While an admittedly nervous Kobe Bryant gratefully accepted the top individual award in basketball—the Maurice Podoloff Trophy Most Valuable Player Trophy—he said much of the credit lies with his teammates who helped him lead the Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference this season.
“I’m deeply honored to be here,” said Bryant. “This is a team award. This is not an individual award. The special thing about this award is that we did it together. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
I don’t know anybody that has ever deserved this more,” said Coach Phil Jackson, praising Bryant’s unmatched work ethic and drive.
With most of his teammates in attendance to watch their captain receive his first MVP, Derek Fisher, one of Bryant’s oldest companions, spoke about Kobe’s evolution as a player from the time he first entered the league in 1996.
“I think he’s an adult man,” said Fisher. “I think that’s the easiest way for me to explain it. Just my own experiences from being a 25 year-old young man to then turning 29, 30 years old and what I was thinking, how I was feeling, what things were important to me and what things weren’t important—that changed a lot in that four of five year period and I think those same things have happened for him where who he is as man and a person, his family, his wife, his children—those are the most important things to him. Basketball finds its place in its proper perspective.”
Several Lakers legends were also in attendance to support Bryant, including former MVP Kareem Abdul Jabbar and one of Kobe’s oldest mentors Jerry West.
“I don’t know anybody that has ever deserved this more.”
“Anytime you’re mentioned in the same breath as them, it’s an honor beyond comprehension,” said Bryant, reflecting on his place in Lakers history.
Although Bryant’s year started with a firestorm regarding his long-term status as a Laker, his goal of putting the team in a position to win the championship never wavered.
“The thing that’s important is that when training camp begins to have one track, one focus—winning a championship,” said Kobe, conceding that there are obviously things he would have handled differently at the time.
“It’s been one hell of a year,” said Bryant, recapping his journey through a tumultuous training camp, to an unexpectedly stellar regular season and now to one game lead in the team’s Semi Finals series against the Jazz.
While Kobe’s typically strong regular season numbers certainly contributed to him being named MVP, he also credited General Manager Mitch Kupchak for making solid draft choices and acquiring Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza via trade to boost the Lakers’ product on the floor.
Bryant also made sure to thank the millions of Lakers fans throughout the world that have stood by his side for 11 years.
“I’m very proud to represent this organization and this city,” said Bryant. “It’s (winning MVP) a movie script. The perfect ending would be to win a championship.”