By Shaun Powell, for NBA.com
Posted Jan 20 2010 3:49PM - Updated Feb 14 2010 12:06AM
DALLAS -- To win the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the winner had to successfully make a layup, a chest, bounce and outlet pass through hoops, a jumper and then a dribble with a finishing layup.
Steve Nash tacked on a bit more at the start: Fly to Vancouver, carry the torch in the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games, fly to Dallas to practice for the Westen Conference All-Stars, then do the skills. All in a 24-hour-plus period.
"But it makes it OK," said Nash, holding the skills trophy, "when you win a resume-builder like this."
Nash has never gone through an obstacle course like this, one that weaved through two countries and two sports. But if nothing else, Nash demonstrated once again how he's able to defy age and geriatric logic. At 36 he's having one of the best seasons of his career -- stunning when you consider two of them were MVP years -- while battling a steady stream of younger point guards. Saturday night in the skills contest, Nash competed against Brandon Jennings (age 21), Russell Westbrook (22) and then Deron Williams (26) in the championship round.
"I have so much admiration for those guys, so to beat them at anything is an accomplishment," Nash said. "I think it says a lot to where the point guard position is in our game, with as deep and talented the younger generation is.
"This is really the best collection of point guards since I've been in the league. It's not just the young guys, it's also point guards around my age who are still at the top of their game."
Nash was also the 2005 champion, and the skills contest plays to his strength. He came from Canada and later Santa Clara without any tremendous physical gifts, but his dedication to fitness and fundamentals is why he became a star and lasted this long.
"I've made a lot of sacrifices to prepare myself for every season," Nash said. "This is a tough league and you can't take anything for granted. The competition is top notch, that goes without saying, and forces you to be at your best, night in, night out."
Nash is averaging 18.3 points and 11.1 assists, the only active point guard (with Chris Paul on the shelf) positing a double-double average. His numbers are very comparable to his MVP seasons of 2005 (18.8 points, 10.5 assists) and 2006 (18.6 and 11.6). Even more, the Suns had better talent surrounding Nash in those seasons; he's had to work harder if not play at a higher level this season, considering the amount of youth currently in the Suns' rotation.
"You have to love to play and put in the hard work," he said.
Curiously, Williams, who blew a chance to win the skills contest when he flubbed the outlet pass, is a fraction short in the assists department of averaging a double-double for the season. Williams was the 2008 skills champ and knows Nash all too well from their frequent meetings in the Western Conference.
"Steve is a great example for all point guards, not just the young ones," Williams said.
Given his weary weekend, it came as a bit of a surprise that Nash could lift the trophy. And he looked forward to his next trip: to his hotel room.
"I need some sleep."
2009: Top Pick Rose Finishes Skills Challenge With Flair
Finishing off his winning time of 35.3 seconds with an emphatic double-pump reverse dunk, the Chicago Bulls guard became the first rookie to win the PlayStation Skills Challenge when he defeated New Jersey's Devin Harris in the championship round of the 2009 Skills Challenge.
2008: Deron Williams Breezes To Skills Title
Deron Williams shook off some jitters in the first round and was flawless in the finals (no missed shots, every pass through the hoops) to edge Chris Paul for the 2008 Playstation Skills Challenge title. Williams' final time of 25.5 seconds was just one tick off the all-time mark set by Steve Nash in the first round in 2005.
2007: Wade Repeats
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade took home the PlayStation Skills Challenge title for the second straight year, posting a final-round time of 26.4 seconds to best Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant. Wade's first-round time of 31.3 seconds was second only to Bryant (29.8) and eliminated Cleveland's LeBron James (35.4) and New Orleans/Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (39.6).
2006: Wade Bests LeBron To Earn Skills Championship
Miami's Dwyane Wade was crowned as the 2006 PlayStation Skills Challenge champion, defeating Cleveland's LeBron James in the final round by completing the obstacle course in 26.1 seconds to James' 33.7-second time. New Orleans/Oklahoma City rookie Chris Paul and 2005 champion Steve Nash of Phoenix were eliminated in the first round with times of 42.6 and 52.8 seconds, respectively. Wade had the top first-round time with 39 seconds flat while James finished the course in 40.5 seconds to reach the finals.
2005: Nash Dominates To Claim Skills Crown
Steve Nash clearly distanced himself from the rest of the field in 2005 and easily won the PlayStation Skills Challenge. The Phoenix point guard posted the top times in both the first and final rounds, claiming victory with a contest-best 25.4 seconds.
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