Single page view By Brian and Andy Kamenetzky
Special to Page 2

Though the NBA's Most Valuable Player was revealed Sunday, the debate over who should have won rages on. Should it have been Steve Nash? What about Shaq? Or maybe even AI?

But while the fans and experts continue this debate, a startling aspect of the voting has flown under the radar.

Kobe Bryant
Kobe was an All-Star, and the league's second-leading scorer -- but he finished behind P.J. Brown?

Kobe Bryant did not receive a single point in the balloting.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

We're not even talking about first-place votes. We're talking about votes all the way down to fifth place. Not one writer broke out his No. 2 and penciled in Kobe's name anywhere on the ballot. Kobe was the NBA's second-leading scorer. A starter on the 2005 All-Star team. Sure, the Lakers missed the playoffs by a mile, but come on!

The Cavs collapsed down the stretch faster than Bellamy Road, and LeBron came in sixth – with numbers fairly similar to Kobe's. KG was on the board, and we all saw what happened to Minnesota. Even P.J. Brown got a point. P.J. Brown! A solid role player, sure, but more valuable than Kobe? Can you honestly say that with a straight face?

Kobe's numbers in '05 nearly mirrored his '04 output – when he landed at No. 5 on the MVP tally chart. So why did he suddenly hit rock bottom? Because people believe a) Kobe ran off Shaq; b) Kobe ran off Phil; and c) Kobe is a lousy GM.

Clearly, the time has come for some damage control. We know two things right now about the '05-06 Lakers. First, Kobe will put up gaudy numbers. Second, the Lakers might miss the playoffs even if Phil comes back. So if Kobe wants to get back in the MVP hunt, he'll need to crank up the PR machine. To that end, we present the Kobe Bryant 10-Step Image Rehabilitation Program.

1. Share, share, share
Kobe should go whole possessions without touching the rock. Go whole games, even. Let Odom run the O. Let Butler have that monster dunk. If the ball comes Kobe's way, he should duck, or stick his hands inside his waistband. Maybe run off the court screeching like a 6-year-old girl. Anything to increase the belief that he is, indeed, a team guy.

2. Show me the funny
Shaq gets extra props because he provides great one-liners. Writers with deadlines love that stuff. So instead of spending the summer working on his jumper or interviewing prospective coaches, it's time for Bryant to hire a team of sitcom writers, hit up some open mike nights and cultivate some top-shelf material.

3. Resurrect old Vlade
Kobe needs to show he can play with an out-of-shape big man who is more popular in the locker room. How? Make sure the Lakers bring back Vlade Divac, then help him revert to his old habits – namely his tendency to smoke more cigs than the Marlboro Man before, after, even during games. If Vlade doesn't hit at least one layup a game with an unfiltered Camel in his mouth, Kobe's not taking this mission seriously enough.

Kove & Vanessa Bryant
Kobe's worked hard to make it up to Vanessa -- now he must turn his attention to the media.

4. Three words
Ben. Wallace. Fro.

5. Babies, and the kissing of said babies
At no point should Kobe be surrounded by fewer than a dozen babies. The babies of teammates, fans and Lakers staff. Rented babies. Cabbage Patch babies. Off the court and on. A constant baby posse might make it tough to split a double-team, but he's a very good athlete. He'll figure it out. And how can someone who loves babies be a bad guy?



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