Posted: May 13, 2005 2:06 pm EST

Column: NBA MVP should be about play, not skin color (~14 col. in.)
by Mike Beas, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
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    By Mike Beas
    CNHI News Service

    ANDERSON, Ind. -- Shaquille OíNeal could experience more lifetimes than Paula Abdulís career and not be mistaken for Steve Nash, the latter 10 inches, 130 pounds and at least a dozen haircuts shy of Shaqís eclipsing 7-1, 325-pound frame.

    OíNeal makes Wyoming look puny. By NBA standards, the 6-3, 195-pound Nash is puny.

    Rarely had the two been linked, but all that changed when Nash, the Phoenix point guard who looks like he lobs himself into the middle of concert mosh pits when heís not leading the Suns high-powered offense, won the leagueís Most Valuable Player hardware by securing more votes than OíNeal.

    Shaq, to his credit, took the news like a man.

    This isnít to say that Miamiís big man didnít feel the urge to bruise every rim in sight ó something he could have accomplished with his free throws alone ó but outwardly heís been a total professional.

    OíNeal likes Nash. Respects his game, his guts.

    End of story, right? Wrong.

    There are followers of the NBA convinced skin color played a role in Nash claiming the leagueís most-prestigious individual award what with a white man being honored in a predominantly black sport by a predominantly white pool of 127 sportswriters from the United States and Canada (remember, there is a rumor circulating that Toronto has a team).

    Nash has played in 81 of the Sunsí 88 games to date, averaging 15.5 points and a league-best 11.5 assists. His presence has meant a 33-victory regular-season about-face for a Phoenix club that finished 62-20 and is running opponents out of the gymnasium.

    With OíNealís shadow consuming large portions of the lane, Miami has shifted from a 42-win club 12 months ago in the regular season to a sleeker 59-victory model. Shaq has taken part in 79 of the Heatís 88 games and averaged 22.9 points, 10.4 boards, 2.3 blocks and heaven knows how many double-teams along the way.

    Itís a coin-flip, plain and simple, between the Beast of the East and the Best of the West. Both players deserved it, but only one can get it, and this season it happened to be Nash.

    Itís unfortunate naming an MVP had to be clouded with race because it is a monumental disservice to Nash to think he was rewarded for his skin color and a monumental disservice to OíNeal to think heís being punished for his.

    NBA Commissioner David Stern no doubt is an arrogant twerp, though I have long applauded his efforts to make the league a force globally.

    What this means is that a Canadian product such as Nash or a German-born like Dallasí Dirk Nowitzki or a Chinese import such as Yao Ming, men responsible for millions of dollars of merchandise sales annually based on jersey sales alone, should be able to win an MVP award without looking over their shoulder.

    Sternís wish is for an individualís talent to take precedence over nationality or skin color and that there be no questions asked or eyebrows raised.

    Perhaps one day the NBA will be able to plead guilty to an incurable case of colorblindness and debates such as Nash-OíNeal can cease.

    The sooner the better.

    Mike Beas writes for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind.

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