When it was announced in July 2012 that the Lakers would receive Steve Nash via sign-and-trade, the move was thought to have been a significant turn of events for a team that had fallen short in the postseason for two consecutive years. This was a new era of basketball for the franchise with high hopes of success. And for the first time in Nash’s career, he would be playing in an atmosphere that reified the motto “championship or bust.”
This was the pressure he wanted to end his career, as he told reporters in his press conference. He wanted to face the music if he indeed failed to bring in championships, and he would be ready to deal with everything that came with the territory.
Unfortunately for both parties, the maelstrom of injuries, turmoil and ineptitude never brought the desired results, as Lakers fans never really got the chance to see what would come of the Kobe Bryant and Nash pairing. In retrospect, when Mike D’Antoni marched into his first Lakers practice on crutches following knee surgery, it was the foreshadowing of things to come because injuries indeed hindered the foreseen development.
When Nash formally announced his retirement in a press conference on Tuesday, it allowed all the basketball aficionados to reflect on the career of the Canadian point guard, and how fortunate everyone was to be able to watch him on a nightly basis. His wizardry controlling the basketball and the unselfishness he always displayed propelled him to success and into the “greatest of all time” conversations for guys at that position.
Everyone remembers the dynamic duo that existed in Phoenix with Nash and D’Antoni – one that revolutionized offense in the NBA. Although they failed to win a championship, the success that was experienced on the Suns will never be attenuated or forgotten to any degree because of how much of an impact it had on the league. Many coaches have adopted their offensive strategies, and it has certainly catapulted many others to success.
With everything that has transpired over the last few years for Nash, you feel terrible that an amazing career could end this way. As an athlete, you always want to end your tenure on your own terms. Unfortunately for Nash, this wasn’t possible.
He fought diligently to come back and frequently battled the adversity that comes as a result of the arduous recovery process, but in the end, he ultimately had to acquiesce simply because in his 19th season, his body just couldn’t take it anymore.
According to his retirement letter at The Players’ Tribune, Nash is overcome by gratitude and respect for all the people that helped him reach his plateau of success. These feelings, along with those of joy and happiness that came from playing the game, will hopefully transcend those of the sadness and heartbreak that come from not being able to do it anymore.
Nash never did it with athleticism or girth, but he was able to use his court vision and his basketball acumen to always stay ahead of defensive schemes thrown at him. And he has an awful lot of accolades to show for it.
He finishes ahead of Mark Price as the best free throw shooter of all time. (90.43 percent) Behind luminaries John Stockton and Jason Kidd, Nash is third all-time in assists with 10,335. (He led the league in assists in five different seasons) Although in one year the decision was rather contentious, Nash won back-to-back MVP awards with the Suns in 2005 and 2006. He also is a part of the well-respected 50-40-90 club, having achieved that feat four times in his career.
It’s interesting to look at what led to all these misfortunes late in his career. The Wild Wild West is where great point guards put their outstanding abilities on full display every single night and often against each other. Unluckily for Nash, in just his second game wearing purple and gold, he went up against one of these amazing young floor generals. The collision with Damian Lillard of the Blazers was what began Nash’s spiral, because it led to a broken leg that resulted in nerve damage. Now at 41 years of age, he realized he could no longer consistently compete in this league.
Could he do it on some nights? Of course. “I think I can [still] have a great game. But I can’t do it more than once or twice a month,” Nash said, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.
So this week, Steve Nash said goodbye to the sport that he played for most of his life. As a Lakers fan you can look at the incorrigible physical condition that ultimately led to his retirement and say “Man, that was such a bad trade.” In the end, it was. They gave up four draft picks and will wind up paying Nash $28 million for multiple losing seasons and missing the playoffs for only the sixth and seventh times in franchise history, although he isn’t solely to blame.
But what you can’t do is allow it to diminish in any way the incredible career he had. The injuries that derailed him are in no way indicative of how he played the game of basketball. His career averages of 14.3 points, 8.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds may not jump out at you at first glance, but his illustrious career has cemented him as one of the greatest to play the game, and he’ll forever be missed.