It is somehow right that the photo chosen for Steve Nash’s retirement announcement in The Players’ Tribune is of him playing at Santa Clara, in his last NCAA Tournament win against Maryland, and with the goofy I’ll-Pay-Anyone-Five-Bucks-To-Cut-My-Hair haircut.
It is Nash at his essence, the young man taming the first of his non-native lands. Santa Clara was the place where he found his ability to stand his ground against his alleged superiors, simply by choosing his own path, trusting his instincts and those who helped mold him, and though he was also claimed by Phoenix, Dallas and Los Angeles as homes, and though he came from British Columbia and never forgot his essential Canadian-ness (Canadian-osity? Canadian-i-tude?), it turned out he was actually an internationalist all the time.
No stage wasn’t his, no place wasn’t a place he couldn’t make act as his home. He was almost always gracious, even when he was savaged for winning two MVPs that many basketball fans insist to this day belonged to others.
And maybe it all stems from how he was recruited by Santa Clara from Saint Michael’s University School in Victoria, B.C. Someone had sent Santa Clara coach Dick Davey a tape of Nash being Nash, and Davey went up to see Nash surreptitiously expecting the tapes to deceive.
They did not. Better yet, Davey’s competition was Simon Fraser, the Vancouver-based school that, in perfect Nashian fashion he went to two and a half weeks ago to help with a fund-raiser. Davey won, mostly because Nash wanted to test himself, and everything else is easily found in BasketballReference.com and a million different stories about how Nash’s skill, vision and essential magic. Everyone has his or her favorite, and they will all end up gilding the lily to one extent or other. Have at him, Internets.
It is indeed as fascinating as it is understandable that so many different places and causes want to claim him as theirs. One wonders if he might even have considered a retirement season playing three games a year for the 27 teams he didn’t play for just to give everyone a taste.
My guess? He wouldn’t have considered it himself, but he’d have thought about it if someone else had brought it up to him.
As it was, his last year was essentially spent with no team at all, as his body told him it was done working for The Man, and no, we do not mean Kobe Bryant or his subsidiary, the Los Angeles Lakers.
We mean Nash himself, a driver in more ways than one. He never was on a championship team, having persistently failed to be on the team with the best players, but it is hard to see a team he didn’t make conspicuously better until he arrived in L.A. past his sell-by date. It is really the only meaningful way to assess a career, because one player has never won a championship, at least not in basketball. You could look it up, though why you’d want to speaks to the lack of chores in your life.
But Nash ended his career with the needle on “E,” which is its own tribute. And let everyone else argue about whom he belongs to best. All I know is, Santa Clara had him first. Well, second. Okay, maybe fourth. But no later than fifth, and that’s if you count schoolyard games.