BEST PRO ATHLETE Phoenix 2006 - Shawn "The Matrix" Marion
Yeah, we've heard about Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash's work ethic. About injury-riddled center-forward Amar? Stoudemire's future as the most dominant player in the NBA. But when it comes to bringing it home night in and night out for the Suns, there's only been Shawn Marion. The sportscasters in town talk about the "underrated" Shawn Marion, the "overlooked" Shawn Marion. Not by us. The man produced 60 double-doubles last season! He averaged almost 22 points a game and almost 11 rebounds during the most minutes per game among any of his teammates. He's a big cat, who runs an average of about 20 miles a night on the court and never complains! And when there were serious trade talks regarding the Suns, Shawn Marion was always the guy whose head was reportedly on the chopping block. One fantasy had Marion getting traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett. More than one scribe wrote that the Suns really didn't need Marion, since Boris Diaw had enjoyed such a productive season, and Stoudemire was on his way back from surgery on both knees. The lineup could be: Stoudemire at power forward, Kurt Thomas at center and Diaw at small forward. Bullshit! Let's deal with these claims: Diaw has had one good season, and he may well turn into the great player that sports prognosticators believe he can be, but he can't be counted on like The Matrix. He had great nights and he had terrible nights; no consistency. As for Amar?, did you see how he wasn't yet fit to play for Team USA this past summer? Remember how he tried a comeback for three games last season, and suddenly his other knee had to be operated on? Others who have had the same surgery have never returned to their peak form; take the Philadelphia 76ers' Chris Webber, for starters. Stoudemire still didn't have his old leaping ability when he was practicing with Jerry Colangelo's Team USA players. It wouldn't surprise us if he never got it back, so what are we left with in Phoenix for offense? Our man, Shawn. We know, Marion was also declared unfit to play for the USA squad because of a minor injury, but doctors say there's no damn doubt that he will easily return to where he was last year by the time the Suns start preseason. Hell, he played with a sore ankle for half of last season, and that never stopped him. There are great athletes in every sport, but few experts would argue that Marion isn't in better athletic shape than anybody in this town. The Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald may run a distant second, but there's only one Matrix.