Kobe Bryant has been at the heart Lakers again [AFP]
Kobe Bryant has won his first NBA player of the year award after leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the best record in the league's Western Conference.

He will receive the trophy from National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern before the Lakers face Utah in Game 2 of their conference playoff semifinal series.

Bryant was followed in the journalist's poll by Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James.

Bryant entered the season as the league's two-time defending scoring champion but had finished only as high as third in voting for the Most Valuable Player award.

He averaged 28.3 points while playing all 82 games despite tearing a ligament in his finger in February.

This season there was no denying the Lakers' star.

Overcoming injuries and rumours

Los Angeles rose to the top of the West despite key injuries and following Bryant's trade demands last spring when his team was eliminated in the first round by Phoenix for the second straight year.

Bryant averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.84 steals while playing all 82 games despite tearing a ligament in his right pinkie in February.

He put off surgery until after the Olympics.

The knock on the 29-year-old Bryant had been that he didn't make those around him better, not anymore.

"He's deserving in this particular season with all of the question marks and everything going on coming into the season and the uncertainty,'' teammate Derek Fisher said.

"Not only did he statistically have an MVP type of season, everybody can reasonably say they were better this year because of what he did. He met the so-called criteria, elevating his teammates' games.''

Word leaked last Friday night that Bryant had won the award.

"I didn't know if it was going to come in my career, but to have the moment come now is special, especially to share it with the group of guys we have here,'' he said the following day.

Bryant, second in the NBA in scoring behind James, is the first Laker to win the MVP award since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000.

Other Lakers to win since the award was first presented in 1956 were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, each times.

Abdul-Jabbar also won three with Milwaukee.

Source: Agencies