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The Steve Nash I Knew

Espo shares one of his favorite interactions with Nash from his time with the Phoenix Suns

San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns

This piece was originally written for when two-time MVP Steve Nash retired.

Nash will enter the Hall of Fame today, 9/7/2018, as a Suns player with whom he won the two MVPs and played the majority of his career.

It’s not very often you get to work in the presence of true greatness. Someone who executes his or her craft at the level of a Steve Jobs or the Beatles. A person whose impact on their industry will be felt long after they stop performing their craft.

In my first year with the Phoenix Suns, I had the opportunity to witness it, both on and off the court, in Steve Nash during his last season with the team.

My story isn’t dissimilar to hundreds of others in the same organization who were privileged to watch -- in awe of his skills. In fact, you’ll probably read many other first-hand accounts around the Internet and in publications over the next hours, days, weeks and months.

There are two moments that stick out most from those 10 months our paths crossed that left an impact on me.

The first was a very personal one. It was my first road trip with the team. It was a one-gamer to Los Angeles in early 2012. As hard as it may be to believe, I tend to be a shy and reserved person in new situations. My plan for the trip consisted of remaining in my hotel room, staying out of everyone’s way and getting home without anything notable occurring. Life had other plans.

On the night we arrived, the coaching staff, along with media relations guru Julie Fie, invited me to join them at the premiere of Grant Hill’s documentary Duke 91 & 92: Back to Back at the Paramount Pictures lot. It was the type of thing you never imagine you’ll wind up at when you’re a 27-year-old guy paid to Tweet and Facebook things. (Yes Mom, that is a real job.)

Before I knew it, I was in a car with a few coaches, Michael Redd and the man himself, Steve Nash, on the way to the premiere. I didn’t say much. To be honest, after only a few months on the job, I was still a little star-struck by the entire situation. Within mere minutes though, Nash, Redd and the entire car was engaged in casual conversation and joking with me like one of the guys. Nash, in particular, went out of his way to treat me like a member of the team.

When we arrived at Paramount, there was a reception before the start of the film. Hundreds of people were mingling and partaking in hors d’oeuvres that were much better than the Pink’s Hot Dog I likely would have eaten if I hadn’t chosen to join the group. I noticed something as I stood there. Nash was greeting and shaking hands with more people than a dignitary at a wedding reception. He did it all with a smile and no complaints.

After this went on for 20 minutes or so, I thought he might need a break. I walked over to him and engaged him in conversation. We talked about what it was like to constantly be in the spotlight in public. A lot of the time was just spent making small talk simply so Nash could eat his dinner without having to take a picture or sign an autograph. In those 10 minutes, I gained a true appreciation of the man, not the basketball player. He was simply a person, like the rest of us, trying to make his way. It was a very human moment, something we tend for forget about these “gladiators” who perform for our amusement. Deep down, Steve, and all of them are just like you and me.

It was that instance that changed my approach to these type of situations. It helped me to build relationships within the organization and learn how to approach working in the industry. My “welcome to the NBA” moment, if you will.

Nash’s final game in Phoenix as a member of the Suns was a different kind of impactful moment. It was a very public one that Suns fans and the entire city shared. With about five minutes to go in the game, fans completely organically started chanting “We Want Steve!” For a solid two minutes the chant began to swell until it was deafening. It was so loud that the ESPN television crew couldn’t stop talking about it on the broadcast. When he finally re-entered the game with under four minutes to go, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and found a way to turn the volume knob to 11 and rip it off.

It was in my top 5 sports moments in Arizona history, a coming-of-age occasion that showed just how great Phoenix sports fans can be in a truly amazing moment. To this day, whenever I think about it I get the kind of chills that sports used to produce for me as a kid. I also realize how truly lucky I was to experience the moment in person.

That moment was also a testament to the impact Nash had on the Suns and the NBA. His visionary play changed the game league wide making it cool to assist others (heck, there are even commercials about it now). But you don’t need me to tell you what he meant on the floor.

True greatness is rare. It comes around only a handful of times in a generation. Thanks, Steve, for letting me partake in a very small part of it and best of luck in whatever your next venture is. We can only hope it’s half as entertaining as the first chapter.

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