Steve Nash's Suns career about so much more than chasing rings


Steve Nash should be remembered for all the fun along the way not his ultimate failure to win a ring. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Steve Nash should be remembered for all the fun along the way not his ultimate failure to win a ring. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Steve Nash never won a championship with the Phoenix Suns.

That’s the end of the story in a bottom line business.

Yet for Nash, it’s always been more about the journey than the destination, the good times along the way rather than the eventual playoff disappointment. And boy oh boy, were there good times.

Many people did not know what to expect when the Suns signed the floppy-haired point guard from Canada before the 2004-05 season. Sure, Nash would improve a 29-win team flanked by Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson but few could have envisioned the kind of impact Nash would have on the Suns and the league at large.

Coming off a brutal on the eyes NBA Finals in which the Detroit Pistons slugged their way to a title, Nash along with the help of head coach Mike D’Antoni revolutionized offensive basketball with an attack predicated on running for dunks, running for layups, running for threes and running some more, and finishing with a devastating Nash/young Amare pick-and-roll in the half court.

It was a breathtaking style that took the league by storm as the Suns raced out to a 31-4 start on their way to a 62-win season.

Nash would go on to lead that squad and two more to the Western Conference Finals, and each of those conference finalists seemed to reflect an aspect of Nash’s character.

The 2004-05 team should be better known as the “making basketball fun again” squad. With Nash at the helm, they envisioned a different and better way to play offensive basketball that could not have been led by any point guard aside from the eventually nicknamed Two Time. With a young crew of studs running the break with him, Nash showcased his creativity to spectacular results.

The 2005-06 team represented the resourcefulness Nash showed throughout his Suns tenure. No Amare? No problem, just turn Boris Diaw into a power forward and be on your way back to the conference finals. The pieces always had to fit Nash’s system yet as we saw in the previous two seasons, Nash continually lifted his teammates to heights they could not come close to reaching alone.

Finally, the 2009-10 surprise conference finalist featured unreal team chemistry and togetherness, another hallmark of Nash’s career. That allowed Nash to will a “whole greater than the sum of its parts” kind of team within a couple bounces of the Finals years after their championship window had seemed to shut. Along the way Nash directed a variety of fun, chemistry-building videos that endeared him to his teammates and the fans but is not exactly prototypical superstar behavior. (Could you ever see Kobe partaking in Balls Talk?)

With just a bit of luck Nash surely would have won a title as every single run contained particularly bad fortune from Joe Johnson’s orbital fracture in 2004-05 to Amare’s microfracture and Raja Bell’s calf in 2005-06 to the bench-leaving incident in 2006-07 and to the failed box out in 2009-10.

All conjure up painful memories for Nash, as with a couple of lucky breaks here or there he would not be fleeing to Los Angeles to win his first championship. Yet, Nash is never one to feel sorry for himself despite being on the dreaded list of best players to never win a championship.

As much as we razz Lon Babby for incessantly repeating it, Steve Nash really was the sun, moon and stars of this franchise for eight full seasons.

The breakneck pace he forged along with stellar shooting and iffy defense defined a franchise that came oh so close to breaking through so many times behind Two Time, and he orchestrated historic offensive numbers along the way.

Nash was a classy individual who never demanded a trade even when he probably should have and even tried to exit the Valley on as good of terms as possible considering the circumstances.

“Hey Suns fans, I just want to say thank you for the last eight years,” Nash said in a video message on Hallo. “The unwavering support, the fun, a lifetime full of memories — it was just incredible. You know, I didn’t want it to come to an end, but everything does. As I say goodbye, I just want to say I hope you guys win your championship that you deserve so greatly soon. So, thanks again. I love you guys.”

Steve Nash did not win a championship nor even sniff a Finals in Phoenix, and for some people that’s where the story ends.

Yet with as hard as Nash fought for a title through bloody noses, gashed eyes and a troublesome back along with a revolving door of teammates, that is not how he should be remembered.

Captain Canada revolutionized an exhilarating style of basketball and made the Suns the most exciting team in the NBA for at least his first six years in the Valley.

The overall theme of Nash’s Suns tenure may be coming so close without ever breaking through, yet his time with the Suns cannot be viewed in such black and white terms.

Nash was everybody’s favorite player because of the joy with which he played the game and the way he made basketball so darn fun, and thus his ultimate shortcoming should not define an otherwise transcendent Suns career.

Tags: Steve Nash

  • steve

    I think fans value championships far too much in the NBA, especially in light of the fact that it’s a team sport. It takes a lot more than one person to win a championship, and the team must have a lot of good fortune along the way to get that ring.

    In a sport like golf or tennis, it’s pretty much pure one-on-one competition. Ranking those players by championships makes slightly more sense. Boxing, MMA, same thing.

    But in a team sport… I think it’s far less important than most make it out to be. Lionel Messi isn’t going to be any less cherished if he doesn’t win a world cup (just as anyone would be insane to think that Torres or Villa or Iniesta is better than Messi because they have a world cup under their belt). No one should care Marino never won it all, he was still one of the greatest passer to ever live. It took Terrell Davis to get Elway his rings when he was well past his prime. Elway lost the SB when he was the best player on the field. It wasn’t until he was surrounded by superstars that he got over the hump. Barry Bonds never won a world series. If you look at stats (ignoring steroids), he is EASILY one of the five best hitters of all time. Considering the current era, I would actually lean toward him being the greatest hitter of all time. Should it be held against him that he never got a ring?

    Championships are the cherry on top for a transcendent player, but in a team sport, I don’t weight championships very heavily when I’m thinking about an individual’s accomplishments.

  • MissJulze

    Love this post Michael! So true… Nash has been one of the reasons why I fell in love with the Suns and NBA all over again. While winning a championship or not isn’t what defines how great he is, he deserves to win one.

  • Brian

    If it’s not about chasing rings what’s he doing in LA right now?

  • Freddy

    Excellent Post. [wipes tear]

    Agrees with Julze about falling in love with Basketball all over again. Had it not been for a Nash Amare Combo I would of never been back.

  • cha cha cha

    “If it’s not about chasing rings what’s he doing in LA right now?”

    playing for a team that’s not restocking/rebuilding. the dude is 38. as much as i want to see a Nash-led Suns win a championship, that ship has sailed. i wish him the best, and i’m glad the Suns aren’t the team that’s on the hook for $27mil.

  • Tony

    @Steve,

    I couldn’t agree more with you. It takes a team to win a championship, no single player can win it on his own. Even the great Michael Jordan coulddn’t do it without Pippen. The Heat may not have won the Finals if not for Shane Battier and Mike Miller having key games for them against OKC.

    Now the more I reflect on Nash leaving, the more conflicted I am with the role of the FO in his leaving. I know there are conflicting reports, but it sounds as if the FO didn’t want him back at all and either didn’t offer him a contract at all or offered him an insulting one…From Nash’s own statements recently about feeling a bit unwanted because the FO didn’t assertively try to resign him. So, if this is true and if the FO basically forced him out, then does he really owe any loyalty to an organization that no longer wants him?
    Furthermore, when you consider that during these last two seasons, the FO dismantled the team to replenish their cap space for this off-season, the FO wasn’t exactly loyal to Nash in giving him the requisite talent to compete.

    So, and I know some will disagree, but I just wish Nash could have finished his career with the Suns and signed Beasley and hopefully Gordon and try to compete again with Nash. I know this would likely have prevented Dragic from returning, but still, I would have loved to have seen a lineup of Nash, Gordon, Hill, Morris, and Gortat with a solid bench unit of Marshall, Lopez, Dudley, and Beasley.

  • Tony

    @Brian,

    the FO didn’t want Nash back, so what’s he supposed to do? Go to another uncompetitive team and waste away his remaining years fighting to get his team an 8th spot?
    Furthermore, Nash is not ring chasing because it is not as if the Lakers were already a championship team prior to him going there. In fact, even with Nash, most still think OKC is the team to beat in the west, so make no mistake about it, the Lakers have a lot of work to do to catch up and become legit contenders again.

  • Tony

    @Michael,

    just had to say great article. I sincerely hope Suns fans don’t boo Nash when he returns against the Suns at US Airways Center. I hate that he’s with the Lakers, but to call him disloyal or that he betrayed the Suns and Suns fans is foolish thinking. If the FO had only shown him some interest in bringing him back and if they would have already fielded a competitive roster by getting Gordon instead of the possibility that NO’s doesn’t match, I think Nash would have finished his career as a Sun. But the FO didn’t show him any interest and NO is most likely going to match the Suns offer to Gordon. So, even with Nash or Dragic, a lineup of Nash/Dragic, Dudley, Beasley, Morris, and Gortat with Marshall, Lopez, and possibly Hill is still unlikely to be a playoff caliber roster.

  • Andrew

    Are you serious? The FO made Nash a realistic offer. I myself would love to have Nash back, but at what cost? In my mind, the suns were never an option A. Because of money, and B. Because of lack of all star talent. If Nash truly wanted to be here, he would have taken less money/years. There is no loyalty in sports anymore.

    P.S. The FO isn’t off the hook though, JJ, Amare’, the last seven drafts, and free agency this is totally BS. What was the master plan?

  • Tony

    @Andrew,

    there are some conflicting reports, but most of them say that the FO didn’t offer Nash anything. From Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, “The Suns never made Nash a contract offer or asked to meet since he became a free agent.” Now Andrew, does that sound to you as if the Suns FO really wanted Nash back? Not even to meet with him is pretty telling to me, especially since he was supposedly the “earth, moon, and stars” of the franchise.

    Michael and Steve, just FYI, if the Suns don’t acquire Gordon, or don’t end up with at the minimum Mayo, I revoke my complimentary statements about Sarver, Babby, and Blanks and they will once again be known as the Three Stooges lol!;)

  • Fan in Chi Town

    This moment has been a long time coming. Personally, I’m ready to move on. Nash should get cheers, no boos, when he returns. It might have been harder for me to take if it was a middle of the season trade to the stupid lakers but I think we were all expecting him to leave. Maybe not to our sworn enemy, but whatever. The Suns are making moves and we will be back in the playoffs in no time, and when we are, Dragic is going to kick Nash’s old butt.

    And for comic relief, I will definitely be watching to see how often Kobe snubs Nash’s high fives. That will be hilarious.

  • Andrew

    The FO probably didn’t want to offened him. Lol
    I specifically remember a report from Nash that money was a sign of respect. But like I said before, Nash isn’t the only one to blame. The suns had the chance to add talent, and offer an extension. Therefore I blame both parties equally. I just hope that we can rebuild the right way, and I don’t have to watch the Lakers hoist any more trophies while we still have none.

  • Scott

    I think we’ll hear more about what was going on in the front office regarding Nash as time goes on. People will want to know, and it’s safe to tell the story.