid. The reaction, at least from ESPN, seems to be one of surprise or shock. I have no idea why anyone would be surprised by this?

Just take a look of this article, which details how O.J. Mayo recruited USC to house his basketball game for a semester and a half.

To sum it up, some dude walked into Tim Floyd's office and told him O.J. Mayo was coming to USC and would bring a couple of recruits with him. Floyd accepted the terms and the rest is history.

That dude, by the way, is Ronald Guillory who is now known as the guy who was pimping O.J. Mayo since his days as a teen phenom in West Virginia.

I agree with Pat Forde's article saying that USC should be punished for once again turning a blind-eye to one of its student athletes being slutted out, the other recent case being the Reggie Bush ordeal.

Here's where I differ. What's the difference between O.J. Mayo being pimped by USC or Guillory? I say not much.

The reason why college athletes don't get paid is because they're supposed to be amateur student athletes. In exchange for their ability to ball, they are giving an opportunity to study at the most elite universities in the country.

Meanwhile, these universities make millions of dollars per year off the "student athletes."

But with college basketball especially, are these guys really being educated. When was the last time O.J. Mayo, who was one and done before he even came to So Cal, stepped foot in a USC classroom?

Everyone in their program knew Mayo wasn't going to be educated, but they jumped on the opportunity to milk him for everything he was worth for a year, making them no different than Guillory.

But its not just USC, its Memphis, Kansas St., Kansas, UNC and almost every other big program that takes on these types of players.

The real problem is institutional. The NCAA is content with a system that encourages the exploitation of athletes through its free market system of collegiate capitalism. They only step in when a school as been exposed and instead of changing the system, they just penalize the ones who get caught.

Either they should start paying these guys or enforce tougher academic standards. I suggest giving players the option of getting paid or going to class and regulating the system from there. This is something I'll probably go into detail later.

Wrapping this up, the NBA's age limit was a good thing for the league, giving them a chance to further scrutinize athletes and giving those kids a chance to further polish their skills instead of coming into the NBA overwhelmed and underdeveloped. It also gave the NBA a chance to avoid flops, like Derrick Character, who would've been a first-round pick without the rule and now will likely go undrafted.

However, the rule also gave colleges the chance to make as much revenue as possible off of guys who clearly have no intention of earning a college degree. While they may be media trained to say "I love it here at Such-and-Such U." and "I have to talk with my family before making a decision," the reality is the O.J. Mayo's and Greg Oden's of the world are only in college because they have to be and will be gone ASAP.

That being the case, everyone is implicit in the exploitation of these athletes. The NCAA, the Universities, the Athletic Departments and Coaches, the families and even us, the fans who watch the games and buy the clothing that creates a market for this type of situation in the first place.

The one's who aren't to blame are the kids. Don't be mad at O.J. Mayo or call him names. He has every right to try to get paid. If everyone around him can make millions off of him, he should at least have the right to have a flat-screen TV in his dorm room.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New York State of Mind

Mike D’Antoni has agreed to become the new head coach of the New York Knicks. This is bigger headscratcher than the move by Phoenix to get rid of Mr. Seven Seconds or Less.

The logical move for D’Antoni wasn’t the Bulls and definitely wasn’t the Knicks. It was the Toronto Raptors. With Bosh on the inside, guys like Bargnani, Kapono, and Anthony Parker on the perimeter, Jamario Moon playing the role of “Matrix II” and Jose Calderon at point, D’Antoni would have a field day coaching this team.

He’d probably have to trade T.J. Ford, who would be pissed coming off the bench, perhaps to the Trail Blazers for James Jones and spare parts, but that wouldn’t be a big deal.

Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo should’ve fired Sam Mitchell the minute D’Antoni became available and threw all sorts of money at the jettisoned Phoenix coach. The fact that he didn’t leads me to believe that maybe they had a falling out during Colangelo’s last days in the desert. Either that or he’s not as smart as we think he is.

If not Toronto then definitely Chicago. The Bulls have a team full of run-and-gun guys, but not as discipline as the players in Toronto. Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni, Chris Duhon and Thabo Sefolosha can all knock down the three.

Luol Deng is a slasher D’Antoni should’ve coached in Phoenix anyway, and Tyrus Thomas, Drew Gooden and Joakim Noah are perfect bigs for D’Antoni’s system.

Larry Hughes might be serviceable, but will probably help them better hurt and on the sideline, which is probably going to happen.

Instead, D’Antoni took the money and ran to New York. Four of the Knicks highest paid players are completely useless in this system: Eddy Curry and Jerome James are too slow and lazy, Zach Randolph is too selfish and lazy, and Stephon Marbury is too selfish.

Donnie Walsh can’t buy all of these guys out, and Stephon Marbury is the only expiring contract out of this bunch.

Their only decent three-point threat is Quentin Richardson, who might have a worse back than Steve Nash. Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson are gunners who will probably not pass the ball enough to make things work in New York, but they are young enough to make you think their bad habits could be broken.

Renaldo Balkman, David Lee, Fred Jones, Mardy Collins and Jared Jeffries will all be decent in this system and David Lee should thrive. Randolph Morris and Wilson Chandler are two question marks.

The morale of this story is that D’Antoni is going from feast to famine with this group and is probably making this move because of greed.

Yes, Steve Kerr did essentially force him out. However, he still should have at least gave the bulls to counter New York’s offer.

Perhaps D’Antoni thought the Bulls and Knicks had the same level of talent, forgetting about how horrendous the Knicks big men are. Maybe he didn’t really pay much attention to either team, as the Suns swept both teams during the regular season this past year.

It was one thing for his era in Phoenix to end out without a championship but D’Antoni leaving Phoenix for New York is downright painful.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Greatest TV Show of All-Time - Non-Sports Rant of the Month(s)

I’ve finally finished watching The Wire, which is hands down the greatest show ever made. Yes, the series finale was broadcast on March 9, almost 2 months ago to the day.

Yet, I finished the series two days ago. What took me so long you ask? Well, I simply didn’t want it to end.

I was a late comer to The Wire. When it came out in 2002, I was deeply entrenched into a preference of only sports and music related television. I would turn to HBO occasionally, but only to watch a movie or Real Sports.

I came to college in 2003 and didn’t have HBO available in the dorms. Some of my friends from Baltimore talked about how realistic The Wire was, so when I went home I would catch an episode occasionally and was slightly intrigued at best.

Sometime in 2004, my mom got rid of HBO, taking away my primary source of The Wire. When I would visit my father in California, who had like 700 channels, I would check for The Wire and watch episodes.

So what happened up until recently was I only saw four or five episodes from start to finished, scattered between the first four seasons. As the fifth season loomed at the start of this year, I decided not to watch it and told myself I’d finally sit down and watch the first four seasons.

Sometime in February I started watching the first season. It started off fairly slow, in comparison to the series as a whole. However, watching The Wire is more like reading a motion picture book. Each episode seemed like a chapter, with each season playing more like separate volume in a series of books about the decay of modern American cities.

After the first five or six episodes of Season 1, I was hooked. It seemed like I would watch an entire season over the span of a weekend and in between homework, basketball games, and spending time with my girlfriend.

At the beginning of April, I was finally face to face with the start of Season 5. Instead of digging in, I waited. I faced the inevitability of the series’ ending and did my best to avoid it.

However, I finally gave in over the weekend and finished the show a little after 4:30 AM this past Tuesday. Yes, after finishing the penultimate episode near 3, I couldn’t go to sleep without learning the fate of McNulty and Freamon, Daniels and Carcetti, Mike and Dukie, and of course Marlo.

There isn’t much I can say about The Wire that hasn’t already been said. What I can say is that if you haven’t seen The Wire, the time is now for you to start watching it, especially if you live in a big city as the plots and subplots will surely hit close to home. If you’ve only seen bits and pieces of it, do yourself some justice and watch the whole thing.
I’m definitely not a TV person. I’ve never seen an episode of Lost, Desperate Housewives is too ridiculous, Reality TV is too fake, and all those CSI/Law & Order shows are about as believable as the stunts in GTA IV.

You won’t hear me endorsing a TV show often, especially a drama. This is definitely one major exception to the rule.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Chirs Paul Blog Day

I've decided to participate in Chris Paul blog day today. At the Hive, a Hornets blog, is inviting other blogs to wax poetically about the game's best point guard.

Instead of winning his first MVP award, CP3 will have to settle for celebrating his 23rd birthday, and preparing for whatever tricks Popovich will have up his sleeves after he destroyed them once again last night.

Since the CP3 for MVP campaign will have to fold up shot until next year, I'll probably change the picture soon. However, I'll leave it up for today.

Anyway, in conjunction with the other CP3 bloggers, I'm going to repost the copy for my original Chris Paul for MVP post. For those of you scoring at home he finished with 21.1 ppg, 11.6 apg, 4.0 reb, and 2.7 spg and led the league in steals and assists per game (in addition to destroying the Mavs and Spurs [so far] in the playoffs).

He'll definitely be a 1st Team All-NBAer, and should also be the starting point guard for Team USA and Beijing. Without further ado, the case for CP3 as this year's MVP. (Kobe better have a hell of a game tonight)

Originally posted 3/16/08

This season’s NBA MVP race has come down to three people. Each one of these players has put their team on their back. Yet, it shouldn’t even be a race. When you analyze the situation, there’s only one answer to the question “Who is the MVP of the NBA this season?”

The answer to the question, believe it or not, is not Kobe Bryant. Yes, he’s putting up 28.3 pts, 6.1 reb, 5.3 ast and 2 steals per game. As of this morning, his Lakers are tied for first place in the Western Conference. All of that is cool, but Kobe isn’t the MVP for two reasons.

The first reason was mentioned by Bill Simmons not too long ago; Kobe spent most of the first month of the season pouting and waiting to be traded to Chicago. The MVP of the league can’t be somebody who didn’t even give a damn for the first part of the season. As soon as the Lakers started winning and Kobe realized they could be a good team, he started playing hard.

The second reason is the Lakers are one of the deepest teams in the league. It sucks to lose points because of this, but that’s the nature of the MVP award. If Kobe was injured or not on the Lakers, they would still be a playoff team. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, and Derek Fisher wouldn’t be the best team in the West, but they’d be far from the worst.

Right now the Lakers go ten deep and two of their best players are injured. The other two contenders have to play with far less talent. Kobe is the straw that stirs this drink and he should get lots of credit for getting this team to the top of the Western Conference. However, this year isn’t his year.

It almost makes you wonder when his year will be. The last few years he didn’t win MVP because his team sucked; now he shouldn’t get it because his team is really good. No wonder he wanted to get traded to the Bulls. In Chicago, he would’ve had them in the top three at worst and would’ve been a lock for MVP.

Moving on, in a very close second place is LeBron James. This year 30.9 pts, 8.1 reb, 7.4 ast and almost two steals a game isn’t enough. King James is playing on a team plagued by injuries and talent deficiencies. The Ben Wallace trade didn’t make the Cavs better as much as it shifted the talent to different places.

LeBron is the sole reason the Cavs are a playoff team, and he has them sitting in fourth place. There isn’t much else to say about LeBron, he’s transformed himself into the best player in the NBA and is finally living up to the hype. Yet, this year just isn’t his year. At least it shouldn’t be.

The guy who deserves the award this year is Chris Paul. He’s putting up 21.4 pts, 3.9 rebs, 11.2 ast, and 2.7 steals a game. Those numbers are crazy, especially for a 6’0 point guard. He leads the league in steals and could very easily pass Steve Nash (11.4 apg) for the league’s lead in assists per contest.

His Hornets are a half game out of first place in a year when many didn’t expect them to make the playoffs. Out of the three MVP candidates he probably has the thinnest supporting cast. Yes, their starting five is good with Tyson Chandler, David West, Peja Stojakovic, and Morris Peterson, but look at the bench.

Their first five off the bench is currently Janero Pargo, Bonzi Wells, Rasaul Butler, Ryan Bowen and Hilton Armstrong. Mike James, Julian Wright and Melvin Ely get playing time as well, depending on who’s healthy or not.

Watching them play, Paul makes everybody around him better. He made David West into an all-star, he has Tyson Chandler playing like a young Marcus Camby/Ben Wallace, and he’s resurrected the career of Peja Stojakovic.

This year is better than any year Steve Nash has ever had, coming from a huge Steve Nash fan. Let’s go to the numbers. Steve Nash won the MVP in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. Here are his stats from those years:

04-05 – 15.5 pts, 11.5 ast, 3.3 reb, 1.0 stl, 50% FG, 43% 3PT, 89% FT
05-06 – 18.9 pts, 10.5 ast, 4.2 reb, 0.8 stl, 51% FG, 44% 3PT, 92% FT

Here’s Paul’s full stats from this year:

07-08 – 21.4 pts, 11.2 ast, 3.9 reb, 2.7 stl, 49% FG, 36% 3PT, 87% FT

His scoring numbers are better, his assist and rebound numbers are on par, his shooting percentages aren’t that far off (three-pointers withstanding) and his steal numbers are far greater.

When you look at the reasons why Nash won those MVP awards and should’ve won MVP last year, it’s the same situation. Chris Paul is the team. They just wouldn’t be able to function without him.

With him, they’re one of the best teams in the NBA. While the Hornets don’t fast break like Phoenix, their half court game with Paul is very similar to the Suns half court game with Steve Nash.

They run pick and rolls with Paul and Tyson Chandler/David West and when that doesn’t work CP3 just takes it to the cup. In addition to running the show completely, he’s also leading the league in steals.

Yet, he’ll probably finish third in this race. The media seems to have narrowed it down to a two man race already between Kobe and LeBron. Once again, they are looking at the names and not paying attention to the games.

Just look at Chris Paul’s last five games, when the Hornets went 4-1, with the only loss coming to the Rockets:

27 pts, 17 ast, 4 reb, 4 stl
26 pts, 17 ast, 1 reb, 3 stl
37 pts, 11 ast, 3 reb, 2 stl
25 pts, 16 ast, 3 reb, 3 stl
23 pts, 18 ast, 2 reb, 2 stl

Is that not ridiculous? Who does that? It’s a shame he’s going to get robbed on this award this season. Not to take anything away from Kobe (probably the player who will win the award) or LeBron, who are having phenomenal seasons, but this year at least, the award should go to CP3.