I’ve never been the biggest Kobe Bryant fan. I’ve always found him to be a bit selfish, a tad aloof and somewhat disrespectful toward women. He is a fantastic basketball player – quite possibly the best of his generation – but his habit of refusing to share the ball with his teammates and then ripping them in the sports pages is unbecoming. In the ultimate “we” game, Bryant has been all about “me.”

Apparently, I’m not the only one out there who isn’t high on Kobe.

How else do you explain a player winning three NBA Championships and two scoring titles but never being elected its most valuable player?

In 2006, he averaged 35 points a game on the season and torched the Toronto Raptors for 81 points – the greatest scoring feat since Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 in 1962. He finished fourth in MVP voting.

Three years before, Bryant went on a midseason tear and tallied 40 plus points in nine straight games. He averaged 40.6 points for the entire month of February. Yet San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan was named MVP. That makes sense since Duncan’s Spurs beat Bryant’s Lakers in the Western Conference Finals en route to an NBA Title. Except that all MVP ballots are in by the end of the regular season.

It’s not simply because he doesn’t pass – ball hogs can be MVPs, too. Chamberlain won four, and Michael Jordan got the nod for what seemed like the entire 1990s.

The 125 members of the media who cast their ballots yesterday afternoon will decide whether Bryant’s finally gets the one award he truly covets.

It is being called the closest MVP race ever – and Bryant’s best shot in his 12 years in the league. Supposedly, he’ll beat out LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett not because of his 28.4 points and 6.3 rebound averages – meager numbers for Bryant compared to seasons past – but because he has become more of a team player this year.

That’s only half true. Sure, he’s worked well with the new Lakers – the post-trade deadline Pau Gasol edition – but what about the team he ripped apart with his pouting during the first half of the season? Rewind back to last May, after the Lakers were knocked from the playoffs in the first round for the second consecutive year. Bryant voiced his desire to be traded to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith: “At this point,” Bryant said, “I’ll go play on Pluto.”

Later in the summer, he tore into Lakers G.M. Mitch Kupchack and teammate Andrew Bynum. He said he’d even play for the Clippers. (And you thought he meant business when he said he’d play on Pluto.)

After the season started – this season, mind you, the one for which he was seriously being considered for MOST VALUABLE PLAYER – he continued his tantrum. He nearly coerced a blockbuster trade with Chicago that would have drastically altered the rosters – and futures – of both clubs. While Bryant was whining his way through the first two months of the season, Bynum – the same guy Bryant had trashed a few months earlier – helped salvage the Lakers’ sinking ship. Meanwhile, the Bulls imploded. Half the team was expecting to be traded for Bryant at any minute, the other half was thinking help was on the way. Poor Chicago Coach Scott Skiles got fired on Christmas Eve. It was the first time in the history of sports that a player ruined team chemistry without even playing for the team.

By midseason, all hope for a deal with the Bulls was quashed, and Bynum was on the bench with an injury. Bryant finally had the one-man show he’d always wanted – and the team was floundering. Kupchak – the same guy Kobe had trashed a few months earlier – threw Bryant a lifesaver, trading two players and a pair of draft picks for Gasol. Everything has been just rosy since, but only because King Kobe’s finally content.

“I have more bullets in the chamber now,” Bryant told The Washington Post earlier in the week. “We had Smush Parker, who is not really playing now. We had Kwame Brown, who’s in Memphis and not really playing much now. That was my point guard and my center. Now I’m fortunate to have weapons that my peers have had the last several years, with [Amare] Stoudemire and [Shawn] Marion, [Tony] Parker and [Manu] Ginóbili.”

It’s not really about firepower though. The guns have to be specifically calibrated to Bryant’s aim. In Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant had a bazooka on his hip. Who knows how many championships Shaq and Kobe could have won together. They could have swapped the MVP trophy back and forth each year. But Bryant pouted and sulked and demanded that O’Neal be traded, because Bryant wanted the spotlight all to himself. In Gasol, Bryant has a sidekick who’s comfortable passing the ball and uncomfortable speaking English. It’s perfect – Kobe gets the ball in the clutch and Michele Tafoya’s undivided attention.

Bryant wouldn’t be in the MVP running if he traded places with James, Paul or Garnett. The things he would say to the Cleveland media about Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ clumsy feet and Anderson Varejao’s goofy hair would make Hitler cry.

He’d shoot Peja Stojakovic for stealing his shots in New Orleans, and there is no way Bryant would jive in the Big Easy. (As hard as it is for me, I have restrained myself from inserting an off-color remark about Bryant’s past marital infidelity here.) Putting Bryant, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen together in Beantown would result in something worse than the Boston massacre, the busing riots and the everybody-gets-their-head-blown-off finale of “The Departed” all rolled into one.

Bryant isn’t even the most valuable player on his own team. Anyone can come on strong when things are going well, as Bryant has post-Pau. Bynum was the one who held it down early in the season, when Bryant was griping and the outlook seemed bleak at best.

When he’s happy, Bryant allows everyone else to have fun. But when he’s down – like he was at the beginning of the year or with O’Neal earlier in his career – he makes things miserable for all around him.

Kobe Bryant is the ultimate ego in the most narcissistic league in professional sports. That’s why it is so satisfying to see him denied the game’s highest individual honor.

Harlan Goode is a senior in the College. He can be reached at goodethehoya.com. The Goode Worde appears every Friday in HOYA SPORTS.

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