Kill the noise
There's not enough here to warrant an entry in our infamous "NBA Racial Semiotics" series, but I'm getting so sick of hearing about it that I couldn't keep quiet.
Look, I know this second round is going to suck, and we're headed towards the Pistons/Spurs Finals the league has dreaded since day one of the season. But on the real, this Steve Nash-MVP/race riot in the making thing has got to stop now. It may make for juicier discussion than the playoffs as they stand, but here are all the reasons why there's absolutely no weight there:
1. Nash is hardly the great white hope. He's a Canadian who reads Marx, loves soccer, and likes to travel the world. His best friend is a seven-foot tall German musician who just happens to be another non-candidate for "pale face of the league" (for obvious reasons). And while he's a gamer, he's no hustle player (where would he be without his speed?) and never gives the impression that, without basketball, he'd live a totally meaningless life.
2. Shaq is the most beloved athlete in America, who, despite being the biggest, blackest man most of us will ever see, is pretty much beyond race at this point.
3. Shaq has the potential to be the league's automatic MVP without lifting a finger, but his defense is largely accidental, he's hurt a lot, and the advantage he offers a team is largely psychological. I'm not trying to downplay his value, or question the talents of the third or fourth greatest center in the history of the game. But unless he's post 30-15-4 every night with Duncan-like consistency, Shaq's performance simply isn't matching his mythical year-in, year-out value to a team. And last time I checked, that's what we base the MVP on. Otherwise, Jackie Robinson should have been the NL's MVP every year of his career.
4. If the NBA had a race problem, why would Iverson and Garnett both have MVP's in recent years? To quote THC, "it gets no realer."
5. At the risk of pissing off quite a few people, aren't Tim Duncan's two MVP's better evidence of this racial dynamic? He's a "good guy" who plays "fundamental basketball" for a "quality team with character." Versus Nash, a Radiohead-listening free-thinker who dates models, orchestrates a free-wheeling, profligate offense, and gets on swimmingly with a squad of hip-hop-loving twenty somethings. Now where's your (racial) mainstream, ladies and gentlemen?
6. Shaq himself put it best: "Steve's a great guy and has had a great year." This year the Suns ruled the NBA, and Nash was the engine that made them go. He didn't just help his team, he helped the whole damn Association. All Shaq did was prove that last season was an aberration, that he's still here and still a force of nature that can be counted on to anchor a contendor. If anything, he should get Most Improved, except that statistically speaking, this year's not that much better than 2003-2004. Shaq was better with the Lakers, and trading in Wade for Kobe means he should be even more of an offensive force. To say nothing of jumping to a woefully small conference. . .
7. This is a black league, explicitly and implicitly. That's why, if you really wanted to give the MVP to the league's new face, the guy that makes everyone happy, the one figure who says all the right things while keeping his swagger, wows us without defiling the game, and looks to be NBA's single most important player for the next decade or so, there's really only one choice for MVP if you believe the whole thing was somehow rigged.
8. No one can tell me that Nash is a bigger, more rousing underdog than Iverson, who is at this point a problem child in look only. If we want to make this about class and ethics as much as race, Nash is a spoiled, head-in-the-clouds underachiever who suddenly had everything handed to him (in Dallas, too), while Iverson embodies the upwardly-mobile grit, determination, and self-reliance that all Americans like to think they're made of. And Shaq, well, he's just big.
9. If you want to blame someone for Shaq only having one MVP, blame Kobe.
10. We always talk about how much Kobe relied on Shaq; how much was Shaq a creation of Kobe?