Nash receives 65 first-place votes

PHOENIX -- Steve Nash invited all of his Phoenix Suns
teammates up to the podium when he accepted the NBA's most valuable
player award Sunday.

The gesture was befitting of a player who earned the trophy by
getting everybody involved, and making his team a 62-game winner --
33 more victories than the previous season.

"I really just want to share this with my teammates," Nash
said. "This has been an incredible year for me and for our team.
For me to come to a new situation and be accepted the way I've been
by these guys, and for us to be able to form the bond that we have,
it's been special."

The Suns point guard edged Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal by
34 points to win the award, the fourth-closest margin since the
media began determining the winner in 1980-81.

The decision was first reported Friday by ESPN.com's Marc Stein, but the official announcement Sunday detailed the balloting by a panel of 127 sports writers and broadcasters in the United States and Canada.

Nash is from Victoria, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island,
and is the first Canadian to win the NBA's MVP award.

"It's an incredible oddity in many ways," Nash said. "My
neighborhood didn't have any NBA players. I was offered one
scholarship. Obviously hockey is the first, second and third story
in our country, so to be here is very unlikely.

"At the same time I think that makes it a great accomplishment
for me to kind of cherish because there were a lot of obstacles for
me just to be a professional basketball player."

Nash, 31, was drafted by Phoenix as the No. 15 pick overall out
of Santa Clara in 1996. Two years later, with Kevin Johnson and
Jason Kidd playing ahead of him, he asked for a trade and was sent
to Dallas. The deal included the draft choice that the Suns used to
get Shawn Marion.

Just after last season, the Suns loaded a charter jet with team
officials, new owner Robert Sarver, coaches and players and went to
Dallas to try to persuade Nash to sign a free agent deal with

"We went there with one purpose and that was to come back with
Steve Nash," Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo said.

Nash agreed to a five-year, $65 million contract, and Mavericks
owner Mark Cuban didn't match it.

Combining the ever-creative Nash with the Suns' array of fleet
sharpshooters, and with Amare Stoudemire the perfect target for
Nash inside, Phoenix stunned the NBA with a 31-4 start. The
camaraderie that developed was evident in the news conference
Sunday, when Nash, known for his wardrobe of mostly torn jeans and
sweat shirts, was kidded by his teammates about the dress shirt he
wore untucked with blue jeans the minute he walked in the room.

"As coaches, we really try to preach team first," Suns coach
Mike D'Antoni said, "share the basketball, do whatever it takes to
win. ... He made his teammates better, his teammates made him a lot
better. Everyone's having career years here, and 62 wins and 20
losses mean something."

D'Antoni could be on the podium again on Tuesday, when the NBA
coach of the year award is announced. The East Valley Tribune of
Mesa, citing an NBA source speaking on condition of anonymity,
reported Sunday that D'Antoni would win the coach of the year
award. Colangelo would not confirm it, but offered a hint by saying
he planned to be back on Tuesday.

In the MVP voting, players received 10 points for a first-place
vote, seven for second, five for third, three for fourth and one
for fifth.

Nash received 65 first-place votes to O'Neal's 58. The NBA
assist leader at 11.5 a game, Nash is the sixth guard to win the
award, joining Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Michael
Jordan and Allen Iverson.

Nash is the first player to lead the league in assists (11.5)
and be named MVP since Johnson in 1987, and the second Phoenix
player to win the award. The other was Charles Barkley in 1993.

Nash was asked what he thought when looked at the names "Magic,
Bird and Shaq, then Steve Nash" on the MVP list.

"Who does not belong?, I guess" he joked.

Then he turned serious.

"It's incredible," Nash said. "I'm there with my heroes. Like
Jerry said, it's been a long road for me. Actually I just feel
really proud to accomplish this by playing as a team, and by just
trying to be a good teammate."