by Jordan Adams - 05/11/2006
Before the Suns' game one of the Western Conference semi-final match-up against the Los Angeles Clippers, Steve Nash was honored with his second consecutive MVP award. He joins an elite group of eight players who previously accomplished this feat.
The MVP is the top award of the season given to one player for his year-long performance, but this trophy represents anything but individual play.
Many have concluded that Nash is not the best skill player in the league and probably not in the top three from the short list of MVP candidates that were mentioned late in the year. While unique cases could be made for Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or even Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash was most deserving of this honor. The MVP award signifies the player that is most valuable to his team. Yes, each of the other finalists are the best players on their respective teams, but do they get the most out of their teammates like Steve Nash has this year?
Most people were aware that the Phoenix Suns were without the services of their budding frontcourt star Amare Stoudemire. It was the impact Nash had on the rest of his teammates, especially the ones that Nash had never played with before. Five players in the Suns' rotation had career years playing along side Steve Nash, including first year Suns' Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and James Jones. These five saw their scoring average rise considerably, all posting career highs in points per game.
What Nash was able to accomplish brings to light more than ever that the NBA's MVP winner is about team basketball and how that one player can bring the rest of his teammates together to be successful. The Suns' first round escape over the Los Angeles Lakers kept an amazing statistic alive for MVP winners. If Nash and his Suns can advance to the Western Conference Finals, it will mark 15 of the past 16 years that the MVP winner's team has made it to at least their conference finals. This active streak dates all the way back to the 1990-91 season when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
The MVP awards exceptional play, but only if it has a positive effect on that individual's team. That is why this streak is so significant. What good is the MVP recognition of a team's top player if he truly does not help his team succeed throughout that season?
With many media pundits suggesting that Kobe Bryant's efforts earned him this year's MVP, Nash actually winning the award and the streak remaining intact shows how important team play really is in today's NBA.
Kobe Bryant had a remarkable individual year, but his Lakers were not a great team and frankly overachieved in the first part of their series with the Suns. They choked pitifully because they simply did not have the talent to keep up with Phoenix. Sure, Bryant's skills went unmatched, as did his daily game performances. But all he did was glorify what has been criticized so frequently at this level: selfish, individual play.
Kobe's overly ambitious trigger finger may have been the only way his Lakers got into the playoffs and that is understandable, but his play was selfish and individualized nonetheless.
It cannot be stated any simpler - team basketball wins NBA championships and MVPs come from those great NBA teams.