B.C. natives stick together

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Before facing the Blue Jays last night, St. Louis Cardinals star Larry Walker went to bat for fellow British Columbia native Steve Nash.

Walker said he was very proud when Nash captured the NBA's MVP award this season.

"That was good (stuff), believe that," Walker said. "I got to (brag) in the clubhouse for a few days."

Only two Canadians have won MVP awards in major league sport outside of hockey -- Walker won National League MVP in 1997 with the Colorado Rockies, and Nash with the Phoenix Suns this season.

Walker did not win the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's athlete of the year in 1997, despite hitting .366 with 49 home runs and 130 RBIs.

The native of Maple Ridge, B.C., lost that year to Formula 1 star Jacques Villeneuve -- a bitter pill to swallow.

Walker won the Marsh in 1998 after winning the NL batting title (.363) and slugging 23 homers, although his numbers were inferior to 1997.

In any event, Walker stated unequivocally yesterday that Nash should be awarded the Marsh Trophy this year.

"Without a doubt," Walker said. "I don't think (the Suns) would be anywhere near where they were without him on the team."

Nash averaged a league-leading 11.5 assists per game, leading Phoenix to a 62-20 record, best in the NBA. The season before the Suns were 29-53.

Canada's athlete of the year traditionally has been awarded to hockey players or Olympic sport athletes. Pro athletes outside of hockey rarely get the nod. There was a case made for Nash in 2000 when he led Canada to a historic 5-2 record at the Sydney Olympics. But he wasn't even nominated. The previous time a basketball player won Canadian athlete of the year was Noel MacDonald in 1938. Walker said that has to end this year -- even if a Canadian does something big at a world amateur sport event.

"Some people don't realize how big the award is," Walker said of Nash. "To be the most valuable player and beat the players that he beat ... I think they really have to analyze it."

Walker, who used to sit courtside whenever Nash and the Dallas Mavericks visited Denver, understands why Olympic athletes tend to win the award.

"It's tough," Walker said. "They train for a long time to get that one shot at fame, and to be at the top of your game at that one moment and perform that good is a huge achievement."


Videos

Photos