True story: Back at the end of the 2003-2004 NBA season, Erick Dampier and Steve Nash became free agents. Erick Dampier was coming off a never-to-be-matched-again career year in Golden State averaging 12.3 ppg and 12.0 rpg. He looked like a beast of a big man who had finally broken through. Steve Nash was a good-but-not-great point guard coming off a fairly average year with the Mavs averaging 14.5 ppg and 8.8 apg.
I desperately wanted one of these players on the Suns. It was not Steve Nash. And when the Suns did sign Steve Nash to a 6-year $63 million deal I nearly lost my mind.
WHY? WHY?! Why another point guard? Why another guard period? Where had guards gotten the Suns in their 36 year history? I loved Kevin Johnson. I loved Jeff Hornacek. I appreciated (but kinda disliked) Jason Kidd. I only kinda sorta remembered Paul Westphal. For as long as I remembered the Suns had always been a guard-dominated team, or at least seemed that way. And I was tired of seeing guards come up short. For once I wanted the beast on the block and I was convinced Erick Dampier was going to be that guy. I was definitely blue and definitely disappointed and went into the 2004-2005 season with the least of expectations (this was after all a team coming off a 29-53 season).
In retrospect, I can safely say the entire universe is probably glad I was not the Suns' general manager at the time. I don't know why I ever doubted Steve Nash. This was after all, the guy who sent my then-hated (now-beloved) #2 seeded Arizona Wildcats packing in an upset in the NCAA tournament as a freshman at #15 seed Santa Clara. A freaking freshman.
I remembered liking him in his limited minutes in Phoenix his first 2 years in the league, but then, I lost touch with him. I wasn't a nutty hoop head back then and we were still a few years away from the interweb explosion and a whole generation of writers making camp in their mothers' basements to keep me abreast of the slightest quiver of genius buried 11 men deep on a far-flung (read: not covered by the local beat reporter) roster. I feel like my lack of awareness regarding Nash is a forgivable sin.
But come back into my consciousness he did. And with something of a vengeance. With Nash at the helm the Suns took the league by ridiculous storm. 62 wins later, no one was sure what happened other than something magical had entered our presence and a lot of it had something to do with the Canadian guy running the point. But then the magic wasn't strong enough. After 3 straight seasons of being thwarted by inevitably stronger black magic (injuries, suspensions, better fundamentals, whatever you'd like to call it), the magic was in doubt. The question was asked: where exactly have guards gotten the Suns? So a center was brought in and that not only got the Suns nowhere, but more or less killed the magic.
So now the Suns find themselves back where they began with Nash: off to a magical start that seems doomed to fade into the mugglehood of mediocrity. But this time I realize that in asking where guards, specifically this guard, Steve Nash, number 13 in his 13th year (magic numbers?) out of Santa Clara, have gotten the Suns, I've been missing the point.
History may ultimately judge Steve Nash as a Sun who couldn't get over the top, the same way it has judged Charles Barkley, Tom Chambers or Kevin Johnson. But that doesn't change the fact that Barkley took the Suns up against the Jordan Bulls in the Finals, that KJ dunked over Olajuwon or that Tom Chambers buried his knee in Mark Jackson's chest and dropped 60 on the Sonics. And if you are fortunate enough to have been around for any of those things, you know how special those moments were. And if you're me, you look back at those names and realize that is wasn't just guards who couldn't win it all for the Suns, but forwards and centers too (who among us hasn't asked why Mark West never put Phoenix over the top in his 6 ½ seasons with the Suns?).
And so, rather than worry about how it's all going to end in championshipless disappointment (and it will), I'm choosing not to ask where this guard has gotten us or where he will get us. Instead I'm asking: where is Steve Nash right now and what is he doing? Because if history has shown me anything, it's that whatever he's doing for the purple and orange, it's probably something pretty amazing that I'm going to want to remember.
Between bloody noses, dagger 3s, hip checks, gun kissing, four-eye-face-making, full court bounce passes, holy-christ-how-did-he-do-that-wraparounds, kooky Vitamin Water shilling and countless other memorable moments, Steve Nash has kept Suns fans entertained and in awe over the last 6 years. Ring or no, shouldn't that be legacy enough?