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Steve Nash’s words were almost as succulent as the countless dishes he became legendary for serving up.
In announcing he was calling it a career after 19 NBA seasons, Nash reflected in a letter published on the Players’ Tribune, “The greatest gift has been to be completely immersed in my passion and striving for something I loved so much —visualizing a ladder, climbing up to my heroes.”
He later added “the obsession became my best friend. I talked to her, cherished her, fought with her and got knocked on my ass by her. And that is what I’m most thankful for in my career. In my entire life, in some ways. Obviously, I value my kids and my family more than the game, but in some ways having this friend — this ever-present pursuit — has made me who I am, taught me and tested me, and given me a mission that feels irreplaceable.”
The NBA is a better place because of Nash’s preoccupation. During his run, Nash won back-to-back MVP honors and finished with the third most assists in league history, almost certainly assuring himself of one day taking up permanent residence in the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Truth is, Steve Nash has few regrets, but he has left us all with wonderment, namely what comes next for a man whom life for so long has essentially been about hoops.
“It’s just a weird transition,” he admitted. “Every athlete goes through it. A lot of people say an athlete dies twice and in some ways, without being salacious, that’s true. If you want to enjoy and be happy in life, you have in some ways to say goodbye to your former self. And that’s not easy, especially for guys. We’re not the most communicative of the species. So it’s hard to kind of put it all in perspective.”
In all, Nash was named an All-Star eight times, and for nine straight seasons starting quarterbacked teams that ranked No. 1 in the league in offense.
“When people ask me if I have a favorite game or play or moment on the court that stands out the most, I can’t answer them,” Nash wrote. “It all blends into one. What comes to mind are all the great teammates I’ve played with and the friends I’ve made through the years.”
Nash’s best years were in Phoenix, where during his MVP seasons he averaged 19 points and 11 assists. But ever the competitor, Steve Nash walks away from the hardwood almost troubled as much by his rare misses as he is bolstered by all his countless highlights.
Nash signed a three-year, $28 million to be Kobe Bryant’s sidekick in L.A. in 2012, but to say things never quite worked out that way would be an understatement on par with saying the Lakers have struggled a bit over that same period. Over the last two seasons, Nash played in just 65 of 164 games, nursing injuries ranging from a broken bone in his left leg, to a bad back, to knee and hamstring issues.
“When I signed with the Lakers, I had big dreams of lifting the fans up and lighting this city on fire,” Nash wrote. “I turned down more lucrative offers to come to L.A. because I wanted to be in the ‘fire,’ and play for high risk and high reward in my last NBA chapter. In my second game here, I broke my leg and nothing was the same.”
Of the entire experience, Nash later reflected, “Last spring, when I returned to the court, I was given a standing ovation at Staples Center. It was a dark time in my career and that gesture will be one of my best memories…In my nearly three years in L.A., I’ve never met anyone who didn’t show me anything but love and support for my efforts.”
It’s a level of respect Steve Nash has more than earned.
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