By Scott Tibbs, May 13, 2005
Nick Canepa shamed people who are playing the race card in saying that Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash won the Most Valuable Player award (and Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal didn't) because of racism.
Let's look at the numbers: Nash averaged 15.5 points, 11.5 assists, one steal, 3.3 rebounds, and shot a career-high 50% from the field. O'Neal averaged 22.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.3 blocks per game. But those are not the only numbers to look at. Last year, the Suns won 29 games and the Heat won 42. This year, with Nash and O'Neal, the Suns won 62 games while the Heat won 59 games. Not only did Nash's team made a much bigger jump in wins, they did it in the much tougher Western Conference.
The MVP Award does not just go to the player with the best numbers. O'Neal may have had better stats than Nash, but Nash was more valuable to his team than O'Neal was to his. (One could argue that Dwayne Wade, not O'Neal, is the best player in Miami.) If we are going to look at statistics alone, then Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett (who averaged 22.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.3 blocks) should have finished higher in the MVP voting than both O'Neal and Nash. In addition, Cleveland's LeBron James averaged a stunning 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
Neither James nor Garnett, however, led their teams into the playoffs.
The point is this: voting on these kinds of awards is subjective. People casting ballots made a decision on who the MVP is based on nebulous criteria. One could make the argument that, from a basketball standpoint, O'Neal is more valuable than Nash and should have won the award. Most teams, if they had the option of trading their 12th man for either O'Neal or Nash, would pick O'Neal. But to argue that Nash was chosen because of "racism" is asinine.
This country, sadly, still has racial divisions. Irresponsible people who "play the race card" when they disagree with something harm this society. For selfish reasons, they re-open this culture's wounds and rub salt in those wounds. Race-baiters create an atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion, bitterness and hate. It is shameful that some people are willing to create such a harmful atmosphere over a matter that is ultimately of no real importance whatsoever. I hope all NBA sportswriters, coaches, general managers and players publicly call out these race-baiters by name and make it clear that their filth is not acceptable.