Outside of the fact I try to objectively write about the Phoenix Suns because I moved across the country some ten odd years ago, I have no deep attachment to the franchise. I get called a contrarian by angry Suns fans sometimes, but I've never written anything intentionally with an opposite view -- I simply state what I feel.
Outside of a fanatic following of the New York Knicks and Michigan Wolverines, the team that made me fall in love with basketball was the Sacramento Kings. In a way they were the Suns before the Suns. A flashy point guard named Jason Williams and my guy from Michigan Chris Webber helped put Sacramento back on the map, and then the team continued to evolve into a more substantive group with shrewd personnel moves. Much like the Suns they peaked in the Western Conference Finals, but their foil was the Los Angeles Lakers not the San Antonio Spurs.
I'm pretty sure I was still a senior in high school when the first Seven Seconds or Less team was gifted upon us during the 2004-2005 season. This was a time before I started ordering league pass or social media was a thing. I loved watching basketball, but my view of the sport was simplistic compared to what it is today.
During the Steve Nash MVP years, and throughout the Seven Seconds or Less era, I fell into the category of people who thought he was overrated. I was fine with Nash winning his first MVP in 04-05, but not a chance he should have won it over Kobe Bryant that next season (I stand by the latter part today). I wasn't able to distinguish how "Two-Time" impacted a basketball game.
Going through college I started to intern at the flagship home of the Suns and went on to work there. During this time I had the opportunity to work on many pre and post game shows, produce talk radio during the day, plus eventually covered some games in person. Listening to Nash talk on a regular basis, he was insightful and honest, yet I found him to be a tad bit whiny at times -- understandable considering the hardship he went through in moments of the highest possible leverage.
I've talked about this before, but it seems pertinent to bring it up again now. I didn't gain a true appreciation of Nash until the peak of his time with the Suns passed. Maybe even more impressive than what he did surrounded by the likes of Amar'e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, Raja Bell, Kurt Thomas, Leandro Barbosa, Quentin Richardson, Boris Diaw, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson and Shaquille O'Neal -- was what he did when the majority of those players were gone.
In 2010-2011 this roster went 40-42, with the ninth best offensive rating in the NBA.
In 2011-2012 this roster went 33-33, once again with the ninth best ORtg, and actually played the Utah Jazz in the second to last game of the regular season, in what was essentially a win or get in playoff game for the eighth seed. They obviously lost, In that contest Michael Redd was tied for a team-high with 15 points. Yep, Michael Redd played for the Suns.
This is what it took for me to recognize what Steve Nash was, not watching him thrive with strong supporting casts. Seeing him drag below average rosters, I thought were destined to pick early in the lottery, to the middle of the NBA landscape was the journey I needed to understand Nash's greatness.
Part of this makes me sad I didn't grasp how good Nash was when the Suns were at their best, but at least I came to a realization before carrying an incorrect perception with me for the rest of my life. The cliche better late than never is fully appropriate for me in this instance.