Nashional treasure

Sports Sports | Lifestyle
Keith Allison via Flickr
Keith Allison via Flickr

After three injury-plagued seasons, 41-year-old Canadian basketball star Steve Nash has retired. Having played in only 65 games in the last three years, including only 15 last season and none at all this season, he has admitted to himself that his career is over.

Raised in Victoria, Nash attended Santa Clara University before entering the NBA in one of the deepest drafts in NBA history. In 1996, Nash was selected 15th overall by the Phoenix Suns, and started his NBA career in the same year as future stars Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Stephon Marbury, Peja Stojakovic, and Kobe Bryant.

After two uneventful seasons in Phoenix, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, where he established himself as an offensive force. Beginning in 2001, Nash helmed the most efficient offences in the NBA for a record nine-consecutive seasons, an achievement that seems unlikely to ever be broken. This included six seasons back in Phoenix, where he signed as a free agent in 2004. His impact was immediate, as he won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award after returning to Phoenix, the first Canadian basketball player to ever win the award. The following season, Nash won MVP again, one of only 10 players to win MVP in consecutive seasons.

In 2012 Nash joined the Los Angeles Lakers in the hopes of winning his first title, but he played only 50 games in his first year in LA, and the Lakers were swept in the first round of the playoffs. Leg and nerve injuries shortened his next season to 15 games and ended his last year before it began after he suffered a back injury in the pre-season.

While Nash made the Conference Final twice in his career, he never made it to the NBA Final. Nash earned a dubious distinction, becoming one of only two players in NBA history to win multiple MVPs but fail to win a Championship.

Nash’s credentials are impressive: two time MVP, highest all-time free throw percentage, third all-time in total assists, eight-time All Star, three-time male Canadian athlete of the year, and inarguably one of the greatest point guards of all time. Nash is also in elite company in terms of shooting percentages. Nash is one of only six people to have seasons in which he shot 50 per cent from the field, 40 per cent from three-point range, and 90 per cent from the free throw line, a feat he accomplished four times. In NBA history, only Larry Bird did this more than once, and he did so on only two occasions.

Nash’s success in the early 2000s is often seen as a contributing factor to the recent spate of Canadian basketball players currently entering and succeeding in the NBA, including Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas, and Kelly Olynyk. His influence on basketball in Canada cannot be overstated and in 2012, Nash was named General Manager of the Canadian National Basketball team.

Canadian basketball fans will clearly hope that in his retirement Nash will stay on in this role and continue to influence the development of young players who he once inspired. Nash’s MVP awards and being the best offensive player in the league for several years all but guarantee he will enter the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Nash’s place among the greatest point guards of all time and his significant role in raising the profile of basketball in Canada are unquestionable. At the end of a highly successful 19 seasons, there is no doubt that Nash should be placed among the highest echelon on the list of the greatest Canadian athletes of all time.

Here is a highlight reel of some of Nash’s best NBA moments