The other night, I was over at my buddy Adin's house enjoying a beer and the cinematic gem No Country For Old Men, when he turned to me and asked me who I thought was the most valuable player in the NBA this season. I stared at him in disbelief, partially because everyone knows Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets deserves the award and partially because he interrupted a scene in the movie involving Javier Bardem and Woody Harrelson that was pretty intense-if you have seen the movie, you know which part I'm referring to. Without answering him, I silently turned my attention back to the movie and attempted to immerse myself back into the story. Unfortunately, my dear friend had planted what I refer to as the "sports hypothetical" bug in my head and, as you would know if you have ever had this particular affliction, there was no getting it out.
As my mind wandered through Paul highlights from this past season, I began to concede that maybe I had accepted the conventional wisdom too easily and perhaps Paul was not the runaway MVP as many talking heads would have you believe. Contemplating it more in depth, one could argue that each team in the playoff picture in the western conference has an MVP candidate on their roster, with names such as Kobe Bryant, Baron Davis and Steve Nash leading the way. This is not to mention what the green giant, Kevin Garnett, has done for the Celtics in the east. As I stared blankly at the television watching images of Mexican drug runners, sawed off shotguns and really bad hair cuts dance across the screen, something occurred to me: No Country For Old Men could easily be construed as a metaphor for the race for the MVP award in the NBA.
Thinking about it, each potential MVP fits rather neatly into the character archetypes portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin. Chris Paul is the-somewhat-loveable Llewelyn Moss, a man who finds himself in the apparently enviable position of having found $2 million lying on the ground after a horrific drug deal gone wrong. Likewise, Paul finds himself in the enviable position of being the forerunner in the MVP race after enduring two years on a very bad team in a very bad situation (New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina). In the movie, Anton Chigurh is charged with the task of retrieving the ill-begotten loot from Moss. Enter Bryant, the main antagonist to Paul's aspirations of adding the MVP hardware to his collection. The man often referred to as "The Black Mamba" has set his sights on taking what he views as rightfully his, all on his way to leading the Lakers back to championship glory. Like Chigurh in No Country, Bryant will not rest until he accomplishes his goals.
Finally, we have the character portrayed by Jones, Ed Tom Bell. An old-west Texas sheriff on his way out the door, Bell most accurately resembles Nash, although perhaps not in the way you would think. Nash is neither old, relatively speaking, nor really all that close to retirement. What he represents, though, is the old guard: the class of men who have been around the game for a long time, have had success-in Nash's case, back-to-back MVP titles-and are in the hunt for more. Unfortunately, much like Bell, Nash is doomed to always be a step behind Paul and Bryant this year and possibly for the remainder of his days in the league. He will eventually fade into the sunset, having never fully realized how close he came to catching the two men who were so near his grasp.
Turning back to my friend, I offered my thesis to him regarding the MVP race and No Country. Having never seen the movie previous to this viewing, I think my theory was completely lost on him, although he did offer a rather sage insight after I was done explaining.
"Well, that may be true, but I suppose I won't know who comes out on top until the movie is over," he said.
He was correct with this assessment.
Until the final buzzer rings on the NBA season, there will be no definitive answer. All we can do is sit back and enjoy watching the cat-and-mouse game unfold.