Steve Nash may just be my favorite player in the entire Association. He is the greatest Canadian export since Celine Dion. The way he goes about playing the game of basketball is not only pleasing to the eyes, its also pleasing to statisticians and basketball purists. A modern day Bob Cousy, Nash glides around the court with ease and has all the tools necessary for him to be one of the greatest point guards of all time.
Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Nash has a much different outlook on basketball than most of his professional brethren. Even though he was a standout high school player, he received no interest from any teams until late in his senior year. Santa Clara University was the only college to heavily recruit the young guard. While with the Broncos, Nash would lead them to Conference titles and the NCAA postseason multiple times. He would finish out his college career in 1996 when he entered the draft that is considered one of the best in history.
The Phoenix Suns drafted Nash in the first round, supposedly being their point guard of the future. Unfortunately for Steve, the Suns underutilized him to the fullest extent, barely playing him with Jason Kidd starting. Unable to use the Canadian import, Nash was allowed to relocate to Dallas to join Don Nelson’s bunch of freewheeling, defensive-less, high scoring squad. It was with the Mavericks that basketball fans would first catch a glimpse of what was to come in the seasons to follow.
After leading the Mavericks to their most successful seasons to date, Nash was allowed to leave after Dallas felt it unworthy and cost unbeneficial to retain his services. He would land where he started, back with the Suns in the Arizona desert. Replacing the seemingly irreplaceable Stephon Marbury, Nash would lead the Suns to 62 victories and deep into the playoffs. His dizzying array of skills on the court caught the eyes of the public and the MVP voters.
Playing with more flash than Edison’s basement, Nash would capture his first MVP trophy in 2005, excelling in dishing out assists and scoring in a mind-shattering lack of seconds. He would operate the Suns coach Mike D’Antoni offensive scheme of shooting and scoring in 7 seconds or less. Unfortunately, even with the Suns’ offensive prowess, they would bow out of the playoffs to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.
Regrouping in 2006, this time absent of young stars like Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson, Nash attained even more success with Phoenix. Again Nash’s delicious vision for passing was on display while operating the exhaustingly constant fast break offense of the Suns. He would again be named the MVP of the league, not without controversy. Many, including Shaq himself, believed that the Big Diesel was the true heir to the MVP throne. Undaunted, Nash would lead his team through the playoffs, only to be thwarted once again.
All was not lost for Steve and the Suns, as their young talent was maturing and the team was finding cohesion usually reserved for conjoined twins or the Brady Bunch. The national media was hyping them and they had Nash, the reigning two-time MVP. In his quest for his unique threepeat, Nash would again lead his team deep into the playoffs. Nash would lose the honor that year; instead his close friend and former teammate Dirk Nowitzki would capture the award. They met a familiar foe in the Western Conference Finals: the San Antonio Spurs. The two titans of the West would battle for supremacy and the right to trounce their Eastern Conference counterpart. This is the series where the infamous hip-check would occur as Robert “Big Shot Bob” Horry would send Nash into the scorer’s table and Nash’s teammates would shoot out of their seats like a NASA spaceship being sent into orbit. The incident would result in the suspensions of key personnel in the Suns’ roster and practically assured a Spurs victory.
That series loss, although nobody knew at the time, signaled the end of the gun-n-run dominance and the Suns flashy ways. Steve Kerr was brought in to manage the roster (AKA ruin the greatest show on Earth). Midway through the 2008 season, the Suns traded the uniquely gifted Shawn Marion away for the aging Shaquille O’Neal. This move was generally hailed as the greatest thing ever to happen to the desert dwelling Suns’ chances of winning a championship. The big man was thought to be able to stop Tim Duncan and to close the defensive gap that plagued the offensive minded Suns team. Nash, being the classiest of professional athletes, never voiced any concern about the direction of the team or losing one of his prime targets on the fast-break. The changes were futile however, as the Suns would lose early in the playoffs.
That is when everything else went downhill. No longer the spry and flashy point guard of old, Nash was now the old point guard who seemed to struggle to get through the game. Kerr, motivated by Robert Sarver’s need to purge payroll, made several more crippling moves to debilitate the Suns swift offense. D’Antoni left and was promptly picked up by the depressing New York Knickerbockers. Key cogs to the Phoenix machine, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw were traded to the Charlotte Bobcats for the self-indulgent Jason Richardson. The new coach, Terry Porter, favored a slowed down style with the emphasis on defense. That fashion didn’t mesh well with the Suns and Nash himself. Their very identity was in question; as the management didn’t feel that they could win the way they were constructed. By midseason, Porter was gone and replaced with Alvin Gentry (a D’Antoni disciple). The season was the worst for the Suns since Nash arrived on the scene, as they would miss the playoffs entirely.
Nash’s future is very much in doubt, whether he will stay with the exploding Suns or try to make one last ditch effort to win a championship somewhere else. Whatever happens, Nash was and is one of the greatest point guards in the history of the Association.