Here’s the premise.
The most compelling MVP race in years demands clarity. It requires authoritative voices to put these nightly displays of brilliance into context and let us mortals know who should win.
Who better to light the way than past winners? These are men of action. They won’t feel the need to pander or waffle. They won’t run from the question the way Charles Barkley runs from salads.
So who is this season’s MVP? Cleveland’s LeBron James, Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant or Miami’s Dwyane Wade?
“I’m staying as far away from that debate as I possibly can,” said San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, a two-time winner.
You want to pin down these stars on who should be MVP? You have a better chance of convincing Congress to endorse flag burning.
James generates the most buzz. Don’t take my word for it. Watch him on national TV against the Mavericks this afternoon, switch channels and catch him on “60 Minutes.”
Bryant won his first MVP trophy last season and has strong appeal to those who believe he should have more.
Wade has averaged 34.2 points and 9.2 assists since the All-Star break and seems to win a game every week with a deft defensive play or remarkable shot.
“It’s fun to watch,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “What these guys have done, all three of them this year, has been phenomenal.”
Larry Bird is a three-time MVP. Now president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, he’s mesmerized by this race.
“LeBron plays the game the way I like to see it played,” Bird said. “He’s not afraid to make the last pass of the game to someone wide open.
“Kobe has always been my favorite. He is so spectacular. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen – he’s not as good as (Michael) Jordan, but there are a lot of similarities.
“Then you have Dwyane. After last year (when he was dogged by injuries), what he’s been able to do this year is really unbelievable. He’s had to carry the burden.”
The Mavericks get to see James up close today.
“LeBron is just a freak of nature, to be that big to move that way, to be one of the fastest players in the league,” Nowitzki said.
Shaquille O’Neal said last week it’s too hard to pick. He wants to see what happens in these final games of the regular season.
Steve Nash takes the same stance, yet says you can argue that James and Wade have created a bit of separation in recent weeks.
“I’ll say this,” he said. “Wade is definitely No. 3. Those other two, I’m staying away from that one. I don’t know how you pick between the two of them.”
Barkley leans toward James or Bryant because their teams own the best records in the league. Tiger Woods agrees.
Woods? Who isn’t following this race?
“Kobe won it last year,” Nowitzki said. “At this point, I think it’s LeBron’s time. He’s had an amazing year.
“Really, it isn’t Dwyane Wade because their record is not up there like everyone else’s, but he’s been playing as good as anybody.”
That’s as close as you will get to a definitive answer.