Nash Trades in High Tops for Cleats in Showdown in Chinatown
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: June 24, 2010
Posted: June 24, 2010
Wednesday was a great day to be a soccer fan in New York City. Not only were fans seen taking to the streets in celebration after the United States advanced in the World Cup in the morning, but they also turned out in droves to see Steve Nash put on his annual “Showdown in Chinatown” charity soccer match in the evening.
The All-Star point guard’s affection for the game of soccer is well-publicized. With a father that was a semi-pro player from England and a brother that plays professionally in Canada, soccer was his first love and the main topic of conversation at the Nash dinner table while he was growing up.
That passion combined with his desire to help underserved children around the world are what led to the creation of the “Showdown in Chinatown.” Proceeds from the event went to the Steve Nash Foundation, which benefits children on three continents.
“There’s so much excitement around the game of soccer right now,” Nash said. “It’s phenomenal to have the Showdown at the same time as the World Cup. Obviously that can’t happen every summer and there’s a lot of excitement with the US team doing well.”
The event brought out many celebrities in the world of sports. The Bucks’ Brandon Jennings, the Celtics’ Nate Robinson, the Suns’ Jared Dudley, the Spurs’ Tony Parker and former Sun Raja Bell all came out from the world of basketball, while Italian soccer star Giuseppe Rossi and ex-Team USA captain Claudio Reyna highlighted the soccer stars who participated.
“Without a Trace” actor Anthony LaPaglia was the lone representative from the world of TV and film, although there were a few sightings of street magician David Blaine at the game. Hundreds of fans surrounded the field to catch a glimpse of the event.
Although Nash plays soccer regularly, Dudley hadn’t played since he was a kid and Robinson claimed that it was his first-ever organized game. Robinson endeared himself to the fans by ripping off his jersey after scoring his first goal.
After scoring another goal later in the match, Robinson performed a cartwheel that led into an incredible back-flip.
“I’m a Steve Nash fan,” Robinson said. “I’ve been a fan for years; from when he was at Santa Clara.
“I told him I saw (the Showdown) on YouTube last year of guys coming in and it looked fun, so I told him I wanted to play.”
While Robinson became a fan favorite because of his raw athleticism, Dudley became a fan favorite for the opposite reason. The Suns forward, who entered the contest brimming with confidence, boasted before the game that he would dive into the stands if he scored a goal.
After missing out on several easy chances to score, Dudley finally broke through in the second half. Since the crowd was separated from Dudley by a 50-foot high fence, Dudley gave his best effort, climbing up about 35 feet before abandoning his quest to dive into the crowd.
Following a later goal, Dudley tried his best Nate Robinson-impersonation by attempting a cartwheel. Although he didn’t have quite the same lift as the former Knicks’ guard, his parody amused the fans on hand.
Former Suns guard Raja Bell, who participated in the event in years past, told Dudley that he crammed a little soccer training into his fitness routine to prepare. His hard work seemed to have paid off, leading his team with five goals.
“First of all I always support Steve and his efforts to better the communities he’s involved in and second, it’s just a really cool event,” Bell said. “I came a couple years ago and I’ve been bragging about it ever since. So anytime I get the chance to come and he reaches out to invite me, I’m going to show up.”
Despite being traded to the Bobcats in the 2008-09 season, Bell and Nash remain good friends.
“I text Steve pictures of him on TV looking crazy,” Bell joked. “When he had the big eye and he looked like Rocky, I sent him a photo of himself. I don’t think he appreciated it.”
Although Bell had five goals, soccer star Giuseppe Rossi led all scorers with six goals. Rossi, who was born in New Jersey before moving to Italy to pursue his soccer career, is one of the brightest young stars in international soccer.
Hampered by injuries that helped keep him off Italy’s World Cup roster, Rossi is both an American and Italian citizen. All of the American soccer fans in attendance were thinking of ways to entice him to play for the US as he sliced through defenders with complete ease.
While Rossi may have been the brightest star from a soccer perspective, Nash still proved to be the star of the evening. Compared to US star soccer player Landon Donovan by Bell and to French soccer legend Zinedine Zidane by Tony Parker, retired US soccer legend Claudio Reyna likened Nash’s game to his own.
It was a compliment that flattered Nash.
“He’s maybe the best US player to ever play the game,” Nash said. “So I hope I can play somewhat like him.”
Reyna said that Nash’s best asset on the field is his vision and his ability to see plays develop.
“Steve is clearly head and shoulders above the other NBA players,” Reyna said. “He’s a playmaker and he looks to attack and make things happen. He could’ve been a pro if he went all out in soccer.”
When it was all said and done, Nash led his team to a 15-12 victory. But in the end, the theme of the day wasn’t basketball or soccer, it was about like-minded players across the sporting world coming together to give back.
“All of us should have a sense of community and connectivity with each other,” Nash said. “Whether you’re on TV playing a sport or whether you’re just somebody’s neighbor, I think we should have a sense of responsibility to look out for each other.”
Any questions or comments for Suns.com? Click here to send them your comments by e-mail.