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Kudos to Nash, but Shaq the real MVP


May 9, 2005
Congratulations to Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash for winning the NBA's MVP honors.

Obviously, I'm not an NBA expert, having focused for so long on the college game. The NBA experts I look to are guys like Stephen A. Smith, Tim Legler, Greg Anthony, Peter Vecsey, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, etc. They follow the game inside and out.

As a fan watching the game from the outside, I can see there's no doubt that Nash has been brilliant in helping turn the Suns around. His passing ability, leadership and knack for hitting the 3-pointer are special.
Shaq makes every player on his team better, and you don't usually see that from a big man.

But when I look at Phoenix's roster and compare it to Miami's, I have to ask: Which team would suffer more, the Suns without Nash or the Heat minus Shaquille O'Neal?

This reminds me of the old debate: Are we picking the most outstanding player or the most valuable? In terms of value, in my view, Shaq has been the man. His mere presence makes Miami's opponents devise an entirely different game plan.

Shaq also deters opponents from trying to run the offense inside. His value cannot be measured by statistics alone. I know some argue about his inability to hit free throws, but O'Neal has made Miami a contender.

Yes, Nash has done the same for the Suns, but Phoenix has Amare Stoudemire inside. And while it's true that Miami has Dwyane Wade on the perimeter, if you took away Shaq, the Heat would be hurt more than if you took Nash away from the Suns.

I know that Nash is a legitimate choice for the award, and I don't want to take anything away from him and the great season he enjoyed. But even though Shaq has been banged up lately, look at what a difference maker he is.

Shaq makes every player on his team better, and you don't usually see that from a big man.

Heat players like Udonis Haslem have stepped up and become vital because of the attention given to Shaq in the middle. Heat guard Damon Jones got all upset when TNT analysts Smith and Barkley had some fun pointing out the value of Shaq in helping his teammates get perimeter shots.

Jones should be happy to be playing with the best post player in the game.

I love Nash's game and his ability as a lead guard to create opportunities for his teammates. He is an unselfish player. To me, though, when using the term most valuable, Shaq deserves the nod for what he has done in Miami. Yes, my ballot would have O'Neal's name on it, baby!

Heat GM Pat Riley also deserves a salute for being able to orchestrate the deal that brought Shaq to South Beach. Basketball is a major happening there now.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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