PHOENIX — It was a night that was supposed to be all about Steve Nash and his accomplishments, and he admitted before the game that it would be a struggle. As someone who’s used to deflecting praise, he said he would try to enjoy his successes on this night.
But on the night that Nash was inducted into the Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor, he couldn’t help but continue dishing out the assists.
For everyone else at Talking Stick Resort Arena, it was about Steve Nash. Rightfully so. The two-time MVP finished his career third in games played for the Suns, first in career assists and three-pointers and fourth in true shooting percentage.
No box score can account for the impact Nash made on Phoenix and the NBA, though. He helped change the way basketball is played, as he led Mike D’Antoni’s uptempo system that many teams emulate in today’s game. A sell-out crowd and average span of four words in between roaring ovations showed just how much the Suns fans loved Nash.
Much like how he maneuvered his career, Nash freelanced his way through the night.
“This doesn’t feel real right now,” Nash said as he stood in center court with the mic. “I have a couple of things to admit. I didn’t prepare a speech and they gave me a lot of drinks.”
Off the top of his head, Nash knew nothing else than to start giving thanks and credit elsewhere.
“So many (people) in this building and not here have done everything for me and so much to help me and my career,” he said. “I owe them. I’ll never forget them. ”
He started with his mom and dad. His dad taught Nash about being a good teammate, a characteristic that carried him throughout his career. He got his toughness from his mom, who’s “tough as nails,” Nash said. “We could never puss out on anything,” he said about him and his brothers, because of his mom.
He thanked Jerry Colangelo, Mike D’Antoni, Steve Kerr and more, people who he said you never ever see or hear about.
“They would do anything for a young rookie who was just trying to figure out life and get himself situated.”
He moved on to the Ring of Honor, talking about how he looks up to each and everyone and how they’re his idols. Tom Chambers, Paul Westphal, Dan Majerle and Charles Barkley were among those in attendance. He hugged each and every one of them, as he did anyone within arm’s reach.
He couldn’t thank his teammates one by one, but he shouted them out as a whole. He spoke about his love of being on a team. Building a team and figuring out strengths and weaknesses of a team.
Above all else, he thanked the fans.
“You guys were the best,” he told them. “The fans in Phoenix, you guys were so good to me. Supported me, loved me. We went through bad times together, we went through good times together. Always sold out, wearing jerseys, supporting.
“You don’t realize what all those moments mean when you’re playing. To be detached now, what you did for us, you came every night and cheered with us. I’ll never ever ever be able to repay you for that type of support.”
Nash’s resume speaks for itself, but it didn’t have to on Friday night. Suns broadcaster Al McCoy, Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo and former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni spoke highly of Nash’s accomplishments on and off the court and of the man that Nash was.
McCoy thanked him for changing the game. Colangelo told him he’d be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. D’Antoni thanked him for being the person that he is — and for all of his wins.
Nash sat next to D’Antoni and only D’Antoni. They were virtually front and center. Two chairs alone, while two rows of chairs and a group sitting made up a U-shape around them. It’s fitting, as the two will always be remembered together for the way they transformed the game. D’Antoni was the coach that rose Nash’s game to the next level. Nash was the perfect piece to run D’Antoni’s offense.
But Nash could’ve ran any offense. He’s in the Ring of Honor — and he’ll be in the Hall of Fame — because of how good he was, not because of a specific offense.
Colangelo said the Suns drafted Nash despite “the fact we had three point guards on this team.”
“You know why? He was the best player on the court without question.”