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.