As soon as Steve Nash officially hung up his sneakers sometime last week, I was grinning from ear to ear, if not visibly, deep down inside my heart. No, not that I hate the guy– it’s quite the opposite– but it’s like looking at your terminally ill relative deciding to put down resistance for today and decided to postpone the war later. Only, not in this present world.
Heaps of praise and support rained on Canada’s first true NBA star and naturally, conversations shifted from how he blew the Los Angeles Lakers to his legacy in the hardwood. Now, I closely follow the Lakers since the Shaq-Kobe-Karl-GP tag team to their glory days with Pau Gasol up to the rut they are in now but I completely understand that acquiring a then-All Star level but aging point guard is a risk like any other move in basketball. Too bad it didn’t pan out even half the way fans expected it to be, but it’s part of occupational hazards that we live with.
On to the legacy: How do you remember Steve Nash?
Is he the clemency-granted two-time league MVP in the Seven Seconds or Less Mike D’ Antoni era in Phoenix or the same one that fell short time and again in the Western Conference Finals winning zero championships in the process? Is he one, or the other, or both?
Sell him short all you want but to me, he was the guy who made fantasy basketball a lot fun. He was this brilliant man who accurately predicted what the implications of the 2004 handchecking rule change might be and transformed himself to fit right in– at 30 years of age! To correct myself, Nash didn’t lose 15 pounds that summer just to “fit right in” but he knows he can be the BEST point guard in that era with the right system and with the right teammates. In the words of SportsNet’s Donovan Bennett, Steve Nash “saw the way the game was going and beat it to the spot.”
And thus he ushered in the Golden Age of NBA Point Guards. Nash was the one in the forefront, the visionary that made it all happen.
Right at the get-go, in the 2004-05 season, Nash took advantage of every hole he could find by assisting on nearly half of the team’s field goals (49.2% assist rate, to be exact, which is unheard of!). He did it while finishing among the league-leaders in PER with 22 en route to being named the NBA’s Most Value Player. He took a 29-win squad to a league-best 62 wins that year and into the Western Conference Finals.
That Suns team made fantasy stars out of five players (excluding Nash) and the Santa Clara product was in the middle of everything, like a musical maestro controlling every instrument at play. Amare Stoudemire was unstoppable (26 PPG on 56% shooting), Shawn Marion (18 points and 10.5 rebounds) was a match-up nightmare while Joe Johnson (16 points and two 3PM), Quentin Richardson (15 and three 3PM), and Leandro Barbosa (15 and two 3PM) feasted on the open looks Nash created for them.
The new offensive scheme created– with all the spacing and outside shooting– was the very blueprint that made the successful offenses today and all of those systems require an operator like what Steve Nash was. Right now you can see the influence of Nash in every floater and one-handed scoop shots; every needle threaded by a pocket pass in the pick-and-roll; and every deep three swished right after a set pick.
S/o to @SteveNash hanging it up for good! Inspired me to play the way I do and paved the way. Congrats on all your success and enjoy life!
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) March 21, 2015
I can go on and on.
Indeed, where would basketball be– fantasy or otherwise– without Steve Nash? Will there be a Steph Curry, a Chris Paul, a Jeff Teague, or a Tony Parker? Or will an Amare Stoudemire, a Klay Thompson, or a Blake Griffin exist?
Well, there still might be but Captain Canada “discovered” the likes of them first in a trailblazing way that was so ahead of his time. And for that, thank you for making the game we love a much more entertaining sport than it already was, Steve Nash.
You’ll always have your fingerprints all over today’s game and there’s nothing like a fantasy junkie to truly appreciate that.