Nice guys can finish first

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

PHOENIX -- Steve Nash worried that he was breaking with protocol, but he was being completely true to his personality.

Mere seconds after accepting the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as the most valuable player in the NBA, Nash called all of his Phoenix Suns teammates to the podium for a group picture.

Jim Jackson even handed his photo-snapping cellular phone to a media member seated in the front row.

It was not a pre-planned move by Nash. He had not known his teammates were going to be present.

We like to think it's the Canadian in Nash that inspires such moments. But wherever it comes from, Steve Nash is a nice guy. A humble guy. A team-first guy.

He was asked yesterday what it feels like to look at the MVP list and see names like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson ... and Steve Nash.

"Um, who does not belong, I guess?" Nash said, prompting laughter. "I'm there with my heroes."

What has been known for the past few days became official yesterday, but Nash's margin of victory over Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat was a tad bigger than expected. Nash attracted 65 first-place votes and 1,066 points overall, while Shaq got 58 first-place votes and 1,032 points overall. It was the fourth-closest vote in the history of MVP balloting.

"I probably should call Shaq and apologize," Nash said.

No need. Nash has become a sports hero in his own right, especially in Canada. However, he admitted that having resided in the United States for the past nine years has left him out of touch with regard to his celebrity status north of the border.

"I probably am really oblivious in many ways," Nash said. "I get a glimpse of it every year when we play in Toronto and there are full-page pictures, and articles in every paper. But you soon forget, because you're back on the plane and back in the States. So I'm probably oblivious to what this means to Canadians."

He'll get a chance to gauge his popularity on July 29 at the Air Canada Centre.

As reported in The Saturday Sun, the finishing touches are being applied to the creation of an annual all-star charity game to be known as the Steve Nash Foundation Celebrity Classic. Proceeds will go to the foundation, but some of the funds raised this summer will be earmarked specifically for a youth basketball centre in Toronto.

"I'm very excited about the possibility," Nash said yesterday. "I can't quite confirm it yet, but we're very excited about the opportunity to really do something special for the community in Toronto."

Nash has specialized in doing special things for his teammates this season. He is the engine that propelled the Suns to the best record in the league.

Nash rejoined the Suns, his original NBA club, last summer after six seasons with the Dallas Mavericks. As fate would have it, the Suns and Mavericks will face each other in a second-round series that begins tonight.

"This will test our friendship," Nash said with a smile, referring to close pal Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavs.

Frankly, we don't believe it.

Nash seems to be an expert at keeping his fierceness on the court. His twin baby daughters -- Lola and Bella -- and his wide array of friends, from both the basketball world and beyond, can attest to that.

It was hilarious to see Nash's face yesterday as he walked into the media conference and saw the other Suns seated there.

"Nice shirt," one of them yelled, and Nash went into mock "styling" mode.

"I didn't know you guys were going to be here," Nash said. "Now I'm embarrassed."

Only the handful of Canadians in the room knew Nash was telling the truth.

For one special day, the colours of the Phoenix Suns changed from orange and purple to red and white.

Canada's colours.

Steve Nash's colours.


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