Here is a link I found a few months back. It’s an article in a Sports Illustrated issue from 1995. It’s been stashed in my bookmarks folder for safekeeping. I reread it every once in a while. It documents Steve Nash’s journey from high school obscurity to collegiate obscurity. It wouldn’t — and couldn’t — go on to recall Nash’s journey from professional obscurity to being one of the most important players of his generation, but it was implied, and forecasted. At least that’s how I read it.
What struck me was how little has changed for Nash. In the 2010 Western Conference Finals, just three months ago, Nash’s Phoenix Suns squad faced off against the monolithic Los Angeles Lakers. It would be a fitting parallel to an equally important challenge for Nash, 15 years before.
This season, of the 400 games scheduled to be broadcast on ABC, CBS, ESPN and NBC, just one was scheduled to involve the Broncos—the opener of the Maui Invitational against national champion UCLA. Naturally there were some frayed nerves in the Bronco locker room before that game, but as soon as Nash sensed the tension, he looked around the room and said, “I can’t believe a bunch of yahoos like us are about to beat UCLA.” The other Broncos cracked up, and then they backed him up with a dominant 78-69 win. Nash scored 19 points and held Bruin point guard Cameron Dollar to zero.
Nash fighting like hell against a national champion in the city of LA? It’s only fitting.
But really, the Suns were close. Closer than anyone would’ve imagined before the 2009-10 season, where the Suns weren’t even projected to make the playoffs. …OK, done with the sympathetic Suns talk.
But don’t Nash’s actions as a 21 year old ring a bell 15 years later? After their series defeat in Game 6, Nash had kind words for the Lakers, but even more for his own team.
Going into the series, I thought they were the better team, but I thought we had a chance to do something special. I think the last four or five days, I’ve been questioning who the better team is, and have had a lot of belief that maybe we were, or at least maybe we could find a way to win the series regardless. I think that’s a tribute to my teammates, their attitude and commitment.
So there might’ve been a difference. 15 years ago, Nash was leading a “bunch of yahoos.” He led a group of spirited men this past offseason. But in both instances, and every moment in between, he’s been committed to getting the very best out of his teammates with morale boosting on and off the court. There is a list of arguments against Nash. Even playing for the lowly Santa Clara team, his recruiters still made the effort to call him “the worst defender he’s ever seen.” But effort, commitment, and loyalty aren’t anywhere on that list.
There are myriad reasons why Nash should find his way onto a legitimate contender. He’s come so heartbreakingly close to the Finals, it only seems fair. But to abandon a team he’s helped fortify would be disregarding his timeline, and disregarding his legacy’s true contribution to the game. He’s found solace in this Phoenix Suns team that he leads. It’s the act of surpassing expectation. He’s done it all his life, and shows no signs of stopping, even when basketball mortality is starting to come a knocking. Nash’s career as a basketball player has come full circle. And maybe through acknowledging the consistency of his timeline, he’s realized his place as a player and a leader in the years he has left.
This season will be Nash’s first in a decade without an elite big man on the roster. He spent six years with Dirk Nowitzki, and another six with Amar’e Stoudemire. So at 36 going on 37, Nash might once again be leading a bunch of yahoos through the unforgiving terrain of the Western Conference. It’ll be a challenge. The two-man game between Nash and Stoudemire was a thing of rare beauty. The Suns will have to tweak their gameplan a tad. Nash will have to abandon niches engraved over the past six years, and find new methods of delivery. It’ll be tough, but with Steve Nash, who’s willing to play the contrarian?
But at his age, there’s got to be some thought about retirement, and life after the game. Of course, Nash, ever the thinker, recently announced a new business venture that almost makes too much sense. According to Advertising Age, Steve Nash has partnered up with advertising executive Michael Duda of Deutsch Inc. to establish a new marketing consultancy, Consigliere.
So basically, Nash is preparing for his afterlife doing what he does best: Making people look good.
It’s a little scary to think, but Steve Nash is twice my age, and I’m soon going to be forced into a world where he is not playing basketball professionally. While his NBA days may be numbered (although, even that’s debatable), he’s created a foundation for a very successful post-NBA life.
It’s only fitting that it involves building brand recognition and making people richer. It’s only fitting that Nash would be willing to take an unpaid internship at an advertising agency to learn the ins and outs of the industry. And it’s only fitting that at 36, still at the top of his game, he’d choose to start from the ground up all over again.