- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

Wayne Gretzky flashes on the locker room television, and Steve Nash impersonates his countryman. Jumping up and down on his tiptoes and pointing his fingers in the air, it’s clear the best point guard in the NBA isn’t from the United States.

Raised in Victoria, British Columbia, Nash is used to feeling like an outsider having to prove himself over and over again.

When he told his childhood friends he was going to play in the NBA, they laughed. When he first became a starter with the Dallas Mavericks, he was booed by the hometown fans.

‘I’ve always been the underdog,’ says Nash, in first season with the Phoenix Suns. ‘I’ve always been the guy who had to get better and overcome the odds.’

The odds against Nash making it in the league were long. He was often considered too slow and, yes, too white.

Nash isn’t the slow one anymore. He runs the fastest and best team (56-17) in the NBA. The rest of the league, in fact, is trying to keep up with the 6-foot-3, floppy-haired blur.

Nash and the Suns, who average a league-leading 110.4 points a game, have taken the most elementary elements of the NBA — the dunk, the 3-pointer, its free-flowing athleticism — and made them seem new.

Athletic forwards Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion do the dunking, and athletic guards Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson shoot the 3s. Nash assists them all on the most exciting team since he led the Mavericks to 60 wins three seasons ago.

The result has been one of the biggest turnarounds in league history. The Suns, who won just 29 games last season, are on pace for just the fourth 30-game bump ever.

Nash is the main reason. He leads the league in assists with 11.5 a game, the most since John Stockton averaged 12.3 in 1994-95. He also averages 16.1 points with lights-out shooting percentages: .511 from 2-point range, .439 from 3-point range and .888 from the free throw line.

Those numbers and the Suns’ about-face from last season have made Phoenix’s native Canadian an MVP candidate.

‘I’m just honored to be mentioned with such great players,’ Nash says at the mention of Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan. ?I just want to play like I deserve it.?

If Nash is named league MVP or leads the Suns to their first NBA championship, he will have reason to jump up and down and imitate the Great One in more ways than one.

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