But what’ll last won’t be the shots, the games or the awards. Nash will remember the relationships, the people. He’ll remember Raja Bell, Leandro Barbosa and Grant Hill, his three favorite teammates. He’ll remember the contenders he nearly quarterbacked to championships in the desert.
“It was the best time of basketball in my life,” says his former teammate, Boris Diaw. “It was so easy to play with Steve. He just makes the game so easy.”
He’ll remember the embarrassing first moments in Dallas. Nash was traded to Texas in 1998, signed a big contract, and everyone there wanted to know, who is this little Canadian?
Early in his opening season as a Maverick, Nash missed his first eight shots in a game against Houston. After that, every time he touched the ball – which as a point guard is every trip up the floor – the fans booed relentlessly.
Nash glanced into the stands and spotted his brother Martin, the same guy who grew up carefree and easy, cocky almost to a fault. Martin was laughing his ass off.
“He showed me this was no big deal,” recalls Nash. “Nobody’s hurt. Nobody’s dying.”
Three seasons later, Nash was an All-Star averaging 17.9 points and 7.7 assists, and the Mavs were a perennial playoff team.
He’ll remember arriving on Santa Clara’s campus in 1992, and promptly getting destroyed every day in practice by junior point guard John Woolery. Nash couldn’t bring the ball up court, couldn’t even get it past midcourt, and was getting ripped like someone had a personal vendetta against him.
“Was I absolutely crazy to think I could play in the NBA?” Nash remembers thinking.
Later that season, he became the MVP of the West Coast Conference tournament, and helped clinch one of the biggest victories in school history, an upset in the NCAA Tournament’s first round over No. 2 seed Arizona.
But speaking on a journey as if it’s over, even if it is closer to the end than the beginning, is still somewhat condescending. Even in 2012, Nash’s influence is so large that after Jeremy Lin hung 28 points and 14 assists on the Mavericks in a mid-February Sunday matinee, Jason Kidd admitted later the Knick point guard, “looks a little bit like Steve Nash out there.”
“That says a lot about someone’s legacy,” Fisher says. “It’s not only what their accolades are and what their success is individually but what is it they leave behind or pass to other people. That’s what a great legacy is about and I think that’s what he’s done.”
Above the rust-colored hills, the light drains. The once blue sky is now graying. Soon it turns black. But the NBA’s best actor is inside belching out fake laughs, and it seems 10 times harder than knifing through a trap off the pick-n-roll and hitting a floater off one leg over a seven-footer. Maybe that’s the point. Soon, Nash is hooting at his own fake laughs and soon the people at Dove Men tell him they got it perfectly.
“What would this guy tell the guy back at Santa Clara?” someone finally asks Nash as the camera crew starts rounding up their gear.
It doesn’t take him long to answer.
“Just keep going.”
How long can Nash stay at an elite level in L.A.?
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