Factor No. 1 in the NBA Finals: Kobe Bryant
Each expert had 100 points to apportion among five key factors. The rules stated no factor could be worth more than 50 points or less than 10 points. Each expert named a wild-card factor as well.
Surprise, surprise: NBA MVP Kobe Bryant was named on the most ballots and awarded the most points -- but he was not the unanimous choice as the main factor in the series, nor was he named on every ballot.
Some of our experts found other key factors that could trump KB24, including the Celtics' defense and the battle of the benches.
Click through the pages to see how the voting went.
Factor No. 1: Kobe Bryant (297 points)
J.A. Adande (48 points): It's possible this entire postseason is being played inside Kobe's head, like the kid in (spoiler alert!) the "St. Elsewhere" TV show finale. That's how in control he appears to be.
If that's the case -- or anything close to it -- Factors 2 through 6 are moot.
(Lakers-Celtics has me feeling nostalgic, so I'm putting everything here in terms of 1980s TV shows.)
Click below to see the ballots of our 10 writers:
• Henry Abbott, TrueHoop
Chris Sheridan (40 points): I expect at least three of these games to come down to fourth-quarter shootouts that go down to the final minute, and I trust Kobe more than I trust anyone else in this series to make the right play or the big shot in those instances.
Marc Stein (40 points): This has been Kobe's season more than anyone else's, and I fully expect him to polish it off appropriately. The combination of No. 24's being this close to the finish line and the fact that Boston can't guard him like San Antonio did will be fatal for the Celts.
John Hollinger (35 points): Like it or not, these are the Kobe Finals, and not just for the prima-donna-finally-sees-the-light story line.
He's the go-to scorer for the favorites and the reigning MVP, and he'll have more touches than anyone else by far. How he fares against Boston's vaunted defense likely will be the greatest determining factor in which side prevails.
Jalen Rose (30 points): The Black Mamba and MVP of the league. This is a chance for him to win his fourth title and he does not plan to disappoint.
David Thorpe (30 points): The best player in these playoffs is a huge difference-maker in the fourth quarter. His ability to create points and open up shots for teammates might be the answer to Boston's defense. The Lakers can't win without great production from their MVP.
He also is capable of playing shut-down defense on Ray Allen -- and he can give Pierce problems on occasion.
Ric Bucher (28 points): He's the best player in the series, the element the Celtics have no easy answer for. And no one has more to lose or gain by the outcome.
Tim Legler (26 points): Kobe is the best player in the world and obviously will put his stamp on the game every night, but the Celts have taken pride in not letting their opponent's best player beat them.
He will be facing the best defensive team in the NBA, the most physical front line and the game's best defensive communicator, Kevin Garnett.
Henry Abbott (20 points): With Tony Allen slowed and possibly out due to injury, I'm quite certain the Celtics won't be using the "beat him up all series long" approach to Kobe-stopping.
That means they likely will do what they did successfully in the regular season: protect the rim like crazy, but leave Allen out there all alone to guard Kobe. In the regular season, they turned Bryant into a long-distance shooter, and he happened to be cold. For the Lakers' sake, he can't be cold again.
MORE NBA HEADLINES
- OKC's Morrow (MCL sprain) out 4-6 weeks
- Kobe salutes Nash: Ailing PG gave it his all
- Magic's Oladipo to have facial fracture surgery
- Toss up: Fans to rule on LeBron's chalk ritual
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2008 NBA FINALS
And then there were two -- the Lakers and Celtics. Who will win the NBA Finals? Let the games begin.
Daily Dime• Celtics win 17th championship title
• Did C's lose Regret Game?
• A little help from Kobe's friends
• Time for L.A. to go small
• The Finals Can't Shake Donaghy Mess
• Unlikely Game 4 comeback gives C's 3-1 lead
• Rondo's ankle could change L.A.'s game plan
• Kobe leads Lakers to Game 3 win
• Lakers need to attack the paint
• Lakers learn Powe's name in Game 2
• Time for Gasol to step up
• Lakers need better defense in Game 2
• Pierce sparks Celtics in Game 1 victory
• Expert predictions, clutch stats
• Pierce loves playing Lakers
• Celtics to meet L.A. in the Finals
Lakers vs. Celtics• Stein: Q&A after six-game "sweep"
• MacMullan: Pierce's long road to greatness
• Hollinger: From camp to champs
• Stein: Boston's big three shine
• Adande: Questions loom over Lakers' future
• Hollinger: Celtics commit to defense
• Scouts Inc.: Game 6 breakdown
• Hollinger: Farmer steps up in Game 5
• Sheridan: Late-game letdown for Celtics
• Stein: Lakers ready to make history?
• Adande: Greatness eluding Phil and Kobe
• MacMullan: Doc adheres to dad's lessons
• Jackson: Time for L.A.'s concession speech?
• Stein: Game 4 not Kobe's finest hour
• Adande: KG dominates Gasol again
• Hollinger: Rivers makes all the right moves
• Hill: Kobe's Laker legacy on the line
• Hollinger: Vujacic lends helping hand in Game 3
• Jackson: Jump shot Jesus has returned
• Stein: Lakers need to earn sympathy
• Adande: Lakers feel foul over whistle disparity
• Jackson: Leading role suits Pierce
• Adande: Kobe turns away from the pass late
• Stein: Pierce's knee key to rest of series
• Finals factor 1: Kobe Bryant
• Finals factor 2: Celtics Defense
• Finals factor 3: Paul Pierce
• Finals factor 4: Home-court advantage
• Finals factor 5: Battle of the benches
• Hollinger: Lakers offense vs. Celtics defense
• Broussard: Turning back the clock
• Adande: How did Kobe get here?
• Scouts Inc. breakdown: Lakers vs. Celtics
• Coaching comparison: Red vs. Phil
• Smith: Kobe's moving forward
• Scoop: Fiendin' for a ring
• Top 10 moments of Lakers-Celtics rivalry
• ESPN Classic schedule: Relive the rivalry
TrueHoop• TrueHoop: Finals reflections
• TrueHoop: Doc Rivers' redemption
• TrueHoop: Lakers got Rondo'd
• Tough night for Allen
• Game 5 live blogging
• Laker nation vs. NBA refs
• Pierce and the evaporating knee story
• Game 2 live blogging
• Coaxing Kobe Bryant into hero mode
• Game 1 live blogging
• Today's game isn't so different
Simmons• Notes from the C's winning night
• Boston's X factors
• Game 4 running diary
• Time for NBA Finals answers
• The C's and city both look good
• The Truth comes out in Game 1
• NBA Finals forecast
• Chat: NBA Finals preview
• Simmons: You want a piece of Kobe, Boston?
ESPN The Magazine• Sporting Equivalency: NBA Finals meets hip hop
• Broussard: Reporting from the NBA Finals
Fantasy• Join the fun of NBA Finals: Playcaller
Audio• Dish: NBA Finals recap
• Wyc Grossbeck on C's championship
• Ray Allen on how the Celtics evolved
• Bob Ryan compares '86 C's to current one
• Jon Barry credits Tom Thibodeau's team defense
• Game 4 reactions
• Rajon Rondo on Pierce, Game 2 plans
• Bill Walton on Celtics-Lakers history
• Dr. J on Finals, '80s hoops