Phoenix Suns President Lon Babby once called Steve Nash "the sun, the moon and the stars" for the franchise. A year later, in July 2012, the sun collided with the moon and the stars faded out.
First, Nash was half-heartedly offered an under-market contract (reportedly 2 years, $12 million), then he was traded to the despised Los Angeles Lakers for a package of draft picks that done nothing to rebuild the franchise.
But even in forum blue and gold, Steve Nash has (unintentionally) continued to cement his legacy as a Phoenix Sun. He signed a fully guaranteed 3 year, $27 million contract to play, taking him through his 41st birthday, and proceeded to be healthy for just 65 of a possible 246 games. Yesterday, he wrote off the last 82 of those 246 by declaring himself "out for the season" after hurting himself this preseason carrying his luggage.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban let Nash go in 2004 due to fears over Nash's back issues. While the back eventually did force Nash into retirement, Cuban was off in his assessment by nearly a decade.
In the meantime, one of the best point guards in the history of the NBA came back to the team that drafted him and went on to win two league MVP awards (2005, 2006). He carried his run-n-gun team to three conference finals in the next six seasons. In his second stint with the team, Steve Nash truly was the Sun around which the team revolved in his eight seasons in the Valley. The Suns were #1 in the league in offensive efficiency for many of those, a darling of the nation's fancy, the face of a franchise. Nash was one of the best shooters off the bounce in league history, regularly posting 50/40/90 seasons like they were easy.
He made a lot of players a lot of money with his beautiful passes. Shawn Marion was a "max" player and multi-time All-Star with Nash around him. Amare Stoudemire was a "max" player and MVP candidate. Tim Thomas went from his couch to $24 million thanks to two short months with Nash. The list goes on.
When you want to describe the Phoenix Suns, you commonly end up describing Steve Nash.
After six brilliant seasons, Nash began his inevitable decline. As he entered his late 30s, his body began to fail him. The Training Staff Mafia kept him mostly upright and on the court, but Suns fans remember that the spring of 2011 and spring of 2012 were unkind to Nash.
He once went an entire half-season with a condition labeled "pubic shearing". A fully descriptive ailment if there ever was one. He once went a month hardly even taking a shot from the field because of the discomfort in his back, legs, abdomen and/or groin. Yet during those times, he ran the team with efficiency, racked up 10 assists per game and nearly willed the undertalented Suns into the playoffs each time.
Alas, while the first six seasons consisted 5 playoff appearances (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010) including 3 conference finals, Nash's last 4 seasons in the valley consisted of only one playoff run (2010), magical as it was, mixed with three disappointing finishes (2009, 2011, 2012).
This article is not to debate was caused the downfall of the franchise. Both the front office's ineptitude and Nash's declining health played their part. We could point fingers for hours, but in the end the Suns let go a 38 year old point guard with a debilitating back issue that was sure to get even worse.
True enough, Nash barely played half his first season in LA. And when he did play, he was hardly a difference-maker. The Lakers didn't play Nash ball. They played Kobe Bryant ball. And sometimes Dwight Howard ball. And sometimes Pau Gasol ball. None of which resembled anything like Nash ball, which had (I repeat) produced a #1 league offense for nearly a decade.
But even if they had played Nash ball, Nash wasn't himself anymore.
In fact, we haven't really seen Steve Nash play since he left the Suns in 2012. Which is why he will always be remembered for his years in the Valley, and the Laker years will always be met with a rueful smile. His Laker time will be remembered like Joe Montana's time with the Chiefs. Or Emmitt Smith's time with the Cardinals. Or Edgerrin James' time with the Cardinals.
Nash was drafted by the Suns in 1996 to play behind Kevin Johnson. Three months later, the team acquired Jason Kidd, who took time from Nash as well. Yes, the 1996-97 Phoenix Suns had two All-Star worthy point guards at the same time, and another PG as a rookie. Imagine that. Nash was eventually traded to the Mavericks for a first round pick that became Shawn Marion. In Dallas, Nash began his ascension to the top of the league's point guards, culminating in two All-Star games and a Conference Finals appearance with Dirk Nowitzki.
But those six Dallas seasons don't compare to his ten total seasons in Phoenix. In Phoenix, Nash was an MVP twice, All-NBA seven times, All-Star six times, Assist leader six times, Player of the Week 8 times, Player of the Month three times, and the list goes on.
Steve Nash is and always will be a Phoenix Sun first, Dallas Maverick second, Santa Clara Bronco third, Mount Douglas Ram fourth... and Laker last. Being the GM of Canada Basketball probably slots into the 2-4 range. You might even slot his time as a soccer player above the Laker years. Heck, a really good Christmas present likely rates higher.
Steve Nash, Phoenix Sun over all else.