The MVP award is always good for some spirited debate, and this year is no exception. While it appears to be a two-man race between Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, there is no shortage of supporters on both sides.
Some believe Nowitzki deserves it because he is the best player on the best team. Moreover, his Mavs have racked up one of the best regular-season records in NBA history.
Others prefer Nash for his clever playmaking, deadeye shooting and overall ability to make his teammates better. The Suns are one of the top teams in the league, and Nash orchestrates their attack like a maestro.
I'm voting for Nash, but I can see the argument for Nowitzki.
When it comes to this year's MVP debate, reasonable minds can disagree.
But what is not reasonable is voting against Nash because he happened to win the award the past two seasons.
This argument is just plain silly.
Why should the past have anything to do with this season?
Even more ridiculous is the argument that Nash should not win MVP for historical reasons. These adherents point out that the only players in NBA history to win three in a row are Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Larry Bird. That trio of basketball royalty has a combined 16 rings. Nash has never even been to the Finals.
Does Nash, they ask, deserve to be in that select company?
The answer, of course, is no. He doesn't. At least not yet.
But he's the most deserving MVP candidate this season, and that's all that matters.
The NBA does not provide much guidance in the way of criteria for the award. The ballot says simply, "You have been chosen by the National Basketball Association to serve on a committee to vote for the NBA Most Valuable Player Award for the 2006-07 season. The winner of this award receives the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, named after the first Commissioner of the NBA." That's it. No specifics.
But it does say clearly on the ballot that the award is for the 2006-07 season.
Nash deserves it because, as stated above, he got the best out of guys like Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa. He was also more indispensable to his team. Take Nowitzki off the Mavs, and they would still be pretty good. Take Nash off the Suns, and they're like a Ferrari that suddenly blows a tire.
Yes, Phoenix boasts two other All-Stars in Shawn Marion and Amaré Stoudemire. But those guys would not have been in Las Vegas this season without Nash's ability to get them the ball for easy baskets. Besides, Nowitzki has Josh Howard and a deep cast around him too.
Nash's ability to deliver in the clutch also stands out in my mind. It just seems like the little magician finds a way to hit the big shot or make the key play, something the Mavs know all too well. In their March 14 double-OT classic at Dallas, Nowitzki missed a key free throw late that could have iced the game. Nash (who scored 10 points in the final minute of regulation) came down and drilled a three-pointer to tie it.
When it comes to the MVP, that's the only kind of history that should matter.
If you want to argue against Nash for MVP, go ahead and say that he's not a great defender. Or that his Suns are slumping a bit down the stretch.
Those are valid reasons. But don't reject him because he's already got two trophies on his mantle. That makes about as much sense as saying he doesn't deserve it because of his haircut.