Marinate on that for a minute. It's been a long time since we've had this many strong MVP candidates — Kobe (Jordan), Kevin Garnett (Hakeem), LeBron James (Dr. J), Chris Paul (Isiah), Dwight Howard (Moses), Steve Nash (Magic), Tim Duncan (Mailman), Dirk Nowitzki (Bird) — and we've never seen this many championship-caliber teams.
That's what makes this season and Shaq's return to relevance and the West so interesting. Shaq can deny Kobe his kingdom. This is Octavian (Kobe) vs. Mark Antony (Shaq), the Final War of the Western Republic. Banished to South Beach and having fallen madly in love with Dwyane "Cleopatra" Wade, Shaq has returned with a reinforced legion determined to thwart his ally-turned-nemesis-turned-friend's bid for supremacy.
Kobe is smarter than Shaq. Kobe has superior, deeper legions. He's backed by the Roman Senate (Phil Jackson). But I'm not 100 percent convinced he's going to win this battle with Shaq, whose raw power and tenacity when motivated can be overwhelming.