Written by: Andrew Sinatra
Follow Steve Nash on Twitter – @SteveNash
Connect with Steve Nash on Facebook: Steve Nash
Steve Nash (born February 7, 1974 in Johannesburg, South Africa and raised in Victoria, British Columbia) did not begin playing basketball until he was a teenager. Growing up, Nash was inspired by his professional soccer-playing father and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky until being introduced to the likes of Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson. Two MVPs, eight All-Star Game selections and spots on the all-time three-point shooting percentages, free throw shooting percentages and assists lists later, ESPN has called Nash one of the greatest point guards of all time. His status among Canadian athletes was also recognized at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, when Nash became the first NBA player to light the Olympic cauldron.
Despite his late introduction to the game, Nash was a quick study, as he averaged nearly a triple-double with 21.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists during his senior year at St. Michael’s University School in Victoria, BC. Nash’s competition in Canada was among the reasons for skepticism from college coaches, however, as inquiry letters were repeatedly dismissed. Ultimately, Santa Clara University and Coach Dick Davey came calling with a scholarship offer. Davey cited Nash’s “deranged” desire to improve and compared him to Santa Clara alum and former Los Angeles Laker Kurt Rambis in that right.
During his time in Santa Clara, Nash captured two West Coast Conference Player of the Year awards and led the Broncos to three NCAA Tournament appearances. In 1993, Nash found himself in the spotlight, as the freshman sank six crucial free throws in the final seconds of one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, a 64-61 victory over the number two-seeded University of Arizona. This “Cinderella Story” would continue over his time at the small school, with an upset over the University of Maryland coming during Nash’s final run. Ironically, Arizona and Maryland were two schools that chose not to offer the point guard a scholarship despite letters. Nash ended his career as the Broncos’ all-time leader in assists, free throw percentage and three-pointers made and in 2006 Nash became the first Santa Clara athlete to have his number retired.
Upon being picked 15th overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns, Nash was met with much of the same disbelief that preceded his collegiate career. Fans doubted the small-school 6’3″ Canadian dubbed as a back-up behind Kevin Johnson. A 17-point, 12-assist effort in a rare start near his hometown of Vancouver was the highlight of his rookie season, in which Nash averaged only 10.5 minutes per game. When the Suns acquired a young Jason Kidd following a slow start the following season, the writing appeared on the wall regarding Nash’s future with the team. A much improved second season that saw his scoring average jump from 3.3 to 9.1 points per game was not enough to keep Nash in Phoenix, as he was shipped to Dallas in 1998 for Pat Garrity, Martin Müürsepp, Bubba Wells and a first-round pick that ended up being Shawn Marion.
Nash and the Mavericks struggled during their first, strike-shortened season, as the first-time starter averaged career lows of 36.3% from the field and 37.4% from three-point range. Dallas still entrusted the position to Nash, however, and signed him to a six-year, $33 million contract extension. An ankle injury hampered Nash’s 1999-2000 season, but a strong final stretch, combined with an ever-improving Dirk Nowitzki and an ambitious new owner in Mark Cuban signaled a revitalized era for the Dallas Mavericks.
The 2000 Olympics seemed to act as a turning point for Nash’s career, as he led a Canadian team that consisted of only one other NBA player–center Todd MacCulloch–to a near medal round appearance. This came following a surprising second-place finish during the Olympic Qualifying Tournament one year earlier.
2000-2001 was a breakout campaign for the 26-year-old Nash, as he averaged 15.6 points and distributed 7.3 assists to the likes of the high-scoring Nowitzki and Michael Finley. The Mavericks made the playoffs for the first time since 1989-1990 before losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. Nash’s first All-Star appearance followed in 2001-2002, but his 17.7 points and 7.3 assists were not enough to get Dallas over the Western Conference Semifinals hump, as they lost to the Sacramento Kings.
The Mavericks finally took the next step following a then-franchise record 60 wins in 2002-2003 and ultimately reached the Western Conference Finals, where they fell to the eventual champion Spurs. In 2003-2004, Nash’s scoring average dipped more than three points to 14.5, while his assists increased to 8.8 per game. The Mavericks took a step back, losing to the Kings in the first round. This led to big changes, including the departure of free agent Nash.
MVP Seasons (2004-2006)
The Phoenix Suns were coming off of a disappointing 29-53 season and needed a point guard for coach Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less” offense. A six-year, $63 million deal brought Nash back to Phoenix, where he led an offense that included the athletic Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, and sharp-shooters Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson. The Suns won 62 games over the 2004-2005 season—an improvement credited to their point guard, who shot over 50% for the first time in his career and saw his assists average skyrocket to 11.5 in the explosive offense. This earned Nash the MVP award, as he became only the sixth guard and second international player to accomplish this feat. A 39-point, 12-assist, nine-rebound performance in a series clincher against Dallas contributed to a 23.9 scoring average and 11.3 assist average over the course of the playoffs as the Suns fell in the Western Conference Finals to the Spurs.
Nash’s 2005-2006 season proved even more impressive, as the Suns had to overcome a Stoudemire knee injury that limited the forward to three games, as well as the trades of both Johnson and Richardson. The offense did not miss a beat as Nash raised his scoring average to 18.8 points per game and again led the league in assists en route to his second consecutive MVP award–only the ninth player to do that, and the third guard. Another loss in the Western Conference Finals–this time to Dallas–ended another bittersweet season for Nash and the Suns.
The 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons were typical for Nash and unfortunately, the Suns. The point guard suffered no hangovers from his MVPs, as he averaged over 11 assists each season and converted all of his shots at high clips while being selected to the All-Star Game each year. A 2007 playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers saw Nash record a career-high 23 assists–one of nine 20-plus assist games in his career. Each season ended with a playoff loss to San Antonio, however, which was able to overcome Phoenix’s mid-season acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal. A coaching change resulted in the Suns failing to reach the playoffs in 2009 under Terry Porter and Alvin Gentry, and Nash failed to average 10 assists for the only time during his second stint with the team, averaging 9.7 assists.
With Amar’e Stoudemire trade rumors looming, the 2009-2010 season set up to be the end of the Suns’ run. Phoenix again led the league in scoring, with Nash serving as the catalyst. Nash led the league in assists once again, as well as free throw shooting. With a career percentage of over 90, the 93.8% in 2009-2010 stands as a career high. A 54-win season and a six-game Western Conference Finals loss to the Lakers is the closest Nash has come to the NBA Finals. Following Stoudemire’s departure for the New York Knicks, Nash could not lead the Suns to a winning record despite consistently good personal numbers.
Following the 2011-2012 season, Nash entered free agency, where he was greeted by the New York Knicks and the Toronto Raptors, who offered him a chance to close out his career in Canada. However, Nash’s desire for a championship and close proximity to his family steered him to the Lakers, as the Suns agreed to a sign-and-trade that netted them two future first-round picks and two future second-rounders from the Lakers. This allowed Nash to sign a three-year, $27 million deal and be part of a core that consisted of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and eventually, Dwight Howard.
Nash’s work in the community has often been recognized, as he received the Order of Canada–the country’s highest civilian honor–and the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2007. Both recognized the Steve Nash Foundation, which serves to help develop children while providing them with health and educational services. Nash also paid for a pediatric cardiology ward in a Paraguayan hospital and a charity dinner in association with Yao Ming, which raised $2.5 million for underprivileged Chinese children.
Steve Nash #13
Steve Nash Video Highlights