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Tariq Engineer

Who would you rather have on your basketball team: an unstoppable 7-foot, 325-pound wise-cracking behemoth, or a skinny, 6-foot 3-inch Canadian with an otherworldly eye for passing lanes?
No disrespect meant to skinny Canadians, but give me the unstoppable 325-pound monster every time.
Yet it was Steve Nash who was voted the NBA’s 2005 MVP, and not Shaquille O’ Neal. Yes, the Suns did win 33 more games than a year ago. And yes, no one expected the Suns to be this good. But are misplaced expectations enough to justify selecting Nash as the NBA’s most valuable player?
This columnist, for one, does not think so. Unfortunately expectations influence perceptions, and MVP voting is all about perceptions. Shaq is supposed to make the game easier for his teammates. Shaq is supposed to be dominating. After all he is a 7-foot, 325-pound behemoth. So no matter what Shaq does on the court, it doesn’t come across as exceptional. There is a bias against him because he is so big.
Nash, on the other hand, is tiny. And his team played a brand of basketball that most reporters wish every team played. The Suns run the floor more often, and do it better, than any other team in the league. It makes the game more enjoyable to watch. Shaq going to work in the paint pales in comparison. It seems routine, ordinary, even though it is anything but.
To top it all Shaq was not helped by Dwayne Wade’s exceptional season, whereas Nash was helped by Amare Stoudamire’s equally exceptional season. Nash is given credit for Stoudamire’s performances because Nash runs the Suns offence.
But Shaq is not given credit for making the game easier for Wade – not to mention the other players on the Heat – by demanding double teams, or for providing an inside presence on defense which allows Wade to be more aggressive with his own defense.
In other words, there is a double standard at work here, one for Shaquille O’ Neal and one for the rest of the league. How else would you explain the fact that despite being one of the top three most dominating big men of all time, Shaq has only one regular season MVP trophy to show for it?