However, the 08-09 season shouldn’t be remembered simply as the year the evil Lakers rose again, because it wasn’t just Kobe who was putting on a show. Here are the top five NBA players of 2008-09.
5 Chris Paul – G, New Orleans Hornets
2008-09 marked the second consecutive season that Chris Paul led the NBA in assists and steals and led the New Orleans Hornets to a playoff berth. Paul set the all-time league mark with 108 consecutive games with a steal, and became the first player in NBA history to put up 27 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds and 7 steals in a single game. He was an All-Star for the second time, and set personal bests in points per game and field goal percentage. It was truly a year to remember for Paul, who needless to say had earned the respect of the league’s best in spite of wearing a teal and purple uniform each and every night.
4 Dwyane Wade – G, Miami Heat
The Heat were a struggling team seemingly in decline, until Dwyane Wade put together a statistical season like few had ever seen. Wade went for 40+ points thirteen times in 2008-09, eclipsing 50 three times. He also became the first player in league history to record multiple 30-point, 15-assist games, accomplishing the feat twice after the All-Star Game in which he took part for the fifth year in a row. 08-09 also marked Wade surpassing Alonzo Mourning as the all-time franchise-scoring leader for Miami. At season’s end, D-Wade lead the league in scoring, and averaged more assists, blocks and steals than both LeBron and Kobe, but he still finished behind them in the race for MVP and lost in the first round of the playoffs. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s a multi-millionaire who dates Gabrielle Union, we’d say there’s no justice in this world.
3 Dwight Howard – C, Orlando Magic
At the beginning of the 2008-09 season, Howard set the goal of becoming the youngest player in NBA history to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, and by year’s end he had done just that. Not only did Howard win the award he coveted, but he also led the league in rebounds, blocks and embarrassing free throws per game. Despite losing an All-Star point guard to injury, Howard still carried Orlando to 59 wins and the 3rd seed in the East, where they went on a miraculous run that included dispatching the defending champion Celtics and league-leading Cavaliers. It marked Orlando’s first trip to the finals in fourteen years, but not unlike the franchise’s other finals appearance, it didn’t last long.
2 LeBron James – F/G, Cleveland Cavaliers
Lebron James had already turned around the fortunes of the dismal Cleveland franchise, but he brought them to new heights in 08-09, setting a franchise mark and leading the league with 66 wins. James became just the fourth player in NBA history to lead his team in all five major statistical categories (points, assists, rebounds, blocks, steals), and became the first player in Cavaliers history to win the MVP, truly giving the city of Cleveland something to be proud of (a pride that would soon be stolen away by the premiere of ‘The Cleveland Show’). He even upped his scoring average 7 points to a whopping 35.3 in the playoffs, but he couldn’t stop his Cavs from being upset by Orlando in the Conference Finals.
1 Kobe Bryant – G, Los Angeles Lakers
In 2008-09, Kobe Bean Bryant pieced together what was perhaps his best season as a pro. At regular season’s end the Lakers were the Western Conference 1st seed, Kobe was an All-Star, made the All-NBA First Team on both offense and defense, and was second in the MVP voting. It was the 09 playoffs however, that secured him the top spot on this list. Kobe led the Lakers to a second-straight trip to the finals where he averaged 32.4 points, 7.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals and blocks per game on his way to a fourth title and a lifetime of smug interviews.
Do you feel like someone was left off the list? Maybe try making one of your own, but God help us if you include Pau Gasol on it, because we won’t be held accountable for our actions.