DALLAS &

Dirk Nowitzki ended the two-year MVP reign of good friend Steve Nash on Tuesday, picking up the trophy for a great regular season dimmed by a postseason flop.




Nowitzki led the Dallas Mavericks to 67 wins this season, matching the sixth most in league history.




He received 1,138 points, including 83 of the 129 first-place votes. Nash of the Phoenix Suns followed with 1,013 points and 44 first-place votes, and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers got the remaining two first-place votes. San Antonio's Tim Duncan was fourth and Cleveland's Lebron James was fifth.




Votes were turned in before the playoffs, a good thing for Nowitzki considering how little he did to prevent the Mavs from being bounced in the first round by eighth-seeded Golden State, one of the biggest upsets in the NBA playoffs.




Twelve days later, Nowitzki hasn't gotten over the disappointment, although this award &

which Nowitzki learned he'd won late last week &

is definitely a mood-lifter. The 7-foot German is the first European honoree in the 52-year history of the award, and he's the first recipient not to have attended high school or college in the United States.




Nash, the league's MVP his first two seasons after leaving Nowitzki and the Mavericks to join the Phoenix Suns, was trying to join Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as the only players to win the award three years in a row.




Nash called to congratulate Nowitzki on Friday. While he himself had a great year, Nash was happy to have his pal join the fraternity of MVP winners, adding that "he's very deserving."




"I'm excited for him," Nash said. "He's obviously not the happiest camper right now but he deserves it and I think he should really enjoy this and allow this to kind of heal an unfortunate first round. Because he did have a great year and worked hard for it."




Nowitzki's candidacy is summed up by the fact he was the best player on the best team. He led Dallas in scoring (24.6 points a game) and rebounding (8.9), and was the only player in the NBA who made more than 50 percent of his shots, 40 percent of his 3-pointers and 90 percent of his free throws.




Nowitzki, who turns 29 during the finals, is the first Mavericks player to be the MVP, which is only fitting since he's been the team's first All-Star starter (this season) and the first All-NBA first-team selection; he received that honor for the third straight year last week.




Nowitzki, however, also goes onto the dubious list of MVP winners not to win a playoff series. It last happened with Houston's Moses Malone in 1981-82. The only other times were Malone in 1978-79, Los Angeles' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76 (didn't make the playoffs) and Baltimore's Wes Unseld in 1968-69.