Jermaine O’Neal. Stephon Marbury. Allen Iverson. Antoine Walker. Ray Allen. Kobe Bryant. All together with Nash in the NBA, in one of the best Drafts of the league history, the 1996 NBA Draft. All blessed with tremendous athleticism and speed.
But Steve Nash surpassed almost all of them. Kobe Bryant has always played in a class of his own and Ray Allen would probably still be, at the senior age of 43 years, a sharpshooter from behind the arc.
Santa Clara University recruited Nash. It was not known for its basketball program, but it did not take long for Nash to appear on the national radar. He was regarded highly enough to be the 15th overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft.
Nash did not get a chance in Phoenix. The point guard position was taken by Sam Cassell, Kevin Johnson, and Jason Kidd. When Nash was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 1998, he began to develop rapidly. Nash flourished in the 2000/2001 season, starting in all of his 70 games, increasing his stats to 15.6 points and distributing 7.3 assists. Pay attention to the notable boost: the first playoffs appearance for Dallas since 1990. Although they lost in the Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs (1-4 in the series), the exclamation point was set, even for the coming years.
The motor of the Mavericks
Suddenly, Dallas is one of the best teams in the league, offensive, deep, entertaining, spectacular. Nash grows beyond himself, and is at the same time a prudent conductor and turbo engine of the offense. Already in the following year, there is a significant award: the nomination for the All-Star Game – the first of a total of eight.
Political enthusiasts use their popularity for social and charitable purposes over the years. “Steve is just a regular guy who is very, very good at his job,” said Mavs Assistant Coach Del Harris once – and with his praise for the character of the 1.91-meter high Canadian.”He is committed to environmental protection and plans with his shoe sponsor an environmentally sustainable basketball shoe at a great price. He is the counterpart to the jeweled, socio-politically ingenuous stereotype of the NBA player.“
While Nowitzki was the team’s go-to scorer, Nash was the engine that made it all go. 2004 comes unexpectedly for fans and observers – Nash left Dallas. He became a free agent, Cuban hesitated to offer the then 30-year-old a long-term contract. Nowitzki, not Nash, was the main face of the franchise.
Even today it is an unsatisfactory end of his time in Dallas. “At the time, we totally misjudged the situation,” says Cuban. “Especially his health situation, we misjudged it, and today I know that it was a mistake.“
Maestro of seven seconds or less
But the zenith of his career was yet to come: the second attempt in Arizona finally catapulted the returnee to a big star, one of these players who remain not only a side note of NBA history. Nash played the best basketball of his career. Again, it is a name that is instrumental in the playful climax: Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, offensive guru and up-tempo fanatic. His fast system was made for Nash, who made Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion fly again and again – and as in Dallas – the thinker and leader of the league’s most attractive team. Nash could not have taken over as Phoenix’s star at a better time. He led the league in assists per game five times (including his career-high 11.6 assists per game in 2006–07) during the eight years in his second stint with the Suns.
The Suns reached the Western Conference finals in 2004–05. They lost forward Amare Stoudemire to injury during the preseason and were still able to play in the in the conference finals in 2005–06. Nash was even better. He had an average of his personal-best 18.8 points per game. In 2006–07, with Amare back, the Suns dominated the NBA, finishing with the second best record in the league (61–21). However, Nash did not win a third consecutive MVP award, as he finished second in the MVP voting to Nowitzki. Phoenix disappointed later in the playoffs. They lost in the conference semifinals.
Shaquille O’Neal becomes part of the team during the following season. Some thought it would affect Nash’s game, but it didn’t happen, he was selected to his sixth All-Star Game and continued to excel individually. In 2012 he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he joined superstars, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard, it was his “last” chance to chase an NBA championship ring.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Nash broke his leg in the second game of the season. He still managed to play in 50 games, but he wasn’t very useful In the following season (due to the leg injury) he was able to play in just 15 games, as Los Angeles Lakers struggled through another disappointing season.
He retired from the NBA in March 2015. In 2018 he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.