Each week at the Toy Department, in addition to offering one of our writers the chance to endorse something they feel strongly about, we also give one of our writers a chance to dismiss something -- however unpopular that opinion may be -- in a segment we call "Dead. To. Me." 

Dead. To. Me.: Kobe as MVP

Kobe Bryant is a manic basketball genius. If I run across a Lakers game while flipping channels late at night, I stop because there's always a chance that Kobe will make a move or hit a shot that I've never seen. But Kobe Bryant has not been the most valuable player in the NBA this season. He has not been the second most valuable or the third. I am tired of hearing about the epic MVP race between Kobe and LeBron James (Bill Simmons says it's the most epic since Barkley-Jordan-Olajuwon in 1992-93). As far as I'm concerned, there is no such race. With one week left in the regular season, Kobe Bryant's MVP chances are Dead To Me.


Please explain the argument for Kobe. I dare you.

Is it statistical? Can't be. We don't even have to start with LeBron on that front. Let's look at Kobe vs. Dwyane Wade. Kobe's greatest talent is scoring and he averages an impressive 27 per game. Wade averages 29.9. Wade plays more minutes you say? Yes, but he also averages more points per minute. Maybe Kobe is a more accurate shooter? Well, he makes 46.6 percent from the field, very good for a two guard who takes so many tough shots. Wade makes 48.8 percent. Kobe is a more accurate free throw shooter, but Wade has gotten to the line 200 more times. Kobe is a slightly better rebounder per minute but Wade has him by more than two assists a game. Wade's advantage only grows if you bring defensive numbers into it. He has 50 percent more steals and has blocked three times as many shots.

Dead. To. Me.: Kobe as MVP

If anything, LeBron looks even better statistically. He scores more than Kobe, shoots a better percentage, gets to the line more, makes more threes, grabs 50 percent more rebounds, dishes 50 percent more assists, has more steals, blocks more shots. I mean, really, Kobe wins hardly any battles on this front.

I might be nearly alone on this but I'd also take Chris Paul over Kobe. He gives up 4.5 points a game to Bryant. But he shoots more accurately from the field and line, he makes up for his scoring deficit with an extra six assists a game, he leads the league in steals and as a 6-foot point guard, he outrebounds Kobe per game.

 I love Paul's stat lines. Sometimes, he has Kobe games, like his 43-point effort against Golden State last week. Sometimes, he has LeBron games, like 30 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists on 11-of-16 shooting last month against Washington. And sometimes, he has uniquely Chris Paul games, like 27 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists and seven steals against Philly in January. You never, never see a box score in which Chris Paul has failed to do something major for his team. I can't wait to see where his career goes. He could end up as the best guard his size ... ever.

You like your stats more advanced? OK, let's look at John Hollinger's PER, which incorporates per-minute stats and looks at them relative to other players at the same position. Hollinger has LeBron at 31.72, Wade at 30.09 and Paul at 29.73. Those would all rank among the best scores of the last 10 years. Kobe ranks sixth at a merely excellent 24.37, stuck right between Tim Duncan and Brandon Roy.

I can find no statistical method that says Kobe Bryant is the best player in the league. So what about teams?

The Lakers are awfully good, 62-16 with the third most efficient offense in the league, according to Hollinger. Kobe is their best best player. But he plays with Pau Gasol, who would be the best guy on more than half the teams in the league. He plays with the supremely gifted Lamar Odom. For half the season, he played with one of the NBA's best young centers, Andrew Bynum. The Lakers would probably be a playoff team without him.

LeBron plays with an excellent shooter in Mo Williams, an above-average center in Zydrunas Ilgauskas and a whole bunch of role players. It's not clear at all that the Cavs would make the playoffs without him. They have a better record than the Lakers.

Wade has the Heat at No. 5 in the Eastern Conference without a single teammate in sniffing distance of All-NBA. Paul has the Hornets at No. 6 in the deep, deep West without a single teammate other than David West having an above-average season.

So again, where is Kobe's advantage?

It must be intangible, right? But whenever NBA players are polled, they overwhelmingly say LeBron is the guy they'd most like to play with. People said Kobe was the alpha dog on the Olympic team because he took the big shots down the stretch of the gold medal game. But I wonder if those people watched the games. Wade was the most productive guy on the team. And LeBron was clearly the vocal leader and the one guy on the court who could do anything -- hit a big shot, play point guard, guard the other team's center. He looked like the best player in the world.

If I had to pick one guy to rally my team with his shooting in the fourth quarter of a big game, I'd pick Kobe. But that's not the most important quality when picking the best player. All four quarters count as do passing, rebounding and defense.

Kobe is a beautiful player, but no matter what angle I choose, I can't see how he had a better 2008-2009 than LeBron ... or Wade or Paul. He's quite alive as a great player but as MVP, Kobe Bryant is dead to me.