Posted: Thursday April 7, 2005 11:57AM; Updated: Thursday April 7, 2005 9:48PM
Previous MVP Selections
Marty Burns will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
Nash has been terrific as well. His NBA-leading 11.5 assists per game is eye-popping. There is no doubt he's the engine driving the Suns and the main reason they have been the surprise story of the season.
But half the game is played on defense, and the 6-2 Nash just doesn't have the same impact at that end as Shaq. He works hard on D, harder than Shaq most nights, but he often has trouble staying in front of his man. Shaq, by virtue of his immense size, changes and alters what foes can do. Even on those nights when the Diesel doesn't move his feet, he's still a factor.
Shaq's impact on the game can be seen in the effect it has had on his Heat teammates. Damon Jones, Udonis Haslem and Rasual Butler suddenly look like world-beaters this season while feeding off of Shaq's double-teams. Even Christian Laettner has been rejuvenated. Nash has certainly made his teammates better too, but he had more to work with from the start in Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson.
Both Shaq and Nash have led their teams to dramatic improvements (the Suns were 29-53 last season; the Heat were 42-40). Both players benefit from playing alongside All-Stars (Nash has Marion and Stoudemire; Shaq has Dwyane Wade). Both players have seen their teams struggle when they were out of the lineup (the Suns went 0-4 during a stretch without Nash; the Heat lost their first two games after the All-Star break without O'Neal).
But Shaq simply has been the bigger force in the NBA this year. He might not have put up the numbers he did in his one previous MVP year back in 2000, but he has taken the Heat to the top of the East. He'll most likely take them to the Finals, too.
Nash winning the MVP would make for a better story; no pure point guard under 6-5 has won it since Bob Cousy in '56-57. And for the little floppy-haired Canadian to lead his team to the best record in the NBA is truly remarkable. For those of us who enjoy a little drama with our sports, it doesn't get any better than that.
But as brilliant as Nash's meteor has been, Shaq's presence has towered over the NBA landscape all year. From his unceremonious trade out of L.A. to his All-Star hijinks, he has left his size-22 footprints all over the '04-05 season. He made it his mission this year to lead the Heat to the top, and he delivered. He's still the biggest and the best in the game, and he deserves the MVP.