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NBA 75 Series: #36 Steve Nash

Updated: Apr 18, 2022

Ranked at #36 in my NBA 75 Greatest Players of All Time is one of the most cerebral, unselfish, and greatest point guards and shooters of all time who helped Canadians realize they can do it to, and that is, Steve Nash. Nash was born on February 7th, 1974, in Johannesburg, South Africa, to his Welsh mother, Jean, and English father, John. His family would eventually settle in Victoria, British Columbia, holding both British and Canadian citizenship. His father was a professional soccer player in various parts of the world.

Growing up in Columbia, which wasn’t particularly a basketball hotbed for talent, Nash took to soccer and hockey for most of his childhood alongside his younger brother Martin. Nash started basketball later than most, starting around 12 or 13 years old. When he was in eighth grade, he told his mother that he would play in the NBA one day and become one of the league's best players, a bold statement from someone who wasn’t particularly as gifted like other greats with size or athleticism, didn’t start playing until late, and was in a country where the most popular sports were hockey and soccer.

Nash was neighbors with future NHL star brothers Russ and Geoff Courtnall, who babysitted Nash, and played soccer with him growing up. Nash would originally attend Mount Douglas Secondary School, but after receiving poor grades in school, his parents would transfer him to enroll at St. Michaels University School, a private boarding school in Virginia. While there, Nash would go on to star as a triathlete, starring in basketball, soccer, and rugby.

During his senior season, Nash would average 21.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, and a staggering 11.2 assists per game, helping lead his team to the British Columbia AAA provincial title, and named the province’s Player of the Year.

Despite Nash’s gaudy statline, he would not get recruited by a single university until Santa Clara coach, Dick Davey, requested footage from his high school coach, Ian Hyde-Lay of the intelligent point guard. Davey was giddy of Nash, stating how he was nervous of other schools having a chance to see him. He also mentioned to Nash he was “the worst defensive player” he had ever seen, something he wasn’t known for throughout his career.

Despite that claim, Nash would help lead the Santa Clara Broncos to a WCC (West Coast Conference) Tournament title and an upset win over No.2 seed Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He would make six straight free throws in the last 30 seconds of that game to help the Broncos win. They would eventually lose to Temple to end Nash’s successful freshman campaign.

The team struggled his sophomore year in 1993-94, but would bounce back in 1994-95 with Nash taking his game to a new level by being named Conference Player of the Year, leading the league in scoring (20.9 PPG), and assists (6.4 APG), while helping the Broncos atop the WCC. The Broncos would lose to Mississippi State in the tournament, with Nash contemplating to enter the 1995 NBA Draft, ultimately coming back for his senior year after learning he wouldn’t be a first-round pick that season.

In 1995-96, Nash would start garnering attention from the national media and NBA scouts. He worked out with his future contemporary star point guards in the NBA pertaining to Jason Kidd, and Gary Payton, while also honing his skills with the Canadian national team. His hard work would pay off, as he would help Santa Clara capture the WCC title, and win his second consecutive Conference Player of the Year award.

Nash would score 28 points to upset Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but would eventually get eliminated by the Kansas Jayhawks. He would be named an All-American that season, and would finish his career at Santa Clara as the all-time leader in assists (510), free throw percentage (.862), also made and attempted many three-pointers (263-656). He also would finish third on the all-time scoring list (1,689) and holds Santa Clara's single-season free throw percentage record (.894)

Nash would go on to get selected 15th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the historic 1996 NBA Draft that featured future stars such as Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, and more. Nash would struggle to get playing time his rookie season averaging a mere 10.5 minutes per game behind Kidd and Kevin Johnson. He struggled his first few seasons in the league, trying to adjust to the speed and athleticism of the players, but he seemed to find his stride as a All-Star once he was traded to the Mavericks, where he joined fellow legend, Dirk Nowitzki.

They both struggled to adjust to the league their first few years but would eventually become an offensive dynamo, forming a devastating pick-and-pop with both being able to shoot the ball exceptionally well. He would eventually get traded to the Suns, where he would have the best years of his career, and become “The Wizard” behind the famous Mike D'Antoni "Seven Seconds or Less" offense in the mid-2000s to early 2010s. He formed a lethal pick-and-roll duo with Amare Stoudemire that was virtually unguardable.

This included winning back-to-back MVPs (2005, 2006), which is shocking, especially for a guy who came into the league unheralded, unathletic, and was even booed on draft night. The Suns won just 29 games the year before Nash joined the team in 2004-05, and he would lead them to a 62-20 record in that season, good for best in the NBA.

He was an efficient shooter from all over the court, a wizard of a passer, a master of controlling the pace, and a tremendous teammate and leader of galvanizing his troops. He helped lead the Suns to four conference finals appearances, but unfortunately never reached the NBA Finals due to Tim Duncan’s Spurs or Kobe’s Lakers being in the way of him reaching the biggest stage. Nash is one of 12 players in league history to win MVP in back-to-back seasons, with only Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Duncan, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, & Giannis Antetokounmpo being the other recipients.

He is a four-time member of the exclusive 50-40-90 club, the most seasons ever, and is among the best free throw shooters of all time, being a career 90% shooter. Aside from his MVPs, Nash is a eight-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA selection, and five-time assists leader (2005-07, 2010, 2011). Nash was never able to obtain that elusive ring all players strive for, but he was able to revolutionize the game and go down as a kid from Canada who wound up becoming one of the greatest NBA players of all time, helping to inspire future Canadians such as Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, and so on.

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