Report: Kobe to receive first MVP award of career

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Times' report that Kobe Bryant had won the NBA's Most Valuable Player award reached the Lakers guard at dinner.

The Lakers' players were watching the finale of the Houston-Utah first-round playoff series Friday night at a Hollywood restaurant when Bryant received an e-mail informing him he had won his first MVP. The Times reported it on its Web site Friday night, citing anonymous sources familiar with the outcome of voting by media members.

While it hasn't been made official, the honor has been expected since the completion of the regular season 2½ weeks ago, when the Bryant-led Lakers finished with a Western Conference-best 57-25 record.

League spokesman Brian McIntyre declined to confirm or deny the Times report on Saturday and wouldn't comment further.

"The game tomorrow is a beast sitting on my shoulders," Bryant said after practice Saturday, referring to the opener of the second-round series against the Jazz. "I'm reserving judgment until I hear from David Stern."

That being said, the 29-year-old Bryant didn't need much prodding to share his feelings.

"I'm very excited about it. I didn't know if it was going to happen in my career," he told reporters. "It's a great honor. It means a lot. To me, it's very special. It's very special to share it with these guys."

Bryant, who entered the season as the league's two-time defending scoring champion, had finished third in the MVP voting twice -- after the 2002-03 campaign, when he averaged 30 points for the first time, and again last season, when Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki won the award.

Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic said Bryant informed his teammates at the restaurant.

"We congratulated him," Vujacic said. "He deserved it. He told us how proud he is of the whole team."

Vujacic smiled when asked if Bryant's teammates went into an "MVP! MVP!" chant upon hearing the news.

"When he paid the bill, we did. Not before," Vujacic said.

"I bit the bullet," Bryant confirmed when asked if he picked up the check.

Bryant averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.84 steals while playing in all 82 games despite tearing a ligament in his right pinkie finger in February. A hand specialist recommended surgery, but Bryant decided to put it off until after the Olympics this summer.

He led the Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference and a sweep of Denver in the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers open the second round Sunday against Utah at Staples Center.

Bryant, second in the NBA in scoring behind Cleveland's LeBron James, will be the first Lakers player to win the MVP award since Shaquille O'Neal was a near-unanimous choice in 2000. Other previous Lakers to win the award dating to 1956, when it was first presented, were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, who each won it three times. Abdul-Jabbar also won three with the Milwaukee Bucks.