By William Bixby
Steve Nash will finish his National Basketball Association career as one of the best point guards in league history. The true worth of a point guard is his ability to control a basketball game without actually scoring the baskets himself. John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Isaiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, and Nash himself are the only point guards that played in the history of the NBA that did that by assisting on baskets on a regular basis. Magic and Nash are the only two that could dominate the game with scoring in addition to passing the basketball. Steve Nash deserves to be one of the NBA’s regular season Most Valuable Players. He was the 1st player in league history to win the award despite being born in another different country. He is a seven-time All-Star that has been named to the NBA’s All-NBA team seven times, 3 times on the 1st team, 2 times on the 2nd team, and 2 times on the 3rd team. He has led the NBA in assists for four seasons, and led the NBA in free throw percentage twice, all while placing among the leaders in assists/turnover ratio and 3 pt. shooting percentage, too. During both of his MVP seasons, Nash accomplished something that only six other NBA players have done in the last 25 years. He became a member of the 40/50/90 club. Membership in the 40/50/90 club is an indicator of a players shooting efficiency. The name means that for a full season Nash shot at least 40% from the 3 pt. arc, 50% from the field, and 90% from the free throw line. Only he and Larry Bird have have done this twice, Nash has done it on three occasions.
He is one of only 12 players in NBA history to win more than one Most Valuable Player awards. Kareem Abdul Jabbar has the most awards with 6, Michael Jordan and Bill Russell attained 5 apiece, and Wilt Chamberlain collected 4. Three players won three MVP awards during their careers, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Moses Malone. Bob Pettit, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, Steve Nash, and LeBron James are the only two-time winners. That means that 38 0f 55 trophies have been won by 12 players. Nash has achieved incredible feats in his basketball career. Despite the exceptional professional accomplishments of Steve Nash on the basketball court, he is slightly overvalued when it comes to NBA MVP’s. Placed in the scope of his peers Steve Nash has more regular season hardware than Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett. Yet, all three players have accomplished more than him. Shaq is one of the top 4-5 centers to ever play in the NBA, having won 4 championships, scored more than 25, 000 points, and grabbed more than 10, 000 rebounds. Kobe is the 2nd best shooting guard in NBA history behind only Michael Jordan. He has recently passed the 25,000 point mark and has 5 championships rings. Garnett has won only 1 NBA championship, but has been one of the best power forwards in the league for the last decade. He has passed the 25,000 point/10,000 marks also. Nash’s accomplishments pale in comparison to just these three players, but he has the most decorated career of the three.
Granted, the Phoenix Suns, under Nash’s leadership did become one of the most entertaining and best models for winning franchises in the NBA. In the 2004-05 season, the year of his first National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Award, Nash led the Suns to a NBA best 62-20 record while dishing out a NBA-leading 11.5 assists per game. But Nash’s statistics in his first MVP year fell well short of the statistics of the other two point guards to ever win the MVP. In Magic Johnson’s MVP seasons of 1986-87, 88-89, and 89-90, he averaged 23.9 ppg. and 12.2 apg., 22.5 ppg. and 12.8 apg., and 22.3 ppg. and 11.5, respectively. Magic scored at least six more points and gave out more assists in each of his MVP years. And even Bob Cousy in the 1956-57 season, at the beginning of the shot clock era, scored 18.5 ppg. and had 7.6 apg. to win the NBA Most Valuable Player award. Besides solely performing in the regular season, Magic and Cousy played better in the playoffs. They were both champions multiple times with Magic winning 5 rings and Cousy taking 6. For all his skill in ball-handling, perfect court vision and timing, anticipatory acumen when passing, and accuracy shooting the basketball, Nash has never won a championship. In fact, Nash is the only MVP in the history of the league to never play in an NBA Final. John Stockton, another Hall of Fame point guard, had comparable numbers to Steve Nash and never won a MVP award. Stockton and Nash have career averages of 14.7 and 8.4, respectively. In his best season, Stockton averaged 17.2 points per game and 14.5 assists per game. In Nash’s two MVP seasons he scored 15.5 and 18.8 ppg, and handed 11.5 and 10.5 apg. Nash, in his best season, 2006-07, averaged 18.6 ppg. and 11.6 apg. and lost the MVP to Kobe Bryant.
Steve Nash should not have won his first MVP. His team became the vogue pick to win the NBA championship following the team’s big turnaround in total wins. They were transformed by Nash from a 29-53 team, to a 62-20 one. People were enamored with the way that the Phoenix Suns pushed the basketball regardless of the outcome of the previous play. If opponents missed a shot, the Suns ran a fast break. If the opposing team made the bucket, they pushed the pace of the game anyway. The Suns played fun, inspired basketball. They played the way that you teach kids to play it, with a smile. Phoenix reminded people of the Golden Era of basketball with the “Showtime” Lakers and high-scoring affairs. Because of this, people glanced over the person that should have won their second MVP, Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq established himself as one of the most dominant forces in the league over the previous decade. He had already turned the franchise that drafted him, the Orlando Magic, into contenders, and made Anfernee Hardaway an All-Star. He bullied and dunked his way to 3 NBA championships in LA, while setting the stage for Kobe Bryant. And when he arrived in Miami, he immediately pushed Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat into stardom and contention for a NBA championship. Shaquille O’Neal averaged 22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game during that season, which was under previous averages, but he changed the entire culture of the city. People that were indifferent to basketball due to the nightlife and business district of downtown Miami became avid fans of the game. The league began televising their games, and in the next season Shaq helped bring Miami their first and only NBA title.
In Nash’s first MVP season, he surprised the National Basketball Association. Audiences saw a tiny guard that moved the basketball like it was attached to his fingertips. He threw spectacular “behind the back ” passes and frenzy-inciting, alley-oops to his new teammate Amare’ Stoudamire. He split double teams with ease before flipping up running finger-rolls with his non-shooting hand, the left one. He shot the basketball historically well, as only five other players have ever done. He assisted on half the plays that the Phoenix Suns ran, because the basketball was always in his hands. Honestly, it should have been in his hands. Nash was the most inspiring, exciting, appealing player in the NBA in the 2004-05 season. However, those are not the sole reasons for crowning a Most Valuable Player. Nash’s statistics were pedestrian when compared to other MVP’s, there were other point guards throughout NBA history that had favorable stats and did not win the award, and there was a better candidate that year too. Steve Nash should not have been MVP.