Shaq comes one vote from unanimous MVP

LOS ANGELES - Shaquille O'Neal was dominant again, this time at the ballot box.

There was no doubt the powerful Los Angeles Laker center would win his first NBA Most Valuable Player Award this season, the only question being whether he would be the first unanimous selection.

O'Neal, a 7-foot-1, 315-pounder who led the league in scoring and field-goal percentage, received 120 of 121 votes from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters, with the remaining vote going to Philadelphia's Allen Iverson.

O'Neal's 99.2 percentage was the highest for any player since the league introduced the award in 1955-56. Michael Jordan received 96.5 percent of the vote four years ago.

O'Neal received 1,207 points in the voting. Minnesota's Kevin Garnett was second with 408 and Miami's Alonzo Mourning was third with 367. Gary Payton of the Sonics was sixth with 180 and Iverson was seventh with 132.

"God, I feel sorry for the one guy who didn't vote for him," said Jerry West, Laker VP of basketball operations.

That was Fred Hickman of CNN/SI, who voted for Iverson.

"You take Shaq away from the Lakers and you've still got a great team," Hickman said. "You take Iverson away from the 76ers and they are the Clippers, the Hawks. They are no longer contenders."

O'Neal laughed off questions about not getting every first-place vote.

"The one guy who didn't vote (for me): Thank you, too," he said with a grin. "I appreciate it."

O'Neal won his second scoring title this season, averaging a career-high 29.7 points on 57.4 percent shooting. He was second in rebounding with a 13.6 average, and averaged 3.03 blocks and a career-high 3.8 assists. "The only person who can stop Shaquille O'Neal is Shaquille O'Neal, and that hasn't happened this year," Laker forward Glen Rice said.