It’s true that he was never the unquestionable best player in the league. During his prime (2003–2011) he usually had Duncan/Lebron to compete with, and to a lesser extent Nash and Dirk who also competed with Kobe for MVPs during that time.
Since a lot of Kobe fans like to talk about his MVPs getting stolen from him by other players let’s take a look at the MVP voting shares during Kobe’s prime (which I define to be 2005–2010 ish) and lets also look at win shares since that is an objectively good look for being the ‘best player’ comparisons. If you were the unquestioned best player, you should be either #1 or #2 in win shares, and you should be either #1 or #2 spot for MVP voting.
Ok so 2005 the year that Kobe fans think Nash ‘stole’ the award from Kobe. Uhh… Kobe wasn’t even on the MVP voting list this year. So.. I’m gonna say that Kobe wasn’t the best player this year since he wasn’t even on the voting list and moreover didn’t even make the playoffs that year.
Ok how about 2006? Did Nash steal from Kobe this year? Well … not exactly. Kobe was 4th in MVP voting. Hard to make a case that someone stole from you when you were 4th place. He was 4th in win shares as well. Also, he lost in the first round of playoffs that year.
Ok how about 2007? Did Dirk steal the MVP away from Kobe? Kobe was in third place this year. He was 3rd in win shares (tied with Duncan). I’m going to say no, at least not any more than Duncan was stolen from that year.
So in 2008 Kobe won his only MVP. He wasn’t the first in win shares though (that would be CP3) – Kobe was 4th in win shares that year despite winning the MVP. Hard to make a case for being the unquestioned best player in the league when you beat your 2nd place finisher by only 200 points and was 4th in win shares.
I can’t say Lebron robbed Kobe this year because even though Kobe was second place, Lebron beat him by a 417+ point margin in MVP voting and Kobe was 6th in win shares.
And in 2010, the last year of Kobe’s true prime, he was 3rd in MVP voting, and way below in win shares as well.
So there you have it, Kobe has never led the league in both MVP voting and win shares at the same time (or even be in second place for both), in fact he was only top 2 in MVP voting for 2 years (2008, 2009) and thus I cannot consider him the unquestioned best player in the league in either his prime or his career.
Why was Kobe so low in MVP voting? Was there some kind of media conspiracy against him? No, the truth is during 2005-2007 he didn’t win MVP because he wasn’t on a good team – and MVPs are almost always from a top 3 seeded team, the only exception being Russell Westbrook in 2017 (because he averaged a triple double), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1976 (because MVPs were voted on by players back then). That’s the simple facts, there was no media conspiracy against Kobe at all. Scoring leader and having the best stats in the league is not the main criteria for MVP – Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50pts a game in 1962 and wasn’t MVP. Jordan averaged 37pts a game in 1987, wasn’t MVP. James Harden averaged 36pts a game in 2019, wasn’t MVP. Why aren’t people talking about conspiracies for those players?