MARINE: Wade stands above rest as NBA’s Most Valuable Player

Corey Marine

The NBA playoffs are approaching. The postseason picture is set, and the MVP debates are heating up. Before anyone dubs LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade the MVP, what qualifies a player to be the league’s Most Valuable Player has to be established.

First and foremost, the MVP’s team should make the playoffs. It is not completely necessary, but unless you are statistically miles ahead of everyone else in the league, making the playoffs is usually a prerequisite to be included in the MVP talk. In this case, the top-three candidates are all making the postseason. Being a higher-seeded team certainly helps.

Next, the player must have a major statistical impact on his squad. This is certainly the case for each superstar on his respective team. Lastly, the player must have the intangibles – leadership, confidence and being able to come through in big situations. You have to be the man who everyone trusts with the last possession of a game. James, Bryant and Wade? There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that any of these superstars can hit the clutch jump shot to win the game. However, there can only be on MVP.

Bryant has simply had another incredible year. He has played phenomenal defense all season long. He has hit dagger after dagger. He carried the Lakers offensively when Andrew Bynum went down with an injury. He has started every game this season, and with Bryant on the court, the team in purple and gold always has a fighting chance to win the game.

His reputation has been restored, and his feud with former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, whom he shared the MVP trophy with at this year’s All Star Game, is over. He is also arguably the most clutch player in the league. Kobe leads Los Angeles in points-per-game and assists, but he has a few things going against him in the MVP race.

For starters, Bryant won the award last year. As of late, the NBA has become a league that constantly has the MVP trophy changing hands. Since 1992, only two players have won the award in consecutive seasons. Tim Duncan won the award in the 2001 and 2002 seasons, and Steve Nash won the award in 2004 and 2005.

Kobe also has a great supporting cast around him. Pau Gasol was a great big man before the trade to Los Angeles from Memphis. Andrew Bynum is one of the emerging solid big men at center. Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher are proven, reliable veterans. Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton are all solid role players that would be welcome on most teams. If Bryant is having an off night, the Lakers have a number of options to carry the offensive load, and Los Angeles has a better record when No. 24 takes under 20 shots than when he takes more.

When it comes to Wade, the question that begs to be asked is, “Where would the Miami Heat be without him?” Try to put this into perspective. The Heat added Michael Beasley to their roster with the first all around pick of the NBA Draft this past offseason. Jermaine O’Neal was supposed to be Wade’s complement, but has turned out to be somewhat of a bust. The Miami Heat score just above 98 points-per-game. Wade accounts for nearly 30 percent of their offense by giving them almost 30 points a game, leading the league in points-per-game. The next three highest scoring players on the Miami roster go for just over 38 points combined.

He has hit a handful of buzzer beaters and singlehandedly won games for the Heat as well. Not only does he get the job done offensively, he is a defensive force on the other end. He has over 170 steals and over 105 total blocks on the season. Many of those defensive plays have come at the end of close games, sealing the deal for the Heat.

One last thing that should be paid attention to is that Wade has been relatively injury prone during his career due to his physical style of play. This season, he has started and played in over 78 games. The only case against Wade is that his team is only a fifth seed in the highly competitive Eastern Conference.

James is the popular pick for this year’s MVP award. He leads the Cleveland Cavaliers in points, rebounds, assists and steals. He has his team sitting with the No. 1 overall seed for the playoffs, which is critical because the Cavs only have one loss at home this season, making the Quicken Loans Arena the most difficult place to play in the league. James may be the most difficult player to stop in the league. Whenever he gets a full head of steam while driving to the basket, no one can do anything about it.

As great as James and Bryant have been this season, no one means more to their team than Wade does. The Cavaliers and Lakers may have the talent to make the postseason, even without their superstars. The same cannot be said about the Miami Heat. Without Wade, not only are they not a playoff bound team, they are a sub-.500 team. Wade has carried the team on his own all season and has won them games on his own. What sets him apart from James as well is his defensive tenacity. James is not known for playing great defense, and the entire package has come together Heat’s star. No player means more to his team than Wade.

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Corey Marine is a junior communication major from New York City. He can be reached at [email protected]