Phoenix Suns legend, Steve Nash, is exactly that: a legend. However, when ESPN ranked the top 74 players on all time, they may have incorrectly ranked him higher than other legends.
ESPN made its greatest of all time viewpoint known recently when it released its top 74 players in NBA history list. 74 is a weird number, but evidently they chose that for the league’s 74 years of existence. Three prominent Phoenix Suns made the list (depending on if you consider Jason Kidd a prominent Sun or more of a New Jersey Net). Kidd came in at #35 on the list while Charles Barkley landed at #23.
Here is what Dave McMenamin had to say about him:
Nash found a perfect partner in coach Mike D’Antoni, whose “seven seconds or less” offense empowered the back-to-back league MVP (2005 and 2006) to use his expert handles and passing genius. The Suns, in turn, became one of the great teams to never win a title. For a nine-year stretch in Dallas and Phoenix in the 2000s, Nash led the league’s most efficient offense. He is third in career assists and led the league in that category five of his 18 seasons. He was also a marksman, shooting 42.8% from 3 for his career.
All true things.
Should Nash be ranked higher than Chris Paul? Absolutely. Kevin McHale? Yes. Patrick Ewing? Well, yeah, maybe, but this one is hard to grade because they are such different players.
But Isiah Thomas and James Harden? Uh…
Look, I am a huge Steve Nash admirer. He’s the player that elevated my Suns fandom from fairweather to intense, but after seeing James Harden play as of late and remembering how Isiah Thomas led the Pistons to two titles in the late 80s, I have to admit I think they deserve to be ahead of Nash.
Maybe this is a combination of recency and nostalgia bias, and Nash falls victim to being in between both of those on the historical timeline, but Harden is a scoring machine especially since Nash’s old coach Mike D’Antoni took over. The only argument I can make against Harden is that his body of work is not yet finished, considering he is only 30 years old.
Isiah Thomas (even though he was a jerk according to Michael Jordan on The Last Dance), was a dog and highly-skilled one at that. He averaged more career points, assists, rebounds, and steals per game than Nash, won two NBA titles, a Finals MVP, two All-Star MVPs, and took down Jordan, Bird, and Magic in their primes.
As great as Nash was, I don’t see how he could be ranked higher than Isiah Thomas. Granted, Thomas was just one position lower than Nash at #31, it still feels like a slight, and would be an easy pair to flip-flop.
At some point, this is all splitting hairs, and the multitude of factors that go into “great” is not only objectively complicated but are weighted differently by different people and often vary per person based on the day of the week and their hunger level.
I suppose it gives us something to fight about during the hiatus, so that’s good, and part of me wants to argue Nash should be higher on this list, but seeing who he is already in front of, I just can’t do it.