The Nash dilemma
It's about four months too early for a discussion about the MVP voting and about 40 years too late for a discussion about race. But what the heck ... let's have one anyway.
A recent post on a Web site called Cosellout raises the point (not for the first time) that the Phoenix Suns'
It's gotten a lot of play, including a mention on TrueHoop, the bible of basketball blogs, so I thought I'd get into it here, if only as a way to talk about the puzzling process of picking an MVP, an ongoing discussion in every season.
Since I hate it when someone summarizes something I wrote and gets it all wrong, let me be clear about a few things. The post (probably written by
Having said that, I think it's wrong on a couple points.
Modiano (I presume) gets into his argument by bringing up a recent
I tend to agree with Cosellout on that point. An otherwise intelligent man (I hope he's at least reasonably intelligent since he's a doctor tasked with doing unspeakable things to my body from time to time) once said to me, "Nobody in that league you cover knows fundamentals except that -- what's his name? -- that white player in Phoenix." During a year I spent with Nash and the Suns writing a book (note: obligatory mention), I was urged any number of times to emphasize more strongly the idea that Nash and Company were introducing a different and unique element to the NBA, as if they had invented something never before seen.
Though many no doubt believe I was overly lavish in my praise of the Suns, and of Nash in particular, I resisted that notion. Nash is not the greatest point guard who ever lived, nor are the Suns the first team to be entertaining and fast-break-oriented.
But then Cosellout extrapolates his point about the
Understand that we do a lot of things wrong. Some of us make up trade rumors out of whole cloth. Some of us rely too heavily on self-serving missives from agents. Some of us give too much of a break to talkative sources and not enough to press-resistant ones. Some of us do not do well trying to understand young players, and the vast majority of young players are African-Americans.
But one of the few things we do well is vote. We do it extremely well. Cosellout suggests that MVP voting should be handed over to coaches, and I can tell you that coaches are no more objective than writers when it comes to voting. Coaches coach better (though sometimes we doubt that) and dress better (we don't doubt that), but they do not vote better.
The writers voted
Cosellout suggests that the race issue didn't get nearly enough attention in '05, when Nash drubbed
Nash's victory in '06 wasn't so clear-cut. I didn't vote for Nash -- I went for
Why? Because he was white? Nonsense. Voters have their prejudices, and I think I can speak for the majority of them when I say the following are ours. We're prejudiced toward passers and team-oriented set-up guys. They don't come around all that often, but we embraced Nash the same way we embraced Magic.
Back in the '80s there was a lot of hue and cry about voting for Jordan because he was not that type of player, but, in the end, he was just too damn good not to vote MVP. We're prejudiced
Maybe we shouldn't be, but we are. Decades ago I remember having arguments with my father about
It's not that simple, of course. But since MVP voting is so abstract to begin with -- best player? most important player? player you absolutely can't do without? -- we look for reasons to eliminate candidates, and strength of team is an obvious one. In both of Nash's victory years, the Suns were among the best teams in the league, three games better than any team in '05, year of the
So, what about LeBron, whom Cosellout suggests has been overlooked in the MVP voting because of race? I don't buy it. I think voters looked at LeBron over the last two years and saw an incomplete player leading an incomplete team. He was, in my mind anyway, a not-quite MVP. Now, was he stupendous in the '07 postseason? He was. Did we perhaps miss something in his game that should've stamped him as a stronger MVP candidate? Perhaps. But it had nothing to do with him being black.
He turns 23 in December. Jordan was 25 when he won his first MVP, Bird was 27 and Magic was 28. Maybe we voters are "age-ists," but we are not racists, and my guess is that LeBron comes into this season as the clear MVP favorite. It's too glib to say that it's his to lose ... but it just might be.
Having said all that, I absolutely subscribe to the belief that, when much of mainstream America looks at the NBA, they