NBA people love scoring. I mean, we really love it. Even the so-called "purists" start humping their TiVos every time Kobe Bryant drops 50 or 60 points, as he did in back-to-back games last week. In fact, people are still talking about Kobe's double scoring explosion, and blogging about whether he'll score 50 again, and again, and again as many times as he wants.
But you know what I want to know? Why aren't people still talking about the 64-point game Steve Nash had last week?
Maybe you remember it. It was against the league's best team, the Dallas Mavericks, and the MVP front-runner, Dirk Nowitzki. "Nash didn't have 64," you say? Well, he scored 32 points himself and dished out 16 assists. That means he was responsible for at least 64 points. But then again, some of those passes probably resulted in three-pointers or and-1 situations, so the number of points he was responsible for is probably in the 70s somewhere. I'd have to go back and watch the game again to be sure.
My point? NBA fans and analysts always seem to overvalue the number of points a player scores himself versus how many points that player helps someone else score. That's why Kobe's 65 was treated as so much more meaningful than Nash's "64." In fact, I guarantee Nash's performance wouldn't have gotten half the attention it did if it hadn't happened in a double-overtime game featuring the two best teams in the league.
Let's just look at the circumstances. And, for the sake of argument, let's assume all assists are worth two points, thereby excluding three-pointers and the and-1's. When Kobe scored 65, he also had three assists, for a point total of 71 points. When he scored 50, he once again notched three assists, for a point total of 56 points. The point totals, for the record, came in wins against teams that are 27-40 and 28-38, respectively. And those teams, I should also point out, are not top-notch defensive units.
Nash's 64, on the other hand, came in a win against the 55-11 Dallas Mavericks, the best team in the league (based on won-loss records) and the fourth-best defensive team (according to points allowed). So answer me this: what's more impressive? Producing -- through scoring and passing -- 60 points against lottery teams or against the league's best?
Let's extend this conversation to season averages, and again assume that assists are worth two points. Nash's averages of 19.1 points and 11.5 assists equal a total point production of 42.1 points. On the other hand, Kobe averages 30 points and 5.5 assists for 41.0 total points. So in a very basis statistical analysis, Steve Nash is worth more points per game than Kobe Bryant. But nobody ever thinks about it like that.
I was just perusing Nash's game log from last season, and it's telling. Did you know he had a 28-point, 22-assist game last season? That's a 72-point effort if (again) you give him only two points for each assist. I don't care how you look at it, that's freaking amazing. But I doubt anyone other than me (and now you) knows that game even happened, whereas everyone who follows the NBA (and many who don't) will always remember the 81 Kobe dropped that same year.
That's why it pains me -- and I mean the real, physical, I-just-got-my-nuts-caught-in-a-meat-grinder kind of pain -- when people boldly proclaim that Kobe is the "best player" in the league. Forget the fact that it's impossible to quantify what "best player" even means. It's all about the points. It's all about being "unstoppable" (although if a player was truly unstoppable, they'd never lose a game, let alone 6 or 7 in a row, as Kobe has done twice this season). It's all about flying through air, and dunking, and hitting crazy reverse layups and ridiculous "I can't believe he just took that shot" fadeaways. In short, it's all about looking good in the highlight reel.
Is Kobe the most explosive individual scorer in the league? Absolutely. Are his physical talents and abilities the most impressive? Perhaps, but in a league of Dwyane Wades and Lebron James's, it's hardly a given. But considering the fact that he doesn't consistently produce the most points or, more importantly, the most wins, I don't see how anyone can unequivocally state that Kobe is the best overall player.