MVP3 for Nash?
By John Hareas
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Two of the three players who accomplished this rare MVP feat ---Bill Russell and Larry Bird -- Weigh In on Nash

SECAUCUS, N.J., April 18, 2007 -- Bill Russell. Wilt Chamberlain. Larry Bird.

Steve Nash?

The two-time NBA MVP is on the doorstep of NBA history, on the cusp of perhaps joining the three Hall of Famers as only players to ever win the NBA MVP Award three consecutive years, a distinct honor that somehow managed to elude all-time greats Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan but may not Nash.

An honor, according to Russell, should go to Nash once again.

“Nothing has changed from last year,” said Russell. “I think in terms of marketing [for the award], the way the Suns beat the Mavs the last two times should help sway it in his favor.

“He plays hard and he’s enthusiastic. I think there is a certain joy to the way he plays. I think that is essential to get to the top of your profession. There is a certain amount of joy in your accomplishments. When you make a really good pass, it really feels good. To me, I see that in him.”

It was those two performances by Nash in which the Suns won both games over Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs that has helped keep his name in the MVP running. Performances in which four of his teammates posted double figures, a selfless characteristic that helped define Bird’s legendary career.

“His ability to make other players around him better,” said Bird. “All the great players were able to do that. His style is a little different than most. He can get in the lane about any time he wants. He controls the ball as good as anybody ever has in this league and to do some of the things he does is pretty remarkable.”

How about Bird and Nash on the same team? Could you imagine? Bird certainly would have welcomed the opportunity.

“Anyone would love to play with him. Playing with guys like Steve or Magic Johnson or John Stockton, guys like that, they just make the game so much easier for everybody else. If you can hit open shots, you are going to look good.”

The quest for MVP greatness was not a conscious effort for Russell or Bird. It was the championship that mattered. Individual awards were merely icing on the cake.

“That was not part of my thinking about repeating,” said Russell, who won three straight awards from 1961-63, which would have been five in a row if wasn’t for Robertson who won it in ’64.

“It might sound odd, but I didn’t realize that we had won eight straight [championships] until about four or five years after I stopped playing. That was never part of the thinking.

“I’m sure that somewhere in the back of Steve’s mind he’s thinking about it but it’s not dominant. He just thinks about winning games for the Suns. I know that. And doing whatever he can to get that done. I think that observers and people watching are more concerned about that than he is.”

Rather than focusing on his third straight MVP, Bird was thinking about his teammate, Kevin McHale, who he felt was more deserving in the ’85-86 season. “I never really put too much emphasis on it,” said Bird. “My last one in 1986, the first half of the season, I thought McHale was having a much better season than me. The game was so easy to him.

“I can remember telling him, ‘Kevin, you keep going like this and you’re going to win MVP.” And he goes, “That doesn’t mean nothing to me.’ Well, it doesn’t now, but 30 years from now it might.

“He was awful good that year and I think he could have won it just as easily as me. We had a very good team. But I never looked at the MVP as the thing.”

Ironically, it was Russell who presented Bird with his third consecutive NBA MVP award that year, the season the Celtics won their 16th championship. Two legends who at that time, won a collective eight out of 31 MVP awards.

“Bill gave me the trophy and that meant so much to me because I know he was very proud to have me in that company,” said Bird. “And that meant a lot to me that day, but after that, it was over. Bill said a few things, handed me the trophy and I thought that was pretty spectacular.”

The Nash-Dirk debate should result in one of the closest MVP votings in years. Whether it is the closest of all time remains to be seen. In 1956-57, the second year the award was issued, another Celtics legend, Bob Cousy, edged first-year recipient Bob Pettit by a mere 11 votes.

What about co-MVPs for Nash and Dirk? In the 51 year history of the award, there has never been two players who shared the honor and Bird hopes to keep it that way.

“I hope they don’t give co-MVPs, because if Steve gets it, I want him to win it outright so he can get three in a row. But if Dirk is the better one, give it to him. I don’t think you can go wrong with either one of them.”

Bill Russell
Season
G
MPG
FG%
FT%
3PT%
SPG
APG
RPG
PPG
’60-61 78 44.3 0.426 0.55 N/A N/A 3.4 23.9 16.9
’61-62 76 45.2 0.457 0.595N/A N/A 4.5 23.6 18.9
’62-63 78 44.9 0.432 0.555 N/A N/A 4.5 23.6 16.8
Wilt Chamberlain
Season
G
MPG
FG%
FT%
3PT%
SPG
APG
RPG
PPG
’65-66 79 47.3 0.54 0.513 N/A N/A 5.2 24.6 33.5
’66-67 81 45.5 0.683 0.441 N/A N/A 7.8 24.2 24.1
’67-68 82 46.8 0.595 0.38 N/A N/A 8.6 23.8 24.3
Larry Bird
Season
G
MPG
FG%
FT%
3PT%
SPG
BPG
APG
RPG
PPG
’83-84 79 38.3 0.492 0.888 0.247 1.8 0.9 6.6 10.1 24.2
’84-85 80 39.5 0.522 0.882 0.427 1.6 1.2 6.6 10.5 28.7
’85-86 82 38 0.496 0.896 0.423 2 0.6 6.8 9.8 25.8
Steve Nash
Season
G
MPG
FG%
FT%
3PT%
SPG
BPG
APG
RPG
PPG
’04-05 75 34.3 0.502 0.887 0.431 1 0.1 11.5 3.3 15.5
’05-06 79 35.5 0.512 0.921 0.439 0.8 0.2 10.5 4.2 18.8
’06-07 75 35.3 0.534 0.898 0.459 0.75 0.08 11.6 3.5 18.7