Nash officially named MVP
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash was named the National Basketball Association's Most Valuable Player on Sunday.
The official announcement came during halftime of ABC's NBA playoff telecast, two days after the league's worst-kept secret was widely reported.
Nash, who helped the Suns tie a franchise record for wins this season, edged Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal for the award. It was a close vote: Nash received just 34 more points than O'Neal from a panel of 127 sportswriters.
"I didn't know what sportswriters knew until they voted on this award," Nash joked at a press conference.
At 6-foot-3, Nash became the third shortest MVP in history. He is the first Suns MVP since Charles Barkley in 1992-93 and just the fourth point guard in the award's history.
"I feel really proud," he said.
The Suns posted just 29 victories in 2003-04, but the offseason acquisition of Nash from the Dallas Mavericks sparked a 33-win turnaround, and the team finished with the NBA's best record at 62-20 this season.
Nash averaged a league-leading 11.5 assists and 15.5 points during the regular season -- both figures well above his career numbers. Under his floor generalship, Phoenix scored a league-best 110 points per game.
And the point guard's work is not done.
The Suns completed a four-game sweep of Memphis last Sunday -- their first playoff series win in five years -- to advance to the Western Conference semifinals, where they will face the Dallas Mavericks beginning Monday.
Nash's playoff numbers are not far removed from his regular season statistics: 11.3 assists and 15.0 points in four games.
"We've still got a lot to accomplish," he said.
O'Neal averaged 22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds in his first season with Miami, leading the Heat to 59 wins -- tops in the Eastern Conference and tied for second in the league with San Antonio.
The Heat, who lost to Indiana in the second round of last year's playoffs, completed a first-round sweep of New Jersey last Sunday and are currently facing the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Dirk Nowitzki -- Nash's old teammate in Dallas -- finished third in the voting. San Antonio's Tim Duncan was fourth and Allen Iverson of Philadelphia came in fifth.PHO