Steve Nash Career Statistics - Final

GP

MPG

PPG

APG

RPG

FG%

3PT%

FT%

1,217

31.3

14.3

8.5

3.0

0.490

0.428

0.904

  Nash was close to shooting 50 / 40 / 90 for his entire career....

STEVE NASH'S RETIREMENT LETTER

2015.03.21

 

Earlier today, Steve Nash published his retirement letter on the Players' Tribune web site. Click here to read his letter. Best wishes, Steve!

STEVE NASH CAREER RETROSPECTIVE IN FIVE PARTS

2014.10.24

Last night, Steve Nash announced he will sit out the 2014-15 season due to his ongoing back issues. He did not use the "R" word, but we all imagine it is coming.

 

As a tribute, Steve-Nash-Chronicles has published a five-part series on Nash's remarkable career. I hope you enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

Part 1: Steve Nash's Career - The 1st Quarter (1996-2000)

With the 15th pick of the 1996 NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Steve Nash from the Santa Clara University Broncos, to the dismay of Suns fans who didn’t know much about him. Nash had played four years at Santa Clara (and graduated with a degree in Sociology), and the Broncos had earned three trips to the NCAA tournament during his tenure (winning one game in 1993 and another in 1996), but the Broncos played in the small West Coast Conference and received little national attention.

 

Below is a wonderful two-minute clip of Nash on draft day, when he's described as "a poor man's John Stockton." Not sure whether Nash would rank ahead of Stockton today, but you can talk about them in the same sentence.

 

 

When Nash arrived in Phoenix he found himself buried on the bench behind Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd, and Sam Cassell. While Cassell was traded midway through the season, Nash’s minutes remained modest. During his rookie season, he appeared in 65 games, but averaged just 10.5 minutes, 3.3 points, and 2.1 assists per game. His shooting percentages weren’t great either – 82.4% from the line and 42.3% from the field, although he did shoot an impressive 41.8% from beyond the arc. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER), an advanced statistic that attempts to measure a player’s overall performance, was a very low 10.8.

 

During Nash’s second year with Phoenix, 1997-98, Nash was more firmly established as Jason Kidd’s back-up at point guard. He appeared in 76 games, his minutes doubled to 21.9 per game, and his production increased to a still modest 9.1 points and 3.4 assists per game. His shooting percentages generally improved as well – 86.0% from the line, 45.9% from the field, and 41.5% on three-pointers. His PER improved but was still a very pedestrian 15.6. Though it was still a modest season by any standard, it was an improvement over Nash’s rookie season.

 

After Nash’s second season, though, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Bubba Wells, Martin Muursepp, Pat Garrity, and a first-round draft pick – who would later turn out to be Shawn Marion.

 

Upon his arrival in Dallas, though, Nash regressed. In 1998-99 the season was shortened by a lock-out, but Nash did play in (and start in) 40 games. He played 31.7 minutes per game as a starter, but generated a lacklustre 7.9 points and 5.5 assists per game. His shooting percentages fell significantly as well: 82.6% on free throws, 36.3% from the field, and 37.4% from 3-point land. His PER fell back to 10.9.

 

How bad was the 1998-99 season for Nash? There was a period when the home-town Dallas fans would boo him loudly every time he touched the ball. If there was any consolation for Nash, it was that he wasn't alone - his new friend and teammate Dirk Nowitzki, who was in his rookie year, was also struggling to find his game.

As a Nash fan, you know this story is going to get better at some point, but I’m afraid it didn’t happen during Nash’s second year in Dallas. In the year 1999-2000, Nash’s fourth NBA season, he battled injuries and played in only 56 games. What’s remarkable, though, is that he started only 27 of those games, as he battled Robert Pack for the starting job! Think about that – after a full four years in college, and in his fourth season as a pro, Steve Nash was battling Robert Pack to be the starting point guard on a bad Dallas Mavericks team.

 

During that 1999-2000 season, Nash’s minutes fell to only 27.4 per game, and he recorded only 8.6 points and 4.9 assists per game. His shooting percentages, though, did improve from his lows a year earlier, shooting 88.2% from the line, 47.7% from the field, and 40.3% from distance. His PER improved, but was still only 13.5. Meanwhile, the draft pick that he had been traded for was having a very nice season back in Phoenix – Shawn Marion averaged 10.2 points and 6.5 rebounds as a rookie during 1999-2000. The fans in Dallas were not impressed with Steve Nash.

 

At least not in the summer of 2000.

 

And that brings us to the end of the first quarter of Steve Nash’s NBA career (so far):

Nash’s statistics over those four seasons in the first quarter of his career are very unimpressive:

 

 

1st Q

2nd Q

3rd Q

4th Q

 

(1996-2000)

(2000-2004)

(2004-2008)

(2008-2012)

GP

237

 

 

 

MPG

21.7

 

 

 

PPG

7.2

 

 

 

APG

3.8

 

 

 

FT%

85.4%

 

 

 

FG%

43.8%

 

 

 

3PT%

40.2%

 

 

 

Avg PER

12.7

 

 

 

 

I realize that Nash is not yet in the Hall of Fame, but I trust that he will be some day. And with that in mind, I wonder whether there is anyone in the Hall of Fame with numbers as poor as these during the first four years of his career. Not only are the four-year averages uninspiring, but the year-by-year statistics show absolutely no momentum – no sense of what is about to happen next.

 

And remember that Nash did not enter the league at a young age – he was a 22 year-old rookie. Looking back, I don’t think he suffered from a lack of opportunity. It is true that he did play through injuries during his first two years in Dallas, but I don’t think that was the main reason for his underwhelming performance. I just think he wasn’t an especially good basketball player – yet.

 

(A version of this article was originally posted to Steve-Nash-Chronicles on 2012.09.17.)

Part 2: Steve Nash's Career - the 2nd quarter (2000-2004)

When we last left Steve Nash, he had just completed his second season in Dallas and his fourth in the NBA. They were four trying seasons – mediocre seasons at best – and there was no sense that he was improving with each year.

 

And then it happened. He broke through.

 

In the 2000-01 season, Nash was relatively healthy, and played in 70 games, starting in all of them. And his stats improved noticeably. In 34.1 minutes per game, he averaged 15.6 points and 7.3 assists. His accuracy improved, too, shooting 89.5% from the line and 48.7% from the field, and he maintained his sharp-shooting from distance, to the tune of 40.6% on 3-pointers. His overall improved play resulted in an equally improved PER of 19.6.

 

2000-01 also saw the emergence of Dallas’s Big Three of Nash, Nowitzki, and Michael Finley. Finley had been putting up good numbers year-over-year, but with the emergence of Nash and Nowitzki, the three of them became a tough unit to defend, and a fun unit to watch.

 

2000-01 was not just a breakout year for Nash and The Big Three – it was also a break-out year for the Dallas Mavericks franchise. It was the first full year under new owner Mark Cuban, and it was the season that Dallas ended a whopping 11-year play-off drought. It was also Nash’s first real play-off run. He had played minimal play-off minutes in first-round eliminations in each of his two years with the Suns, but in 2000-01 Dallas beat the Jazz 3-2 in the opening round before falling to the Spurs 4-1 in the second round.

 

Then, in 2001-02, Nash turned it up another notch. He played in all 82 games for the first time in his career, and averaged 34.6 minutes, 17.9 points and 7.7 assists per game. He showed great shooting efficiency as well, shooting 88.7% from the line, 48.3% from the field, and a whopping 45.5% on three-pointers. His PER was 20.7. He was named to the All-NBA Third team and made his first All-star game appearance. The Mavericks ended their season by beating the Timberwolves 3-0 in the first round of the play-offs, and then losing to the Kings 4-1.

 

To this point, Nash had improved for three consecutive seasons, but the 2002-03 season showed a very slight regression in terms of his stats. He played in all 82 games for the second season in a row, but in 33.1 minutes he averaged 17.7 points and 7.3 assists per game. He shot a phenomenal 90.9% from the line, but his field goal percentage fell back to 46.5%, and his three-point percentage fell back to (a still fabulous) 41.3%. His PER, though, was a very impressive 22.6. Nash was rewarded by being named to the All-NBA Third Team for the second year, and he also returned to the All-Star game, where he famously wore a “No war – Shoot for Peace” t-shirt to a press conference, a month before the U.S. invaded Iraq.

 

Perhaps most memorable about the 2002-03 season was the Mavericks’ magical play-off run. In the first round, the Mavericks went up 3-0 on Portland, only to see the Trail Blazers roar back to tie it 3-3, before the Mavericks won the series at home in game 7. The Mavs were then extended to seven games again before beating the Kings 4-3, but in the next round they fell to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals. As this was the first year the NBA employed a best-of-seven first-round series, the 2002-03 Mavericks became the first team ever to play 20 play-off games without advancing to the NBA Finals. It was a wild run, but Nash and the Mavericks came up short in the end.

 

The 2003-04 season was another very good year for Nash, though maybe not quite as good as the one before. In 78 games he averaged 33.5 minutes, 14.5 points and 8.8 assists. He shot a remarkable 91.6% on free throws, and shot 47.0% from the field and 40.5% on three-pointers. He PER fell, but was still an excellent 20.5. Nash was not named to any All-NBA teams, and was not invited back to the All-star game. The season ended in disappointment for the team as well, with the Mavs being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Kings, 4-1.

 

And that brings us to the end of the second quarter of Steve Nash’s NBA career.

 

Below is an eight-minute YouTube video that follows the careers of Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki – the first four minutes of it cover their time together in Dallas. There is a Nash-to-Dirk assist at the 2:28 mark that I had never seen before, and it left me shaking my head.



Nash’s statistics over the four seasons in the second quarter of his career show a substantial improvement when compared to the first quarter of his career:

 

 

1st Q

2nd Q

3rd Q

4th Q

 

(1996-2000)

(2000-2004)

(2004-2008)

(2008-2012)

GP

237

 312

 

 

MPG

21.7

 33.8

 

 

PPG

7.2

16.5 

 

 

APG

3.8

 7.8

 

 

FT%

85.4%

 90.2%

 

 

FG%

43.8%

 47.6%

 

 

3PT%

40.2%

 42.3%

 

 

Avg PER

12.7

 20.9

 

 

 

After a disappointing first four years, Nash played incredibly well during his second four years. He went from not getting minutes to being booed at home to becoming an All-star – at least a marginal All-star.

 

On the downside, though, he was now 30 years old, and his greatest season to date was likely 2001-02, with the two years since then showing very slight declines. He had become a great player, but would he be great for much longer?

 

Mark Cuban must have been considering all these questions as he thought about what sort of contract he would offer Nash, who was about to become a free agent on July 1, 2004.

 

(A version of this article was originally posted to Steve-Nash-Chronicles on 2012.09.22.)

Part 3: Steve Nash's Career - the 3rd quarter (2004-2008)

When we last left Steve Nash, he had just completed his sixth season in Dallas and his eighth in the NBA. His most recent four seasons were very good, and included two all-star game appearances and twice being named to the All-NBA third team. Further, his stats improved significantly in all categories from the first quarter of his career.

 

Now he was a free agent. What would Mark Cuban offer him?

Cuban, perhaps rightfully, wanted to build the Mavericks around Dirk Nowitzki. He was also worried about how Nash’s body would hold up given his frenetic playing style, and may have wondered whether Nash had already plateaued, given that his best season in Dallas, if only marginally, had been three years earlier. And so Cuban offered Nash a seemingly reasonable four-year contract worth roughly $36 million.

 

Unfortunately for Cuban, the Phoenix Suns saw something in Nash that Cuban did not, and offered him a six-year contract worth roughly $63 million, which admittedly seemed like a lot at the time, especially given that Nash was already 30. Nash called Cuban and gave him a chance to increase his offer. Cuban passed, and so Steve Nash was once again a member of the Phoenix Suns.

 

In 2004-05, Nash’s first year back in Phoenix, he started alongside Quentin Richardson, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, and Amare Stoudemire. During that magical season, Nash averaged 34.3 minutes, 15.5 points and a league-leading 11.5 assists per game. He shot 88.7% on free-throws, 50.2% from the field, and 43.1% from behind the arc. His PER was 22.0.

 

Nash had taken a moribund Phoenix Suns team that had finished 29-53 the year before and turned them into an up-tempo, run-and-gun, fun-to-watch team with a record of 62-20 – a 33-game turnaround in one season! The Suns led the league with 110.4 points per game, far outpacing the Sacramento Kings, who were the second highest scoring team at 103.7 points per game.

 

Steve Nash was rewarded by being named league MVP - he had posted great numbers himself, but the voters also credited him for the 33-game turnaround, and for making his teammates so much better in the process.

 

The Suns started the play-offs with a bang, beating Memphis 4-0, and then they beat Nash’s old team, the Mavericks, 4-2.

 

In the close-out game, Nash scored 39 points on 58.3% shooting and added 12 assists and nine rebounds. His three-pointer that tied the game and sent it into overtime is probably my favourite Steve Nash moment of his career – I was cheering aloud as I watched the video below last night. You should take seven minutes right now to watch this video recapping that magical game:



Sadly, the Suns lost the Western Conference Final 4-1 to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. Joe Johnson had been lost due to injury earlier in the Mavericks series, and the Suns weren’t left with enough talent to beat the Spurs.

 

In 2005-06, Nash had an even more spectacular season than he had in 2004-05. Joe Johnson had bolted for more money in Atlanta. Amare Stoudemire underwent microfracture surgery and played in only three games that year. The Suns starting line-up that year – honestly, I’m not making this up – was Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, and James Jones, with Leandro Barbosa, Eddie House, and Kurt Thomas being the biggest contributors off the bench. On paper, this team should not have made the play-offs.

 

What kind of a year did Nash and the Suns have in 2005-06? Nash averaged 35.4 minutes, 18.8 points, and a league-leading 10.5 assists per game. He shot a league leading 92.1% from the line, 51.2% from the field, and 43.9% on three-pointers. His PER was 23.3. And he led the league in both true shooting percentage at 63.2%, and in assist percentage, at 44.4%. Most impressively, he led that diminutive roster to a record of 54-28.

 

Nash was rewarded with his second MVP in a row. The voters really had little choice – they had given him the MVP in 2004-05, and in 2005-06 he played even better, and on a much less talented team.

 

And the wild ride continued into the 2005-06 play-offs. The Suns eliminated the Lakers 4-3, and then eliminated the Clippers 4-3, but then fell to the Mavericks 4-2. For the second time, a Steve Nash team had played 20 play-off games without making it to the NBA finals.

 

As hard as it is to believe, on the heels of two MVP seasons, I think that 2006-07- his next season - was Nash’s greatest season. In 2006-07, Nash averaged 35.3 minutes, 18.6 points, and a league-leading 11.6 assists per game. He shot 89.9% from the line, a monstrous (for a point guard) 53.2% from the field, and a whopping 45.5% on threes. His PER was 23.8, and he led the league in true shooting percentage at 65.4%, effective field-goal percentage at 61.3%, and assist percentage at 50.1%. The Suns, with Stoudemire back, finished 61-21.

 

Let’s face it, Steve Nash outdid himself again – 2006-07 was better than 2005-06, which was better than 2004-05. However, he was not rewarded with his third MVP – instead, he finished a fairly close second in voting to his good friend Dirk Nowitzki. I am sure Nash was happy for Dirk.

 

In the 2006-07 play-offs, the Suns beat the Lakers 4-1, before falling to the eventual champion Spurs 4-2.

 

But I can’t just breeze past that Spurs series without adding this: That one series included Nash’s bloody nose after colliding with Parker, Bruce Bowen kneeing Nash in the groin, and Robert Horry hip-checking Nash into the scorers' table, which led to the devastating suspensions of Boris Diaw and Amare Stoudemire for springing up off the bench and barely stepping onto the court. This series was a nightmare for Phoenix Suns fans (now-disgraced referee Tim Donaghy even officiated the Suns loss in game three!), and yet at the same time really highlighted to the basketball world what a competitor Nash was.

 

It is fair to say that the 2007-08 season showed a slight drop-off for Nash, after having improved for three consecutive seasons. Still, it was another spectacular season for him. Nash averaged 34.3 minutes, 16.9 points and 11.1 assists per game. He shot 90.6% from the line, 50.4% from the floor, and a stunning 47.0% from 3-point land. His PER was 21.1. However, the Suns were eliminated in the first round of the play-offs, falling 4-1 to the Spurs. Nash was named 2nd-Team NBA, after having been named 1st-Team NBA for three consecutive seasons.

 

And that brings us to the end of the third quarter of Steve Nash’s NBA career.

 

Nash’s statistics over the four seasons in the third quarter of his career show a substantial improvement when compared to the second quarter of his career (which had shown a substantial improvement over the first quarter of his career):

 

 

1st Q

2nd Q

3rd Q

4th Q

 

(1996-2000)

(2000-2004)

(2004-2008)

(2008-2012)

GP

237

 312

311

 

MPG

21.7

 33.8

 34.8

 

PPG

7.2

16.5 

 17.5

 

APG

3.8

 7.8

 11.2

 

FT%

85.4%

 90.2%

 90.4%

 

FG%

43.8%

 47.6%

 51.3%

 

3PT%

40.2%

 42.3%

 45.1%

 

Avg PER

12.7

 20.9

 22.6

 

 

In looking at the improvement in the third quarter of his career over the second quarter, what really stands out are the assists per game and his shooting percentages. During these years Nash began to go out of his way to set up his teammates, and at the same time improved his own shot selection.

 

It is staggering not just that Nash improved in every statistical category from the first quarter of his career to the second quarter of his career, and then improved again in every statistical category from the second quarter of his career to the third quarter. What is even more staggering, is that if you've read the two earlier posts in this series you'll see that his best year in the first quarter of his career wasn`t nearly as good as the worst year in the second quarter of his career, and the best year in the second quarter of his career was not nearly as good as the worst year in the third quarter of this career. Crazy!

 

How did Nash go from being average at age 26 to being very good at age 30 to being phenomenal at 34? You would have to ask him, but there's no denying he was a late-bloomer.

 

(A version of this article was originally posted to Steve-Nash-Chronicles on 2012.10.01.)

Part4: Steve Nash's Career - the 4th quarter (2008-2012)

When we last left Steve Nash, he had just completed his first four seasons since returning to the Suns. These were spectacular seasons. He won the MVP in his first year back with the Suns in 2004-05, had a better season in 2005-06 to win his second MVP, and then had the best season of his career in 2006-07 (finishing second in MVP voting), before falling off slightly in 2007-08. They were four wild years if you were a Nash fan.

 

The 2008-09 season, however, was a turbulent one in Phoenix, as head coach Mike D’Antoni had bolted over the summer to coach the Knicks, and Suns general manager Steve Kerr had replaced him with the more defensive-oriented Terry Porter. It was not a good fit, and in February of that same season Porter was replaced with long-time Suns assistant coach Alvin Gentry.

 

During the turbulent 2008-09 season, Nash averaged 33.6 minutes, 15.7 points, and 9.7 assists per game – all great numbers, but slightly less than what Phoenix Suns fans had come to expect. His shooting efficiency remained excellent, as he shot 93.3% from the line, 50.3% from the field, and 43.9% from three-point land. His PER for the year was 19.5 – still very good, but the lowest it had been since the 1999-2000 season.

 

Nash was not selected to the All-Star game or to the All-NBA 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Teams for the first time since 2003-04. The Suns finished the season with a respectable 46-36 record, but it was only good enough for ninth place. After eight straight seasons of making the play-offs, Nash was on the outside looking in.

 

Although the Suns had missed the play-offs, the feeling was that they were in better shape now that Gentry had taken control of the team, not because he was a better coach than Porter, but because he was a better coach for the players the Suns had.

 

And, in 2009-10, Steve Nash did bounce back from his slight decline the year before. He averaged 32.8 minutes, 16.5 points, and a league-leading 11.0 assists per game. He shot a league-leading 93.8% on free throws, 50.7% on field goals, and 42.6% on three-pointers. His PER rebounded to an impressive 21.6, and he recorded a league-leading 50.9% assist percentage. Nash returned to the All-Star game this year and was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team, disrupting the growing narrative that age was finally catching up with the then 36 year-old Nash.

 

Further, success in 2009-10 wasn’t limited to just the regular season. The Suns finished the year with a 54-28 record to return to the play-offs, and then went on a run, eliminating the Blazers 4-2 and then sweeping the dreaded Spurs 4-0. Nash had made it to the western conference finals for the fourth time in his career, this time to face the Los Angeles Lakers. The teams each won their first two games at home, before the Lakers won a dramatic game five, and then game six, to eliminate Nash and the Suns.

 

Two significant things happened between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. Nash, who was a free agent after completing his six year contract with the Suns, signed on for two more years for a total of $22 million. But his pick and roll partner, Amare Stoudemire, decided to leave for the Knicks, who had offered him a five-year maximum deal that Suns owner Robert Sarver was unwilling to match. This left Nash in a tough spot, as he was now by some distance the best player on his team.

 

For the bulk of the 2010-11 season, the Phoenix Suns’ starting five was Steve Nash, Vince Carter, Grant Hill, Robin Lopez, and Channing Frye. During the year, Nash averaged 33.3 minutes, 14.7 points and a league-leading 11.4 assists. He shot 91.2% from the line, 49.2% from the field, and 39.5% from beyond the arc. His PER was 20.8, and he had a league-leading assist percentage of 53.1%. This was another very good season for Nash, but did perhaps show a slight decline from the previous year. Nash was not selected to the All-Star game or to any of the All-NBA teams. As a team the Suns fared better than most had predicted, but still missed the play-offs with a 40-42 record.

 

In the lock-out shortened 2011-12 season, the Suns starting five again featured Nash, Hill, and Frye, but this season it included Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley. For the year, Nash averaged 31.6 minutes, 12.5 points and 10.7 assists per game. He shot 89.4% from the line, a very impressive 53.2% from the field, and 39.0% on three-pointers. His PER for the season was 20.3, and he once again led the league in assist percentage – again at 53.1%. Nash was selected to the mid-season All-Star game, but was not named to any of the three All-NBA teams. So, despite another very solid season from Nash, the Suns finished the year with a 33-33 record, which meant that Nash had failed to make the play-offs two seasons in a row.

 

And that brings us to the end of the fourth quarter of Steve Nash’s NBA career.

 

As can be seen in the table below, Nash’s statistics over the four seasons in the fourth quarter do show a moderate decline from the third quarter of his career in all categories except free-throw percentage:

 

 

1st Q

2nd Q

3rd Q

4th Q

 

(1996-2000)

(2000-2004)

(2004-2008)

(2008-2012)

GP

237

 312

311

 292*

MPG

21.7

 33.8

 34.8

32.9

PPG

7.2

16.5 

 17.5

15.0

APG

3.8

 7.8

 11.2

10.7

FT%

85.4%

 90.2%

 90.4%

 92.1%

FG%

43.8%

 47.6%

 51.3%

 50.6%

3PT%

40.2%

 42.3%

 45.1%

 41.7%

Avg PER

12.7

 20.9

 22.6

20.6

*Only 66 games were played in the lock-out shortened 2011-12 season

 

It is interesting to compare Nash’s 4th quarter (when he was age 34-38) to his 2nd quarter (when he was age 26-30). On balance, the two quarters are similar, but I think his 4th quarter statistics are better overall - which is remarkable, given that most basketball players hit their prime from age 26-30.

 

In fact, considering that the 3rd and 4th quarter columns show Steve Nash's production from age 30-38, I think it is fair to ask whether there has ever been an NBA player at any position who has had a better career after age 30 than Steve Nash.

 

He is the poster child for late bloomers.

 

(A version of this article was originally posted to Steve-Nash-Chronicles on 2012.10.03.)

Part 5: Steve Nash's Career - Overtime (2012-2015)

In the summer of 2012, Steve Nash signed a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for $29 million. Phoenix was looking to tear down the team so they could rebuild, and the Lakers were looking for a short-term talent infusion and an energy boost to help Kobe Bryant earn his sixth ring.
 

After playing a total of 10 seasons with the Suns and six with the Mavericks, Nash’s career was heading into overtime with the Lakers.


In retrospect, it may have been better if he had chosen to end his career at the end of regulation time.


The Lakers gave up four picks (two first-rounders and two second-rounders) for Nash, a price that seemed fair at the time, given the level at which Nash was still playing. But in only his second game with the Lakers, Nash collided with the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard and suffered a broken bone in his leg.


Unfortunately for Nash, the injury caused his spondylolisthesis – a chronic back condition that he had managed to keep in check his entire career – to act up, irritating the nerves in his back and hamstrings. Nash was never close to 100% healthy after that collision, playing only modest minutes in 50 games during 2012-13, and in only 15 games in 2013-14, despite his continuous and tireless efforts to rehabilitate.


Although Nash has not officially retired yet, he has stated that he will not play at all in 2014-15, after significantly re-aggravating his back during training camp. He has most likely played his last game in the NBA.


It is an objective fact that, in retrospect, Nash was a disastrous acquisition for the Lakers. But signing him for the four picks was the correct decision at the time. The collision with Lillard was bad luck, plain and simple.


Rather than focus on Nash's disappointing time in Los Angeles, I would like to use the remainder of this post to focus on Nash’s legacy. Although his time in Los Angeles was often difficult to watch, in time it will be seen for what it really was - a very small part of an otherwise incredible career.


Steve Nash's Legacy

Nash has many remarkable accomplishments that are mentioned frequently. He ranks first in NBA career free throw percentage, third in career assists, and is a two-time league MVP. Only ten times has a player shot 50% from the field, 40% from three, and 90% from the line over the course of a season, and four of those times were by Steve Nash – unbelievably, Nash actually shot 49%/42%/90% for his entire career.

 

And, more generally, Nash is often credited with making basketball beautiful again, playing not only a very creative brand of basketball, but doing so at a break-neck pace, and in the process setting an example that many have since followed.


But there are a few other important aspects of Nash and his career that don’t get as much play.
 

The first is Nash’s commitment to continual improvement. In the video in Part 2 of this retrospective, Nash says on his draft day in 1996, “I'm just going to try to work as hard as I can, every day, from now for the rest of my life,” and that is exactly what he endeavoured to do for the next 19 years. To my mind, nothing illustrates that dedication more than the fact that Steve Nash increased his career field goal percentage for 14 consecutive seasons:

 

 

FG

FGA

FG-CAR

FGA-CAR

FG%-CAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

1996-97

74

175

74

175

42.29%

1997-98

268

584

342

759

45.06%

1998-99

114

314

456

1073

42.50%

1999-00

173

363

629

1436

43.80%

2000-01

386

792

1015

2228

45.56%

2001-02

525

1088

1540

3316

46.44%

2002-03

518

1114

2058

4430

46.46%

2003-04

397

845

2455

5275

46.54%

2004-05

430

857

2885

6132

47.05%

2005-06

541

1056

3426

7188

47.66%

2006-07

517

971

3943

8159

48.33%

2007-08

485

962

4428

9121

48.55%

2008-09

428

851

4856

9972

48.70%

2009-10

499

985

5355

10957

48.87%

2010-11

399

811

5754

11768

48.90%

2011-12

295

555

6049

12323

49.09%

2012-13

236

475

6285

12798

49.11%

2013-14 36 94 6321 12892 49.03%

 

Think about that: for 14 consecutive seasons – including his first season with the Lakers, Steve Nash finished the season with a higher career field goal percentage than when he began the season. That’s more than just a commitment to continual improvement – that’s actually continual improvement.

 

(And those field goal percentages are especially amazing considering that Steve Nash never touched the rim during his NBA career – he was as ground-bound as you and I are.)

 

Secondly, although it was often said that Nash made his teammates better, it was said almost as a cliché, and what was never really conveyed was that making his teammates better was Steve Nash’s primary motivation as a basketball player. He did not make them better by accident, but by design. He felt joy when his teammates over-achieved, and he sought that joy continuously.

 

Over the course of his career, Nash helped make average players good (James Jones, Raja Bell, Jared Dudley), he helped make good players very good (Boris Diaw, Channing Frye, Marcin Gortat), and he helped make very good players excellent (Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, and Amare Stoudemire). When he accepted his first MVP trophy in 2005, he said that he was accepting it on behalf of his Suns teammates – and when he said it, we knew that he meant it, because we had seen the joy with which they all played.

 

(Of course, Dirk Nowitzki was always going to be a hall-of-famer, with or without Steve Nash.)

 

For about eight years in his prime, Steve Nash could easily have averaged 25 points per game, but that would never have brought him the same level of satisfaction. He self-identified as a teammate, and that is why he always looked to pass first.

 

Finally, I don’t think that Steve Nash gets enough credit for being funny. During his time in the NBA he was witty in front of the camera many times, but he was usually at his most hilarious when he was, so very dryly, pretending to be full of himself. Who knows, maybe this was the release Nash needed to remain humble amidst all his accomplishments!

 

There are many great comedic examples of "self-centered Nash," but I think this promotional video for EA Sports remains my favourite:

“Thought I might as well clean up the shop a little bit” – that’s priceless.

 

Lastly, and on a personal note, the thing I will always admire most about Steve Nash is that he represented Canada very well on the world stage - not only through his basketball accomplishments, but also through his commitment to improvement, his joy at being a teammate, and his very dry sense of humour.

 

Thanks for everything, Steve - and best wishes for whatever comes next.

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