Nash wins MVP award for second straight year

PHOENIX -- That mop-haired Canadian did it again, running away with his second consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award.

Steve Nash -- the maestro of the fast, frenetic Phoenix Suns -- beat runner-up LeBron James of Cleveland by a comfortable margin in results announced Sunday.

He is the ninth player to win consecutive MVP trophies and joins Magic Johnson as the only point guards to win the award more than once.

"I have to pinch myself," Nash said. "I can't believe that I'm standing here today. I couldn't believe it last year, and to do it again is even more difficult to understand -- but I'm not going to give it back."

The Suns playmaker received 57 first-place votes and 924 points overall from a panel of 125 sports writers and broadcasters in the United States and Canada.

James had 16 first-place votes and 688 points overall. But at 21, though, James knows he will have many more opportunities.

"It would have been nice of course to put another trophy in my house, in my showcase," he said from Auburn Hills, Mich., before the Cavaliers played the Detroit Pistons. "But it's something I'm going to keep working hard for. I can't dwell on not being named MVP."

Nash's close friend Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas was third with 14 first-place ballots and 544 overall. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers had the second-most votes for first place (22) but was fourth overall with 483 points.

"Steve is not just a great player," Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "He's one of the few players who I believe have ever played who makes everyone better around him. There are very few players who have the ability to directly control the flow of the game, and he does it as well as anyone ever has."

Nash, 32, is the 11th player to win the MVP award more than once.

"Steve's a leader," Suns owner Robert Sarver said. "He's the face of our team, he's the face of the organization. He's a role model for a lot of people, including me, who look up to him for his ability to constantly motivate the people around him with positive encouragement, even in the face of adversity and when things aren't going well."

Nash praised his teammates and coaching staff for "a perfect environment for me to succeed and for our team to succeed, and for me to stand here today."

Last season, he directed the Suns to an NBA-best 62 victories. This year, the Suns lost Amare Stoudemire to injury and traded Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson. Yet they still won 54 games and a second straight Pacific Division title.

This season, Nash had career highs in scoring (18.8 points), rebounding (4.2), field goal percentage (.512) and free throw percentage (a league-leading .921). He led the league in assists at 10.5 a game and finished sixth in 3-point percentage at 43.9.

"There was no way he had a better year than last year," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He just had another phenomenal year."

Others who have won consecutive MVP awards are: Tim Duncan,
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone,
Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Karl Malone
and Bob Pettit also won it twice, but not in consecutive years.

Not bad company for someone out of Victoria, British Columbia, who wasn't expected to succeed in college basketball, let alone become an NBA star.

"I guess part of me just tries to find the comedy in it," Nash said with his usual self-effacing humor. "It's thrilling and it's comedic and it's unbelievable. I just feel extremely honored to be recognized. I just love playing and I love working at it, trying to get better and challenging myself. I'm really lucky to have a place to do that in my life. I've come a long way, and I've enjoyed it."

Sarver remembered how he had just agreed to buy the team in July 2004 when a caravan of Suns officials and players flew to Dallas to persuade the free agent Nash to leave the Mavericks.

"Jerry made sure he didn't leave the house without Steve saying he was going to be a Phoenix Sun," Sarver recalled.

Nash agreed to a five-year, $65 million contract, and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn't match it. Since then, the Suns have won 116 regular-season games and are in the second round of the playoffs after making it to the Western Conference finals a year ago.

"It's surreal," Nash said. "I feel silly being up here because I really can't put it into words, no matter how hard I try."