Welcome to Part 2 of the Hall of Fame Round Table of Memories!
This one’s all about Steve Nash. Mr. Two Time.
We are proud to have contributions from not only some of the current BSotS staff, but also some of our former writers including Rollin Mason, Mike Lisboa, Seth Pollack and Sean Sullivan.
We are also very lucky to get thoughts from current Suns and NAZ Suns voice, Jon Bloom, as well as long-time Suns employee Greg Esposito (who now contributes to Bright Side and the Solar Panel to keep in touch with reality).
STEVE NASH (2004-2012 with Suns)
Pedigree: 2-time League MVP, 8-time All-Star (twice with Dallas), helped bring down the Laker mystique one DL stint at a time.
What is your absolute favorite, or most lasting, memory of Steve Nash in a Suns uniform?
Dave King: While someone might remember Nash’s pelvic shearing in 2012, swollen-closed eye in 2010 or the bloody nose in 2007, my personal most lasting memory is one of his earliest after coming back to the Suns — taking down his best buddy and former team in Dallas in April of 2005 with an epic performance over 6 games that just showed the tenacity with which he would be known for the rest of his career.
Sean Sullivan (7-footer): Easy one for me. My favorite and most lasting Nash memory was his bloody nose game against the Spurs in game 1 of the Western Conference Semi Finals in 2007 (ok, I had to look up the game number and year, but still super memorable!). Nash exhibited the kind of will, grit, and toughness that simply sets him apart from other point guards who belong in the same conversation. Even though the Suns lost that game, it was through no fault of his own, as he still ended up with 31 points and 8 assists playing through his bloody and badly bandaged beak (Ok, I had to double check those stats also).
Seth Pollack: I‘m going with the first thing that pops into my mind and it was the incredible game and individual battle between Steve Nash and Gilbert Arenas on Dec. 22, 2006. If I’m remembering correctly, the Suns were in the middle of a long win streak but got stuck in a Denver snow storm and were late getting back to Phoenix. Gilbert was in the middle of his revenge tour taking out all his feelings against those who he felt dissed him with some sort of Team USA non-selection or some such. Mike D’Antoni was Gilbert’s target. Winning more games was Steve’s. I was in the building and will never forget the back and forth individual duel between two guys that couldn’t be more different. They combined for 96 points. Nash had 42 and 12 and Gilbert dropped 52. Of course the Suns lost in OT because so many Suns memories end in a loss.
A very close second is the swollen eye game against the Spurs in 2010. We made a video about it well before the internet pivoted to video.
I’m going to throw in a bonus: There was a time when the rumor swirled that Nash’s baby boy was actually fathered by either Jason Richardson or Leandro Barbosa. The rumors couldn’t decide which. One day Steve brought the baby into the locker room and I snuck a pic to “prove” the baby was his. Don’t tell anyone. Spreading rumors is bad.
Mike Lisboa: Crying in the locker room after the 2010 Western Conference Finals run. He cried for all of us.
Rollin Mason: Closing out the Spurs with one damn eye. Honorable mention goes to the chipped tooth interview. Or maybe when he popped his nose back into place without flinching. Steve getting injured was comedy gold.
Jim Coughenour: This might be weird, but when I started thinking about Nash I just got this vision of him standing at the free throw line licking his fingers. He helped close out a lot of games for the Suns at the line. Dude had ice water in his veins. Still the career free throw percentage leader (.9043) just ahead of Mark Price and Steph Curry. So that’s what I’ll remember most. That every time he took aim I expected it to go in.
Brendon Kleen: Because my early memories of him in his prime mostly came when I was a younger kid, my most lasting memory of Nash is actually his induction into the Suns’ ring of honor. I’m always a sucker for those peaks behind the curtain of what made the big machine chug along, and Nash and D’Antoni trading stories made for an incredible night.
Greg Esposito: The fact that he bleeds so damn much. Seriously, cue the EMT from There’s Something About Mary “We’ve got a bleeder!” The best part though, it never stopped him.
1980s horror movie villains looked at Nash and thought, “Give up bro. You’re in rough shape.” Yet, no matter what happened to him, including a debilitating back injury, he just let going. If you were trying to teach a kid about perseverance, there isn’t a better example than the Nash Rambler.
Jon Bloom: I’m sure guys will mention one of the various orofices Steve was bleeding from during some of his most memorable performances in purple in orange, and I respect that. I think my most lasting memory will not be a singular performance, but rather his patented move. He was one of a kind in the way he broke guys down off the dribble and took them all the way under the basket as if he was on blades taking a defensemen behind the crease. Steve may have taken more hits than any other point guard in his time, and he did so with a surprising mix of strength and grace while simultaneously inflicting pain on his opponents and providing unbridled pleasure to all of us lucky enough to call ourselves fans.
Deadpoolio: The 2004-05 season. It wasn’t supposed to happen. The Suns weren’t supposed to be good after what happened in 2003-04, and no one thought adding a fringe All-Star point guard would change that. Then Phoenix dismantled the Atlanta Hawks by 30 points in the season opener in a beautiful display of basketballing that foreshadowed what would become a Cinderella story — you know, if the prince had spent all that time tracking down Cinderella only to tell her that he liked her but not in that way. Stupid Spurs.
Honorable mention goes to Nash’s Vitamin Water commercials.
What is your least favorite argument against Nash being worthy of those 2 MVP awards (your chance to rant about awful arguments that he shouldn’t have won)
Mike: No rings. Ironically, it’s maybe the best argument as well. As much noise as is made about the MVP being a regular season award, it’s also a de facto “best player in the league award.” And the best player in the league failed to bring home the Larry O’Brien (for like, a half dozen reasons that were not his fault).
Seth: Sorry. I don’t think he should have won both. He was great but it was an odd time in the NBA with kind of a lack of star power and a few other things that fell neatly into place for Steve.
Rollin: That no one mentions his 2006/07 season as being the most MVP-worthy. (Dirk won)
Espo: That it was racially motivated. It’s a delicate subject and I, a privileged white guy, will never claim to understand anyone else’s struggle but that isn’t why Nash won. Shaq and Kobe had MVP arguments but Nash was doing things we hadn’t seen done in the NBA. There is no argument you can make that proves Nash didn’t make guys aren’t him immensely better. Just ask Tim Thomas’ bank account.
Jon: I don’t love the MVP debate because it’s tough to put yourself in the shoes of voters after so many years have elapsed. Maybe the best argument is that Steve didn’t win the MVP the year he may have deserved it most. Regardless, I think we can all agree “2-time” has a pretty solid ring to it.
Brendon: I’ll just say that any argument in favor of Kobe Bryant is a pretty easy one to hate. Looking in retrospect at many MVP awards causes reconsideration, and especially any time someone wins two back-to-back people are going to be angry. But Nash did two very different things in each of his MVP seasons, first elevating a talented group that included Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson to 62 wins and then taking a motley crew to the 2006 West Finals. They are both incredible achievements, and also screw Kobe.
Dave: I just hated the need to trash the whole body of work put in by Nash if your favorite player was Kobe Bryant or Shaquille
Harrison O’Neal. While there were a lot of deserving players each year, no one contributed more to their team’s success than Nash. He set all-time records in many categories those years and just wouldn’t be denied. He carried his team so much further than they’d ever gone without him.
Sean: Shaq deserved it in 2005 or Kobe/LeBron deserved in in 2006. People always undervalued Steve’s total court contributions and overvalued points and/or rebounds by others. I guess you had to witness Nash play with your own eyes to see why he was deserving of both.
D-Pooly: Probably that he won MVP because he was white. The argument is too stupid for me to even rant about. Next….
Which teammate did Nash elevate the MOST in his career (i.e. Nash made everyone better... who did he make MOST better?)
Geoff Allen (former BSotS staffer): For me, it has to be Channing Frye. Frye went from an essentially unplayable guy in Portland to a starting stretch-big by midway through his first season with the Suns. Now, granted, a lot of that has to do with the slow but steady evolution of Frye’s game. But I think its questionable whether Frye ever develops that skillset without the space and pace Nash brought to the Suns.
Sean: You could argue Amar’e, but I personally think Shawn Marion benefitted from Nash the most. With Nash on the floor to find The Matrix in transition, cutting to the rim for a lob, or wide open for a jumper, Nash helped make Marion the fun and exciting player Suns fans will always remember him as.
Jim: Robert Sarver. After all, Nash carried him through his first eight years as an owner... and ever since he left the team has been a flaming pile of...
Oh wait. That says teammate. My bad.
Nash made a few people some money by helping them look their best (e.g. Tim Thomas). As much fun as he made the pick and roll work with Amare, and even though he squeezed an All-Star appearance out of Shaq... I’d say Boris Diaw and Marcin Gortat were the two that stood out to me. Both had career years in their first full seasons with Nash. Diaw was the third best player on a Western Conference Finalist in 2005-06 and the Polish Pillow actually averaged 15 and 10 in the 2011-12 season.
Mike: I feel like saying Amar’e, Marion or Joe Johnson is fairly disrespectful as all 3 of those players were great in their own right. I think Nash most elevated a rotating series of wings: Raja Bell, Jason Richardson, Tim Thomas, Jared Dudley, and even latter day Grant Hill. Their careers got boosts that were not replicated before or after once they came and went from Nash’s reflected greatness.
Jon: Lots of good options here, but none better than the Polish Hammer/Machine, who was also one of my favorite post game show guests over the years. Just ask Marcin Gortat himself how he got paid nearly $50 million over the last 5 years in Washington, I’d be shocked if he didn’t look you in the eyes and say it was thanks in large part to #13.
Dave: Could I say Marcus Banks? No? Actually, Nash was kind of a career killer to backup point guards and really any point guard who came after him in the valley. None could compare. The next name that comes to mind is Amare Stoudemire, but we all know how great he played in New York (he DID!) for a year before his knees began to precipitous descent predicted by Suns staff. Amare was an All-Star with Nash and without him. And Shawn Marion was an incredible talent before Nash too. Joe Johnson made something like 14 straight All-Star games after leaving Nash’s side.
The player I’d have to say that Nash’s presence, as well as D’Antoni’s, elevated the most was Raja Bell. Bell originally came to the Suns as a backup shooting guard, which is what he was in Utah before coming to the Suns. But in Phoenix, Bell was the enforcer, the bodyguard, and back-breaker that Nash so badly needed. He was the yin to Nash’s yang to make the perfect back court.
Brendon: Great question. Is it crazy to say it’s Stoudemire? I was as big a STAT fan as anyone during that 2010-11 season in New York, but the rest of his career was significantly propped up by Nash’s greatness. Stoudemire is seen as the first of his kind in reference to a generation of athletic, rim-running bigs. But without Nash, I’m not sure he even gains a reputation of greatness himself in that regard.
Seth: This is a tough one. I’m going to discount less players like Quentin Richardson, Lou Amundson and about 40 other dudes and focus on Shawn and Amare. Both obviously benefited from Nash in the obvious ways and both were individually talented in their own right. Ultimately though, Stat was the guy who’s career was most elevated and detonated by number 13.
Rollin: Joe Johnson shot 47.8% from three (4.5 attempts per game) after shooting 30.8% the year prior without Nash.
He would’ve been an All-Star eventually, but Steve accelerated the process.
D-Pooly: Amar’e Stoudemire. That’s taking nothing away from Stoudemire’s own talents, but man, he spoon-fed STAT like the basketball was strained peas.
Espo: There are plenty of guys with lesser skill levels that he helped elevate but the one guy he turned into a true superstar was Amar’e Stoudemire. Nash’ passing ability, especially in the pick n’ roll tapped into Amar’e’s athleticism in a way few other point guards could have and Captain Canada’s ability to draw in defenses as he penetrated the lane made things much easier on STAT along the way. Not to mention, Nash’s ability to elevate his teammates in Stoudemire’s absence helped fans remember fondly rather than an injury riddled borderline bust.
Which playoff run was the most unlikely, due most to Nash’s herculean efforts?
Rollin: Gotta go back to 2010 again. He closed out a sweep of the Spurs with one eye. The Spurs. With one eye.
Dave: I’ve got to say 2006. I remember the preseason mags predicted the Suns to fall back to .500 after news broke of Amare’s knee injury, but with Kurt Thomas at center and Shawn Marion playing small-ball four, the Suns had one of the league’s best records with the 6th best defense and the top offense into January. Even when KT went down, and the Suns pulled Tim Thomas off the scrap heap, they found a way to make the playoffs with home court advantage in the first couple rounds. If not for the loss of Raja Bell in the Conference Finals against Dallas — when they had won game 1 on the road already — we might have seen a Finals appearance against a team the Suns had run off the court earlier in the year (Miami). That run was always my holyshittheycouldhavegoneallthewayanyway year.
Sean; I’d say the last playoff run for Nash and the Suns...the 2010 playoffs in which the Suns made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. Nash was older, Amar’e a little less explosive, and Grant Hill was ancient by NBA standards. Yet they still almost put the Lakers on the ropes if not for Metta World Peace and awful luck.
Mike: It’s gotta be 2010, right? That was the last hurrah for not just Steve Nash, but the Suns as a franchise. It was the Bad News Bears of the Nash Era, and he took them to the 3 seed and a deep run into the Western Conference Finals.
Espo: It has to be the 2009-2010 season. Knocking on the door of the NBA Finals in a year everyone thought the roster was completely depleted and the former MVP was way past his prime, Nash pulled his magic again. He helped make that one of the best locker rooms and built such team chemistry that anything seemed possible.
Brendon: It’s 2010. In 2006, there was quietly more talent that we would come to appreciate later in those players’ careers. Leandro Barbosa was an awesome sixth man and won a title in 2015, while Boris Diaw’s glue-guy pedigree was just developing. In 2010, though, you’re talking about the likes of 38-year-old Grant Hill, Stoudemire, and a bunch of young, unproven scorers. It’s still remarkable how close they got.
Jon: I’m going to go with the most recent, probably just because I remember it more and there is an argument to be made that it wasn’t nearly as talented of a roster as he had around him when he made other deep playoff runs. In the 2010 playoffs, the 35 year old court maestro averaged nearly 18 points and more than 10 assists a game on 52%FG, a sub-Nashian 38% from three and 89% at the line. It was how he elevated the games of guys like Jason Richardson, Channing Frye, Jared Dudley and of course Grant Hill that was truly heroic.
D-Pooly: The second trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2006.