- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Nash has edged Miami center Shaquille O'Neal to become just the fourth point guard in MVP history to win the league's highest individual honor, according to sources familiar with the results. The others are Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Bob Cousy.
The official announcement will come at halftime of ABC's 3 p.m. ET playoff game.
O'Neal, three times an NBA Finals MVP, has won the regular-season MVP trophy just once in his 13 seasons. Apparently tipping this vote in Nash's favor was the Suns' 33-game improvement -- from 29 wins to a league-leading 62 wins -- after signing Nash away from the Dallas Mavericks in the offseason.
Nash's previous best MVP showing was 14th place in 2002.
With Nash flanked by the athletic finishing of fellow All-Stars Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, Phoenix became just the second team in NBA annals to win at least 60 games after a 50-loss season. The first? The Boston Celtics in Larry Bird's rookie season of 1979-80.
But Nash is defying history to beat out O'Neal, and not simply because he had only one scholarship offer from a Division I university -- Santa Clara -- as a slight Canadian teen-ager in British Columbia.
Allen Iverson, the NBA's 2001 MVP as a shooting guard, is the only player shorter than 6-foot-6 in the past four decades to win the award. Nash also becomes the first MVP since Portland's Bill Walton in 1978 to average less than 20 points per game. His 15.5-point scoring average for the Suns is the third-lowest all-time for an MVP, ahead of only Washington's Wes Unseld (13.8 ppg in 1969) and Boston's Bill Russell (14.1 ppg in 1965).
Nash, though, did lead the league in assists (11.5 apg) by a wide margin for a Suns team that averaged a league-leading 110 points per game.
Phoenix swept Memphis 4-0 in a first-round series and awaits the Dallas-Houston winner in the second round, raising the possibility of an emotional series against the team he left last summer.
3hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann