Give Them Something To Talk About

By Walik Edwards
Updated: May 11, 2005


Guess who’s back?

When the rumors, dating back to Christmas, came out that Steve Nash was being named the Association MVP, I began to feel the rumble that this thing would morph into a happening far beyond that of celebration.

Teeny weeny white guy being rewarded the best player in pro hoops? How dare you do something like that? Isn’t it odd that a smallish man of bad follicity take home our favorite sport’s biggest honor?

Tsunami proof your houses, people – this is going to be a bumpy ride.

What was worse is that Black people were actually going the route of knowing that this might have been the right choice after all, or at least debatably correct, with no incident. Then stepped in Dan LeBatard, who made it a race thing (even though he says it was only for discussion’s sake – and unless Danny’s been in a cave, he should know that race and awards are as combustible as UPN and quality programming), and now we are left digging out of the ruins – unnecessarily.

Getting off the highway for a second, Shaquille O’Neal was the most important person to the history of the Miami Heat. Pat Riley’s coming in several years ago was monumental, but Shaq’s entry into the South Florida hoops spotlight was something a floundering franchise needed.

The team’s website was practically Shaq’s unofficial personal site. His name and presence was everywhere. Dwyane Wade will eventually make this team viable when Shaq is gone, but he needs a little help in just his second year in the league.

Dudes like Udonis Haslem and Damon Jones suddenly had room to roam for some serious rebounding and open shooting respectively. And Wade was allowed to become a superstar because of Shaq for a number of reasons, but the big one, and this is why we scratch off a couple of those points for the Diesel, Wade had to be “the option” in the fourth quarter.

Regardless of Shaq losing buckets of weight, he would have come to an illegal status if he cut into some of that gym time to spend some time on the free-throw line. Teams need to go to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter a majority of the time, it’s the nature of the sport, but it was just Wade with his invisible helmet on plowing towards the hoop, either scoring or getting a chance at points from the line.

There’s no doubt that the presence of Shaquille O’Neal made the Miami Heat viable, but the presence of Steve Nash in Phoenix sped up the process of cleaning up the on-going natural disaster named Stephon Marbury.

Seriously, wherever Marbury goes there’s always destruction left behind when he gets shipped off to his new city, and Phoenix was the last place to have to deal with his mysterious phenomenon.

The Suns used to be a cool franchise, but had slipped into the muck over the past few seasons, and after an ownership change, it seemed like it would have to dig out from tons of mediocrity – even though there were guys like Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion still in the house.

Sports is like that, though. A losing attitude for a franchise is a hard habit to break. No matter the talent, it becomes the best of the bronco busters, and the biggest, baddest horsies can’t shake its passenger free.

The Suns were ready to be chronically mediocre for a long haul, and suddenly Steve Nash wanted to go ‘home.’ His adoptive folks were telling him he was too old to be nurtured by them any further, so he finally had to go back where everything started – back to the place that showed they really wanted him.

Maybe he was on a mission to prove the old franchise wrong for at least one season, but he saw how these new guys ran, and between him and coach Mike D’Antoni, they decided to let due fly.

Marion was already good to average a double-double, Joe Johnson had enough athleticism to finish well on the wing when he got the ops, and Quentin Richardson showed some potential of goodness as a Clipper, but it was all about making Stoudemire a force beyond recognition.

As did Jason Kidd with Kenyon Martin a few years ago, Nash was Stoudemire’s Dr. Frankenstein. People were writing the 6-10 kid off as a forever project, and suddenly he was an MVP just waiting to happen. Suddenly, the Suns were the Western Conference’s powerhouse. The Lakers were dismantled, the Spurs were right there, then Tim Duncan got an ouchie, and the Supersonics fell apart just before the playoffs.

Everybody waited for Nash and the Suns to collapse and it never happened. As with Kidd leading the Nets to two straight Finals, Nash has made the Suns viable again all by himself. Not since K.J. has a point guard run the team ship like Nash has, and made people talk about them with confidence.

He could also score a little. His jumper is nice, and he’s got the ability to beat defenders off the dribble. Oh yeah, and you could leave him in the game in the fourth quarter.

Shaq fell apart at the end of the season, physically, and in small doses throughout, and suddenly the chatter wasn’t how ferociously the Heat would march through the Eastern Conference playoffs, but how they would come up with a way to survive them en route to a date with the champion of the West.

So in looking at both top candidates, the importance both brought to their struggling franchises is unquestionable, and the discussion about why one deserves the trophy over the other is one of many dimensions.

I like Nash because I believe MVPs are voted for stuff done on the court, and without numbers mattering much in the process of judging. The Heat has shown to be resilient and even dominant with Shaq in street clothes, but that’s based on the confidence his presence had instilled in all of his teammates. We all feel better when the biggest person’s got our back.

But Nash opened up an entire new world to his teammates, and made the Suns worthy again. Most of all, his own game was also matured in the process. He became a reluctant magi when all he wanted was a place to ball who wanted him there. He now sees the fun Jason Kidd had three season prior, and will get to experience that excitement for a few more years to come – hopefully.

By the way, I noticed in writing that either player’s skin color played a role in discussing why one or the other should be or not be this season’s MVP.

Wasn’t really needed.

I guess Dan was having a slow day.