Garnett, Nash are favorites among NBA All-Star peers

Ask the same question over and over, and sometimes the responses add up to a completely new answer.

I asked 15 of the All-Star Weekend participants whom they would want to see get a championship ring, other than themselves. Their responses showed players value the same things the fans do: effort, dedication and teamwork.

It didn't surprise me that the winner was Kevin Garnett. He is beloved and respected around the league. But I wasn't prepared for such a slim margin of victory or the identity of the runner-up: Steve Nash. You don't see people rushing to say they are big fans of his, much the same way people don't voluntarily say they love Lionel Richie songs, but they definitely don't change the radio station when he comes on.

Nash himself was surprised.

"I didn't know they cared," he said.

Garnett, meanwhile, appeared to be genuinely moved.

"That's shocking, actually," he said. "It feels great. It feels good to know that the people you play against or people you battle against actually have a level of respect or appreciation for certain things. That says a lot. It says a lot about the class and the character of this league."

Garnett received six votes to Nash's five.

Others receiving votes were:

Jason Kidd ("He's an unbelievably great player; guys like that, you want to see them have success," Dwyane Wade said.)

Allen Iverson (Chauncey Billups put the guard on the top of his list.)

Ray Allen ("He always conducted himself as a professional on and off the court," said fellow UConn alum Caron Butler.)

There was one notable abstention in the voting: the ultra-competitive Kobe Bryant. "If it ain't us, I don't care," Kobe said.

Here are the explanations from the voters, first for runner-up Steve Nash:

Jason Kapono: "I like the way he goes about things. He's a great player, a great teammate. You never hear anything bad about him. I would love to see him get a chance to win it. He's done so much for the game. The way he goes about playing, he just keeps getting better and better each and every year. To go from a guy who was on the Phoenix Suns early on in his career and wasn't getting any time, to one of -- if not the -- best players in the game, just speaks to what kind of guy he is, the work ethic that he has."

Brandon Roy: "What he represents on the floor is just team basketball. He plays the game the right way. You want to see that rewarded. I would definitely like to see him win a championship. He's definitely faster and he's smaller, but the way he plays the game, I try to approach it the same way. When I watch him and I watch his heart and his fire, you definitely want to pull for a guy like that."

Tim Duncan: "Can I go with nobody? That's not an option? Honestly, I wouldn't mind seeing Phoenix do it. Steve's been incredible for many years. He just hasn't been able to get over the hump for one reason or another. As good as he is, I'd love to see him win it."

Dwight Howard: "I guess Steve Nash. He's got two MVP trophies. They've been winning 50, 60 games for a while now. They've been so close every year, and I know if that was me, I would want all the support I could get from people."

Chris Bosh: "He's won two MVPs; I'm sure he'd like to get some extra hardware."

Now for the winner, KG:

Deron Williams: "I'm a big fan of his. I've been a fan since I was young. Just the way he plays the game, the passion. I would like to see him win one."

Allen Iverson: "All the hard work and dedication that he put in, you want to see a guy like that get it. He's a team player. He's a great basketball player. And I'm cool with him, also."

Carlos Boozer: "After the Utah Jazz, if we don't win one, I would like to see KG win one, just because I'm a crazy KG fan. Growing up watching him, playing against him, he brings it every night, always passionate about the game. Just one of those guys that, as a basketball fan, you want to see him win championships. But that's only if we get eliminated, and we're not going to get eliminated, baby."

Chris Paul: "Every time we play against each other, since I've been in the league, we almost get into it. I think it's just that competitive nature. But I don't think anybody in the league plays with as much emotion and passion as KG. When I watch him playing, I see myself in that he doesn't want to lose. I'd definitely want to see someone like that win a championship, because I know he deserves it and he's worked hard for it."

Carmelo Anthony: " Out of all the guys in the NBA, he's been doing it for a long, long time. Right now, he has a shot at it.
He put a lot of years in this league, day in and day out. A lot of minutes, a lot of work. I just want to see him rewarded."

Antawn Jamison cast the deciding vote, but only after he was forced to make a decision.

"Steve taught me a lot," said Jamison, who played with Nash in Dallas. "He accepted me with open arms, and he wanted me to be successful. I'm a firm believer the reason I got the sixth man of the year award is because of him. I would really like to see him get one because of the type of person he is.

"And KG, we've been battling since high school. I love his passion for the game of basketball. I love what he represents. The guy has been through a lot. It would be nice to see him hold the trophy up and get the credit that he deserves as well."

You have to choose one. NBA Finals, Celtics versus Suns, Game 7, one of them hits the winning shot.

"Ahhh, man," Jamison said. "Seven games? I don't know, man …

"I'll say KG. Of course, you want to see the winner come out of the conference you play in."

And now we see the hidden benefit of Garnett's trade to the Celtics. Not only does he have a better shot at a championship, he has one more person rooting for him to get it.

J.A. Adande is the author of "The Best Los Angeles Sports Arguments." He joined ESPN.com as an NBA columnist in August 2007 after 10 years with the Los Angeles Times. Click here to e-mail J.A.