Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Most Valuable Column: The Criteria of Excellence

In late 2007, I found a site that absolutely infuriated me. It managed to make the case for Kobe Bryant in such clear, convincing, and rational terms, with such eloquence and clarity that I wanted to vomit. It wasn't just that the argument's premise was an assault on everything good and right in this world, but the writing was so good it made me actually like reading it. Today, we bring that nauseatingly talented individual to HP. Josh Tucker is the author of, and is now a contributing writer for Hardwood Paroxysm. His Most Valuable Column column (column column, Malkovich Malkovich) will run every other Wednesday here on HP. Let him into your hearts and stomachs. Ladies and gentlemen, Josh Tucker.

Welcome to the Most Valuable Column! My name is Josh Tucker, and I'm best (read: barely) known as the author and host of For obvious reasons, I have written more than one article relating to the 2007-08 MVP race over at Respect Kobe. Not surprisingly, I'm sure, the position I took was in favor of Kobe Bryant as 2008 MVP, and I made what I believed to be a strong case for Bryant, not to mention one of the most comprehensive expositions available on last season's MVP race. The voters, apparently agreeing with me (more by coincidence then by any unlikely result of them reading my work), gave the award to Kobe Bryant, the first in his 12-year career.

At Matt's request, I'm here to broaden my horizons somewhat, covering the season-long MVP Race as a whole. That means we're going to be talking about it long before it matters, and before anyone cares about it. No, we're not starting at the beginning of the season -- we're starting now!

The goal of this column is to fulfill the name I've given it: the Most Valuable Column. The name is more than a mere reflection of the subject matter. It is also a reflection of my goal for this column -- that it should be the best and most complete column available on this topic. How do I plan to do this? The key word is comprehensive. I'm not just going to give you my opinion, coupled with a catchy phrase, pithy saying, or nifty blurb. As I said before, I intend to make this the most complete discussion of the MVP race available.

To achieve this, I'm going to attempt the impossible – I'm going to attempt to set legitimate, comprehensive criteria for the award. If I succeed in my goal, these criteria will cover all significant and relevant aspects of the race — from the player whose team would suffer the most without him, to the most statistically impressive player, to the best player on the best team... and everything in between. No relevant factor will be left unaddressed, and with any luck, the end result will be a comprehensive approach to determining, as fairly and with as much certainty as possible, which player is most deserving of the MVP Award by season's end.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking, This guy runs an entire website devoted to Kobe Bryant – how much you want to bet he finds a way to pick Kobe as his MVP? It's certainly a fair concern; I'd probably be skeptical about reading a Brian Windhorst MVP column. Clearly, my bias is obvious. However, I'm asking you to give me a chance, to consider my work outside of my bias. Ask yourself, Does this make sense? Does his work stand on its own? Since bias is a topic that comes up a lot in debates relating to Kobe Bryant, it is a topic I have already addressed to a large extent. So if that's an issue for you, then I encourage you to click over and read my thoughts on bias, what you should expect from me, and what I ask of you.

Actually, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I hope that another player raises his game to such a level as to legitimately be more deserving of the MVP Award than Kobe Bryant. Yes, that is another way of saying that I hope that another player wins it next year (legitimately, of course -- only if they truly are more deserving). I really do. Why? Because I'm well aware of the fact that for many people, nothing I could say would convince them that, even though I'm a Kobe Bryant supporter, I will honestly and fairly evaluate every candidate, and if another is more deserving, endorse him over Bryant. So I hope that Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Chris Paul, or perhaps someone completely unexpected elevates their game to that level next year, giving me the opportunity to recognize his accomplishments and prove to all the skeptics that will be closely examining my proverbial pudding that I'm not just another rabid Kobe fan shouting Kobe's greatness from the rooftops at every available opportunity.

As I've said, my goal here will be to expound on the various possible criteria that can factor into the MVP race. In the coming weeks and months, we're going to address those criteria, in the hopes of determining how factors like statistical dominance, team success, and many others should affect our overall determination of MVP worthiness. First up will be the issue of team success -- specifically, the voters' insistence over the past couple decades that the MVP should come from a team that has won at least 50 games in an 82-game season.

As we embark on this project, I'm asking for your input. As we're determining how various criteria should factor into the overall decision, I'd love to hear from you. What factors do you think should be important in deciding the MVP, and why? Once the season starts, I'll be wanting to hear your thoughts on who best fits the criteria that we will have settled upon, and therefore, is most deserving of MVP consideration. I'll be asking for the same input from the growing number of authors contributing here at HP, and both your input and theirs will be weighed heavily as I write the Most Valuable Column.

In the spirit of Hardwood Paroxysm, here's to the anticipation of yet another year of jaw-dropping performances and individual breakthroughs. We hope the MVP decision is every bit as difficult this year as it was in 2008.

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