Contenders For 2010 Finals MVP?

Kobe Bryant was last year's Finals MVP., Steve Aschburner – Nothing against Larry O’Brien or the great golden ball-and-bucket of a trophy named after him, but the one bearing Bill Russell’s name — The Finals MVP Award — might be the NBA’s coolest.

First, there’s the way those names resonate. O’Brien was a class act, a Renaissance man equally adept in the White House and Olympic Tower, and the commissioner who navigated the NBA through some of its most trying times in the pre-David Stern, drug-challenged, ABA/NBA merger years from 1975-84.

Yet, O’Brien was an administrator. A suit. The folks who sit in Board of Governors meetings might get all goose-bumpy when they hear his name, but there is no way O’Brien can compete in prestige or reverence with Russell, the legendary Celtics center who won 11 championships in 13 years.

No performer in the history of major U.S. professional team sports is more identified with winning — which is what all this supposedly is about — than Russell. That was a big reason for attaching his name to the thing last spring. (Physically, the Russell award looks like a smaller version of the championship trophy.)

Then there’s the sweet “and-1” aspect of being named Finals MVP. With just one exception in the 41 years since the honor was created, the recipient has come from the championship team. In other words, you can “win” an O’Brien trophy without getting a Russell award in the deal but, 39 times out of 40, it hasn’t worked the other way.

Finally — and especially pertinent right now, with the Celtics and the Lakers headed to Game 6 of the 2010 Finals on Tuesday night at Staples Center — it’s harder to win the Russell award. The field is larger, thinning everyone’s odds. Boston or L.A. is going to win the championship, but any one of the active players can claim the Finals MVP honor.

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-ATM Entertainment