LeBron James was in South Beach, vilified by the media and made redundant by the two superstars next to him. Kobe Bryant was aging. Dwight Howard had the talent but wasn't quite putting it all together. Kevin Durant was on the rise, but was he quite there yet?
As the season began, the award was up for grabs.
Two months later, it still is.
Your pick depends on how you define "valuable." If you want the most talented guy out there, it's still LeBron. If you want the best scorer, it's Durant. If you want the best player on the best team, it's Kevin Garnett. If you want the best team player, it's Tim Duncan. If you want the guy who's made the biggest leap, it's Derrick Rose. If you want the guy who's changed the league the most, it might actually be Amare Stoudemire.
But if you want the player having the best season, plain and simple? Go with Dirk Nowitzki.
The ironic thing is that the Mavericks' star didn't deserve the award in 2007, the first time he won it. Kobe, LeBron and Dwyane Wade all had better seasons, but the leader of a 67-win Mavs team couldn't be denied, and Dirk took home the hardware.
This year, he might actually be worthy of the trophy for the first time. He's 32, he hasn't been past the second round of the West playoffs in five years, and yet he might be more relevant in the NBA now than ever.
Nowitzki is shooting 54.4 percent this season, by far the best clip of his career. He's averaging 24.5 points per game on a team that's loaded with other weapons. He's the crunch-time scorer every single night for a Mavericks team that's 23-5 and threatening to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Just look at how many big statement wins the Mavs have earned this season. In the first two months alone: Denver, Boston, New Orleans, OKC, San Antonio, Miami, Utah, Utah again, Miami again, and finally Orlando this week. You name them, the Mavs are creaming them. And pretty much every time, Dirk is the difference in the game. When the Mavs need him, he gets the big basket or the big rebound — like clockwork.
The name "Dirk Nowitzki" has never put the fear of God in anyone. Dirk's spent his whole career overshadowed by the league's bigger names. But this season, he's proven more valuable than any of them. LeBron, Kobe, D-Wade — forget about 'em. It's not their year.
The Mavs are better this season than anyone thought they could be, and the lanky 7-footer from Würzburg, Germany is the reason why. We've still got a long way to go, but at the moment, we're witnessing the year of Dirk.
Who is the NBA MVP in 2010? Share your thoughts below.