And then what? Once the season is over, there’s no telling what will happen to Steve Nash. The Lakers might choose to use the “stretch provision” on him, spreading his $9.7 M salary over the next three years so as to free up cap space for the next version of their team. Or they might decide to keep Nash on the roster until his contract is up, not because they have a strong interest in retaining his services as a basketball player, but because doing so removes the entirety of their financial commitment to him sooner, like ripping off a Band-aid.
One thing, however, remains clear – Nash is unlikely to take the easy way out and simply retire before the Lakers have the chance to tell him he is unwanted. Part of him doesn’t want to stop trying for all the normal reasons that athletes hang on too long – that being a professional basketball player is such a large part of his identity, and he is afraid to lose that piece of him. That he has made it this far by having an indomitable belief in self which doesn’t just go away overnight, even if it should. That he still genuinely loves to play the game, so why should he stop when he doesn’t have to. But many Lakers fans want him to stop, because it would make things easier on their team. Many basketball fans want him to retire, because it would make things easier on their hearts. Nobody likes watching what is happening to Steve Nash, being reminded that the mortality of our basketball heroes is no different than that of you or me. People want Nash to leave the game with dignity, to know when his time is up and step aside.
But Nash is interested in another kind of dignity – the dignity of knowing your fate without surrendering to it. Steve Nash knows the end is near. He knows that the Lakers would be justified in releasing him at season’s end, and that doing so would mark the end of his career. He knows that his legacy has already been written, that he does said legacy more harm than good by stretching things out as far as they will go. He knows that nobody would fault him for taking it easy, for giving up, for announcing his retirement tomorrow, or for accepting his paychecks without going through the gut-wrenching process of vigilant preparation for a return which may never come. He’s not unrealistic or delusional. He has little hope that he can be anything close to what he once was. But he presses on anyway. He will maintain his professionalism, his desire, his commitment, until the bitter end, even as he sees that end before him with clear eyes.
When all is said and done, Steve Nash will go down as one of the finest offensive players the game of basketball has ever seen. His court vision, ability to hit shots, and leadership will forever be remembered, as will his captaincy of one of the most entertaining teams in the history of the sport. None of those qualities have been on display in his time in Los Angeles, because of the tragic intervention of bad luck and Father Time. However, as all those other qualities have been stripped away, we’ve been left to observe, in its purest form, the quality that is the foundation for everything else that Steve Nash has accomplished: Resolve.
Steve Nash will stay with basketball until it kills him, or at least, until he has nothing else to give. It is the ultimate expression of his character, and of his love of the game he’s devoted his life to. We shouldn’t want it any other way.
Steve Nash’s Top Moments OFF The Court