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Shaq's Vote Goes to Kobe

May 05, 2003|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

In sports, as in life, one man's defeat is another's celebration, and Shaquille O'Neal stood on the Alamodome sideline last year and watched Tim Duncan hold an MVP trophy over his head.

To his credit, Duncan accepted as sheepishly as possible, and O'Neal didn't actually snatch it away and beat him with it. But after five games, the Lakers were on to the Western Conference finals, and the San Antonio Spurs were on to the summer, and not a few found a cause-and-effect thing there.

It has become trendy to dismiss O'Neal's regular seasons, largely because he does, which means the man who has had the most significant impact on the league since -- pick one -- Michael Jordan/Magic Johnson/Wilt Chamberlain gets little run in the MVP voting.

He says he doesn't care, and everybody would believe him if he didn't lather up every year at this time. As it was, Duncan got his award Sunday, his second in a row, though the ceremony had a different feel to it.

Laker Coach Phil Jackson grinned and said, "We anticipated they wanted to do the same thing this year but they gave him the award [Sunday] instead of [tonight]. Maybe the Spurs pleaded with them not to do it in a way that would irritate Shaquille, I don't know."

O'Neal said Sunday that Kobe Bryant should have won it, a campaign that actually started almost two years ago, when the NBA legalized zone defenses. O'Neal also suggested Tracy McGrady, an Isleworth, Fla., neighbor who has a key to the gym on his estate, and Kevin Garnett, just vanquished. He said Duncan would be in his top two or three, but that he stopped trying to guess along with the national media, probably about the time Fred Hickman cast his ballot three years ago.

"I don't know what you guys look for," he said. "I'll tell you what, when I was coming up, I used to know. Not anymore."


Bryant slew the Spurs in San Antonio when they played at the Alamodome, but shot 34.5% in two games this season at SBC Center, the new arena on the outskirts of town.

"It's a barn," Bryant said.

Derek Fisher might share the opinion. He was two for 11 at SBC Center.


Under the NBA's new television contract that went into effect this season, TNT has exclusivity after the first round of the playoffs.

That means any Laker game from here on out that is carried by TNT cannot be shown by the local carrier, which is Channel 9 for road games and Fox Sports Net for home games.

However, ESPN's exclusivity doesn't kick in until the conference finals, so any Laker-San Antonio game televised by ESPN can also be carried by the local carrier.

Staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this report.

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