Loyalty can have two, similar definitions. The first view of loyalty is about being true and faithful to someone (or something) else. But loyalty can also be about being true and faithful to oneself.
There are two things that Steve Nash appears to loves: the Phoenix Suns and offensive basketball, and it seems that, for as long as he possibly can, the 38-year-old point guard is determined to remain loyal to both.
Around half a decade ago – back when Shaq was still dominant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard were fresh-faced youngsters, Jeremy Lin had only filled out his Harvard application, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant were still in High-School, and Kobe was, well, pretty much the same – Steve Nash, Coach Mike D’Antoni, and the Phoenix Suns revolutionsed NBA basketball. No, they didn’t do something that hadn’t been done before; they just did it better than ever.
The D’Antoni-Nash combo in Phoenix featured the fast-paced ‘7-seconds or less’ offense made the Suns the NBA’s most exciting squad, and in the process, made Nash not only the NBA’s best point guard, but also exalted him to back-to-back MVP awards.
It was one of the most thrilling rides in NBA history. Suns games became essential viewing, as Nash and his teammates scored with reckless abandon, forced even the most conservative of opponents to adopt their style to keep up with them, and won a lot of games. Nash arguably became the league’s most explosive offensive threat, leading the NBA year after year in assists per game, scoring at a ridiculously high percentage from the field, from the three-point line, and from the free-throw line, and through it all, boasting the league’s most tireless motor as he kept running… and running… and running… game after game after game.
While Nash stayed married to his style of play, and to his team, the faces and the circumstances around him changed drastically. The Suns – perhaps due to the lack of defensive intensity – never figured out how to translate regular season domination into postseason success. One by one, Nash lost his old high-flying teammates and gained new, far more pedestrian ones. From Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell, Shaquille O’Neal, to Jason Richardson, Nash never met a teammate whose offensive production he couldn’t drastically improve. He had been a star in his days in Dallas too, but his stint in Phoenix raised him to an entirely different stratosphere.
Now, seemingly, a whole generation has passed. At 38, in what should be his last legs, Nash finds himself amongst perhaps the most modest roster of his NBA career. D’Antoni has been long gone. The next-best players in his team are a former forgotten backup Center (Marcin Gortat), a streaky scorer (Jared Dudley), the league’s second-oldest player, who has lost the season to injury (Grant Hill) and an inconsistent three-point threat (Channing Frye).
But still, ‘Nashty’ Nash goes on.
At 38, Nash is still leading the NBA in assists (11.3), despite also being the most potent scoring threat on his own squad. Nash’s Suns, once ignored as lottery-bait, have gone on an impressive 13-6 run since the All-Star Break, and now find themselves, somehow, just 1.5 games behind a playoff spot in the gruesome Western Conference. Somehow, these awful Suns now have a winning record (27-26).
Somehow Nash is still there. Despite rumours that the Phoenix management were going to explore options to trade away the iconic player, no such move was made. Staying in Phoenix, Nash may have lost any opportunity to move away to a contender (there are many who could use him) and finally win a coveted championship. But he was too loyal to demand a trade away from his losing team, and instead, he decided to make this team into winners.
In less than four weeks, the playoff positions will be decided. Even if Nash and the Suns sneak into the postseason, don’t expect them to survive for too long against the big, bad top-seeded teams in the conference. Don’t expect Steve Nash to be challenging for a championship this season. And after this season is over, Nash could very well end up on another team to close out the last few seasons of his illustrious career.
But expect Nash to be loyal. Even if he moves away, he has proved his loyalty to the squad in Phoenix that he gave a golden era, and that gave a golden era back to him. Expect him to be loyal to himself: to his own style of offense, of being the NBA’s most deadly playmaker, an efficient scorer, and of having the NBA’s most admirable motor.
Expect Nash to remain Nashty.