Steve Nash has never been to the Finals, but that should not define his career or this season


Steve Nash has never played in an NBA Finals game, but he enjoyed a pretty special 2009-10 and has had a stellar career as a whole. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Steve Nash has never played in an NBA Finals game, but he enjoyed a pretty special 2009-10 and has had a stellar career as a whole. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

PHOENIX — Steve Nash doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him.

Sure, he has played in more NBA playoff games than any player in the history of the league never to reach the Finals (118), but publicly he’s not sweating it.

“I have a pretty great life,” Nash said the day after Kobe and the Lakers ensured this streak would stay intact for another year. “I had one scholarship offer, so to be in the conference finals for the fourth time is a lot more than I bargained for when I started playing this game. I think also a couple of those conference finals were really the championship series. A lot of it is just talk, and I’m fine with it.”

The best players in this league are defined in terms of championships. Titles are often the difference between going down as a great player and an all-time great. In a historical sense, a fifth ring would boost Kobe up the list of all-time greats because championships are what they lace them up for to begin with.

There have been many great players in this league without a ring (Barkley, Malone, Ewing to name a few) and many great role players with a multitude of rings (Horry, Kerr, Fisher). As awesome as Barkley, Malone and Ewing all were, there’s always that major “but” on their sparkling resumes, and at least all of them made a Finals.

Alvin Gentry feels terrible for his star point guard, who was emotional in the locker room after Game 6 perhaps sensing this could be his final shot to be so close to a Finals appearance.

“I do feel for him personally,” Gentry said. “I don’t know if you can define anyone because of that right there. Sometimes you’re in a situation where you’re just not able to win a championship. We’ve had a great run here. Since Steve’s gotten here we’ve been to three Western Conference Finals. There’s not a whole lot of people who can say that, and we just haven’t been able to get over the hump.

“It doesn’t always work out. I don’t think that has any bearing on the way you think about Steve or the way he looks or is perceived. There’s a lot of people. Dan Marino didn’t win a championship. You can go to all the sports and talk about guys that didn’t win a championship, but I don’t think that has anything to do with their legacy or what goes on there.”

When Nash decided to re-sign with the Suns, the national perception was that he didn’t care about winning. He appeared to be heading back to a cushy situation where he could play a fun style in a city he enjoys and then ride off into the sunset.

But that’s not what went down. Nash’s belief in this situation was rewarded when the Suns were one of the final four teams playing with a team built in Nash’s image. Nash’s belief in his teammates inspired the rest of the squad to reach its potential and really be that good, with Nash leading every step of the way.

In hindsight Nash should be commended for not pulling a Malone and ditching his franchise for a shot at a cheap ring. Nash always speaks about it being about the journey, and I don’t know how great of a journey it would be to join a top contender as a hired gun. What Nash did with this Suns team — and especially what he almost did with them — really means something.

“I still believed in the pieces that were already here, I believed in our young guys and I believed in the spirit of our group and our management,” Nash said. “I believed in being a part of that more so than how much money we were going to spend and how much money we spend in the free agent market.

“I think we proved to everyone and ourselves that we could get to that level. I’m really proud of what we accomplished this year. … Never underestimate the power of a group of people if they really sacrifice and work every day to get better, so I look forward to next year.”

In a way the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns were a microcosm of Steve Nash’s career. They entered the season with the expectations of a 6-foot-3 Canadian with one scholarship offer, but then became a first-round draft pick through their hot start. Then their mediocre middle is comparable to the nondescript first four years of his career, while Phoenix’s furious finish and dominant first two rounds are like the way Nash has gotten better with age and played his way into a Hall-of-Fame career.

Yet as with everything in Nash’s career, things fell short of an NBA Finals appearance, but maybe that’s OK. Sure, the ultimate goal is to play for and win championships, and Nash has never done that.

But I can hardly imagine many basketball players enjoying the journey as much as Steve Nash enjoyed 2009-10, a year in which he played with an underdog team that he called the most unselfish of his career (and that’s saying something), a close-knit squad with an Einsteinian level of chemistry that shocked the league all season.

“To build a team in professional basketball that can exceed so many expectations as greatly as ours did this year is a lot of pride,” Nash said.

Steve Nash, whose fun year will continue as a World Cup correspondent for CBSSports.com, put up All-NBA numbers (16.5 and 11) while starting an All-Star Game, winning a Skills Challenge, lighting the Olympic torch in his home province and playing the style of basketball he most enjoys playing.

Steve Nash had a pretty good season. No, he is not battling the Boston Celtics for a chance at a title right now. Maybe he won’t ever play in a Finals, and maybe he will ultimately be in the Barkley-Malone-Ewing wing of the Hall of Fame.

But only one team wins the championship every year. Sure, Nash might not be remembered along with the numerous other MVPs to win a ring, but sometimes the little things like immensely appreciating your teammates, playing unselfish ball to the core, surpassing even your own wildest expectations and enjoying every second of that journey matters just as much.

Tags: Steve Nash

  • Brent

    Steve Nash has been and will always be the sole reason I love basketball more than any other sport.

    Yes, stars win championships and individual greatness is glorified, but the one word above all that defines the game and Steve Nash – TEAM.

    As long as he is lacing em up – I will pay for NBA league pass and stay up late on the east coast and watch every Suns game as I did this year.

    And no matter the hip check, bloody nose, Artest prayer or the outcome of the rest of his career with the Suns, another word to me should always be associated with Steve Nash – WINNER!

  • Rosie

    Being from So Cal I've always been a Laker fan. I watched the Spurs/Suns playoffs to see what kind of "competition" the Lakers would face. I had no idea that I was going to be entertained by following this series! I found myself invested in the Suns, cheering for Steve Nash & the rest of the Suns team, hoping that they would beat the Spurs. I found myself yelling & cheering with such excitement! The amazing bench, Dragic, Dudley, Barbosa, etc! They won, what was I to do? I am after all a Laker fan right? Well, perhaps in some people's eyes I am not a TRUE Laker fan, for I found myself cheering & hoping that the Suns would win! I was SO upset that the Suns lost game 2 in LA, it was so close! It was heartbreaking. I still believe if the Suns had won game 2 they would be in the finals, which leads me here. I find myself googling Steve Nash & the Suns for any news. I miss them so much! It broke my heart to see Steve Nash so crushed by the loss of game 6. Mr. Nash, you are a class act, please know that you have fans, not only in Phoenix but in So Cal as well and I imagine by the way you play, broken nose, swollen eye, etc, that you have many fans all over the country & around the world! I look forward to watching Steve & the Suns next season & I won't wait until they make they playoffs, I am going to follow the Suns from day 1! That's the power & class of Mr. Nash, making a So Cal girl root for the Suns & against the home team Lakers. You are a World Class Champion in my book Mr. Nash!

  • Brian

    How many point guards can be the #1 guy on a championship team? Not many. Magic Johnson is the only one I can think of, but he also had Kareem as a #2.

  • Rosie

    Hey Phoenix Suns, fans, & franchise, Nor Cal (Will) & So Cal (Rosie) have got your back! Chad, I concur with your statements. As a Laker fan I remember Kobe with his "I want to be traded" rant. As far as I was concerned, I wanted him to leave, no sense in keeping someone who doesn't want to be here. Easy to say I suppose but if Kobe were to say that now, I would still say, "Adios!" Go Suns!

  • mukesh

    I started watching NBA because of Steve Nash. He is a champion in my book.

  • will

    I agree with everyone’s comments here. Steve Nash also made become more interested in Basketball. I live in NorCal and have been going to every Warriors vs Suns games ever since Nash signed with Phoenix. I am just hoping that Steve is able to get the Championship ring that he has played so hard and deserves to earn. I bet Steve goes for 50-40-90 once again this season and assist leader and solidifies himself as the best point guard of this era.

  • Chad

    The fact that he has not won a championship is total B.S. He is an all time great, a true team player and person, and if anyone tries to deny his place in history, I’ll bitch slap them. You know why LeBron is stirring up all this crap as far as free agency? It’s because he’s selfish. He dosen’t care about his team, he cares about his fame and legacy. He even tries to be his own G.M, and if I were a team executive, there’s no way I would accept that. I’d take whatever Steve has over what LeBron or Kobe or any of those type of superstars have any day.

  • James

    We need more people like Steve Nash, not just players, but intelligent ambassadors of the NBA. You name a player that is a smarter person than Nash, basketball IQ or just plain IQ. I bet you can’t think of many. He is the main reason I watch the NBA. Cheers to you, Steve Nash, and all of your accomplishments

  • OhYeahButter!

    Misquoted (obviously.) “No matter how big a guy might be, Nash would take him on. You beat Nash with a lay-up, he comes back with a reverse english. You beat him with a three, he comes back with a pick and roll. And if you beat him with a game winner, you better play even hard next time, because he’ll keep comin’ back and back until one of you is eliminated. “

  • Mel.

    I think the only folks who really ride the anti-Nash bandwagon are those who argue that he “stole” his MVP awards from more deserving competition, then somehow failed to make good on that “collateral” by not adding a ring to the hardware shelf.

    But honestly, he was the right player at the right time for those accolades. A guy who genuinely loves the game, who acts as a goodwill ambassador off of the court and an absolute warrior on it, and who has never fallen into the typical mid-to-late-career ruts of bitterness that plague NBA superstars; running a ransom on his franchise or blaming his teammates for another early playoff exit. He did the game proud, and while one can crunch numbers all day long about why TWO MVPs were unwarranted, you can’t convince me that his lack of a championship somehow detracts from his numbers, his work ethic and what he’s done for the game.

    And hey, at the very least, he’s got good company: ‘Nique, Gervin, Maravich, Dantley, Webber, Price, Hill, Hardaway and Lebron (j/k).

  • Rosie

    Can’t wait to see Nash cover the World Cup!

    http://www.realgm.com/src_wiretap_archives/66957/20100602/nash_will_cover_world_cup/

    Mel, OhYeahButter!, Brent, Brian and mukesh,

    I just want to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your comments! You are first class fans! The Suns should be proud knowing thay they have such faithful, loyal and positive fans!

    KyonoRocks,
    I enjoyed reading your story about how you came to choosing the Suns as your team. What an amazing first year as an NBA fan, especially a Phoenix Suns fan. Good for you!

    I look forward to reading more of your comments, thoughts, ideas and suggestions with great interest.

    Best regards,
    Rosie ;)

  • Rosie

    Have you all seen this? I am just scouring the internet for any Nash/Suns info! How I wish I had DVR’d game 2 & 3 the Suns-Lakers series!

    Confessions Of A Laker Fan: Steve Nash Hasn’t Gotten Enough Credit

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/398992-confessions-of-a-laker-fan-steve-nash-hasnt-gotten-enough-credit

  • Mel.

    Hey, Rosie; cheers on the link. That guy lays it down in the kind of terms I can only straw-grab at.

  • LakeShowForLife

    Rosie, I have nothing to say other than you are a complete, utter embarrassment to our team. We do not want nor need fair-weather bandwagoning women like you in our fanbase. And you know damn well I’m right.

    Get out, and never show your face in Los Angeles again. Go to Phoenix and hang out with your fellow fans of ringless losers. People like you make me sick.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    @Rosie I think that last comment says a lot about some Lakers fans……

  • Mel.

    Schwartzy, I would say that the fact that LakeShow STILL insists on hanging around the Valley of the Suns weeks after the WCF–slavishly combing over every single blog entry that you slap up in the hopes of vomiting up his usual remedial-writing class fan-fiction posts about souls and wizards and exile and whatever else–doesn't indicate the nature of fandom so much as it indicates that this kid's got a mean stalker crush going on you.

    Though honestly, at this point, the safe money says that it's just a Phoenix fan with a bent sense of humor, doing a parody of guys like Kobest. Everyone's been labeling this douchebag as a no-class loser who started sucking on the Lakers' teat sometime in May (When he started posting around here, ironically), so the fact that he seems to be trying to paste those epithets on someone else is just… well, too out-of-touch with reality to be serious.

    I mean, I hope so. God help Los Angeles if this dope actually exists.

  • sun also rises

    @ mel

    Agreed. lakeshowforlife = joke account

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    Kind of creepy that I might have a stalker…….

  • Dr. Laurence J. MacD

    To Lakeshowforlife:

    I was the Ontario Coach during the Canada games that were played in Vancouver in 1989 and we played in the finals against Steve Nash Provincial team from British Columbia. He was then and still is one of the classiest and talented players I have ever had the privilege to coach against.

    At that time, I could never conceive that he would reach the heights he has reached but i couldn't be more pleased. I ached for him following the final loss in the Western finals.

    Now with hat being said, I can fully understand rosie becoming a Nash fan because on that day in 1989 I was and still am. Your comment to this young lady is totally unwarranted and shows what little class you and many of the Laker fans have. You have been spoiled and blessed in your city with great players, Kareem, Magic, Shaq, and now Kobe and Gasol you are so used to winning that you have actually become arrogant about it. Rosie was merely paying tribute to a man that many many admire. Steve has never threatoned to quit an organization unless the bring in some more talented players. He has never made the demands of a team that Kobe and LeBron have. why? because he is a true team player even though i believe Kobe Bryant to be the greatest player on the planet today, I could never admire him as much as I do Steve Nash.

  • Mel.

    The best part of my off-season so far: watching Lakeshow get his ass pasted on these boards by individuals a thousand times classier and more eloquent than he/she/it could manage with a booster seat and a PED prescription.

    And Doc, that was a good read. Sounds like you had an awesome experience with a guy who's a real credit to the game.

  • Amazing Q

    Haha, Lakeshow seems to be really quiet all of a sudden. I bet he was up all night having Ray Allen nightmares.