After 19 years, eight all-star appearances and two MVP seasons, Steve Nash addressed the assembled media on Tuesday for his retirement press conference. Nash looked back on his career and gave his thoughts for the future. Below is a full transcription.
Nash: The one thing I want to say today is a huge, heartfelt thank you to the Buss family and to the entire Lakers organization. It’s just an incredible experience for me to be a part of that history and tradition. Obviously it didn’t go the way we planned, but I was treated incredibly my time here and (had) an unparalleled level of support and people in this building rooting for me. I’ll forever be grateful for that, and in many ways it’s made it a great experience regardless of disappointments. So a big thank you to everyone for an incredible level of support and a great experience regardless of not realizing our goals.
Q: On whether he considers his time as a Laker a failure:
Nash: For sure. I came here with huge hopes and dreams and was incredibly excited and humble to have the opportunity to come here and play for the Lakers and the world’s biggest fan base. For it just not to be in the cards was a failure and a huge disappointment. It’s been a difficult period of my career and my life to battle through that and to try to make something of it, which was fruitless in the end. But I know I’ve never worked harder. I never wanted something more, and I never worked harder. It just wasn’t to be.
Q: On what’s next for him:
Nash: Maybe 6-12 months from now I’ll have an answer for you. I don’t know, and obviously there should be a number of things that I’m passionate about and have the opportunity to get involved with. But at this point, I really wanna have some time and space. I’ve been playing professional basketball nearly half my life and playing the game the majority of my life. So to move away from basket into a new stage of my life — I think it’s important for me to get some distance and perspective and be able to clearly evaluate what I want to do next.
Q: On how disappointing it is that he never won a championship:
Nash: For sure. It was a lot of disappointment not to win a championship in my career. At the same time, I definitely left it all out there. There’s been a number of players who have had tremendous careers who haven’t won a title. They probably feel similar to the way I do. (I’m) disappointed; wish we could have taken that final step that wasn’t to be. But again, my time playing this game has been incredible. I played on some great teams, had a lot of success and just wasn’t able to get over the hump a few times.
Q: On what he wants people to remember about his career:
Nash: I simply want people to remember me as a competitor and a great teammate. That’s it. Those are the two most important things. To compete every day, to show up for your teammates, be accountable, and show up in big games and big moments, and to be a great teammate — that’s all I could ever ask for.
Q: On how he considers his legacy for Canadian basketball:
Nash: I’m not a huge fan of the “legacy game” to be fair. I think it’s incredibly flattering, and I’m humbled every time someone says I had an impact on the game or Canadians playing the game. But I think a lot of people had a huge impact on me as well. And I think that’s the nature of this game is that people make their way to the highest level of this game and they influence those that come after them. That was done to me, and hopefully I’m able to influence some kids that come after me. That’s one of the great things about the cycle of career in this game. It’s obviously a golden era for talent in Canada at this moment with so many young players making it into the NBA and more to come, I believe. That’s exciting for me and, I think, for all of us Canadians. I don’t want to overstep my role in that golden era.
Q: On how likely he thought he could play this season back in preseason:
Nash: I really thought I was gonna get through the year, but I think I had to feel that way. I did everything I possibly could. I think I was in as good of shape as anybody on the team through training camp; really managing my minutes on the floor. I had a good camp. I felt good. I had some really good things, and I actually felt OK in our first preseason game.
When I woke up that next morning and was a mess, that was when I started to think long and hard about what I’m really capable of this year. I think it was about a week or 10 days later that I played again, and I wasn’t nearly right, but I felt like I had to try to see if this was something I could break through after a few minutes on the court. It clearly wasn’t. I might have been unable to play at that level for a month after one 24-minute preseason game. And that was kind of the reality of an 18-month sample size that I was looking at and saying, “This is the way it’s been, and I’ll be lucky to play 10 games this year.”
It was just so much fighting every day with myself and my body, and training twice a day and trying to get over that hump. I (was) getting into some really good place and to have it diminish so quickly — there was a lot of stress and anxiety that came with that. I think that in the end, I don’t know if that clouded my judgement or made me feel like: “I can do this and will get there” and prolonged that realization that I wasn’t gonna get there. But in the end, it became pretty clear that the decision was kind of made for me. I realized that I wasn’t gonna be able to sustain it and I wouldn’t be able to help the team this year.
Q: On how his body feels now that he hasn’t played in months:
Nash: It’s definitely a multifaceted question in that I’m not only transitioning out of a long playing career, but I’m also transitioning into a new stage of my life. In some ways my body feels a little better. My back bothers me every day, but it’s bothered me throughout my career, so I can manage that. Just shooting hundreds of shots every day, getting in the weight room every day, getting on the court every day and accumulating those hours — twice a day a lot of times — that did put a lot of extra strain on my body that has subsided a little bit. So while my back does still bother me every day, in some ways my body’s relieved not to keep pounding away at it.
Q: On when he said that he could never see himself playing for the Lakers prior to being traded to them:
Nash: I think I put my foot in my mouth about a week before I signed with the Lakers, so it was pretty bright timing on my part. But that’s one of the great things about our game is you play people in the playoffs multiple times. You develop a rivalry, if not some distaste, and that’s what makes the game exciting and fun and colorful for the fans, but in particularly for the players. (When) I look back on my career, I’m definitely gonna look back at the series against the Lakers. I think there was three of them. A lot of great moments for both sides and in particularly for the fans and the game. So they were exciting series, and not everyone gets to play in that type of environment in multiple years. I definitely put my foot in my mouth, but there was a time when that was a bit of a rivalry and had some really great series.
Q: On what his message is to all of his fans:
Nash: Just an incredibly heartfelt thank you. I’ve gotten such an incredible amount of love and support all over the world. I could be on vacation in South America or Asia or Europe, and people stop you on the street that barely speak English and are incredibly supportive and let you know how much they love what you do. What a reward for all of the hours you spend in the gym all by yourself trying to become a player and trying to make a career for yourself. It’s very special to me to look back on how many people have stopped me or yelled out at me across the street or in another arena. It’s overwhelming in some ways to think about that, and it’s something where that feeling will last forever.
Q: On what the support he has received from his NBA peers has meant:
Nash: Since releasing the letter (via the “Players’ Tribune”) and getting so much love and support, not only from fans all over the world but also from so many players and so many people alluding to the fact that may or may not have had an impact on the way people are playing the game now and how great the point guard position is. I would never want to sit here and say that I deserve that. But at the same time, to hear from those guys and to have their support and respect is the ultimate. To walk away from the game with that respect and admiration is the greatest gift, I think. To get it from your peers and guys you admire — I’m looking forward to turning on the TV and watching them play for the next 10 years. It’s very, very special.
Q: On what the key was to his successful career:
Nash: I think that’s what makes my story interesting: I had one scholarship offer and wasn’t ever really a sure thing. I had to really overcome a lot to get to the level I was able to get to. And it was down to a lot of factors, but the key ingredient was just hard work. So I think people have taken note of that, and I think for me that’s another source of pride for me. My story is something that kids can relate to and learn from and (it) sets an example for, not only how anything’s possible, but one way to approach the game. That feels good to be able to leave that behind as my story.
Q: On serving as a mentor for the younger Lakers currently on the team, including point guard Jordan Clarkson:
Nash: It’s been great working with JC and Ryan Kelly and Julius (Randle) as well. But they’re so busy and they’re all battling through their own situations and travel and stuff. I’m here, so it’s harder for them to get the time because they’re in the middle of it right now. But it’s great to work with them, and Jordan’s been an incredible pupil.
Q: On whether he would be open to helping recruit free agents to the Lakers:
Nash: Obviously who knows what the future holds, but I’d love to see the franchise come back in full force. I’m definitely open to helping out.
Q: On whether LeBron James has reached out to him:
Nash: I don’t know if I haven’t got a message or not, but LeBron’s been incredible to me throughout my career. He’s shown me an incredible amount of respect. Being that he’s the best player in our game and one of the best players of all-time — like I said earlier, getting that respect from your peers, and especially the best peer, is incredibly flattering.
Nash: This back condition I’ve had, the original one — now I have about eight of them — but spondylolisthesis, I’ve been aware of since going into my third year in the league. To be able to play since till I was 40 years old, I’ve rode this thing way past it should have allowed me to get. I owe a lot of people for that. And maybe the era and age and always looking for the best practices or how to train or recover and prepare — I’ve been around some incredible people I’ve been lucky to be in this era. If I had played in the ’80s or before, I might’ve been done before I was 30.
Q: On backlash from fans after he was ruled out for the season:
Nash: I get it. For me, I met with (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) a few times before we decided that I wouldn’t play this year. I was in such a tough place personally; just so much disappointment from the way things were going that I needed to get away. I had a lot of stress and anxiety, and I wanted it so bad that held on probably way too long and probably overtrained to get there. I needed to get some space. So I could’ve medically retired, but it was also a choice to just back away and to get some space and see what comes up; an opportunity for my salary to be worth something for the club and help them get better. It seemed like the right thing to do. So I get it. Fans don’t know the whole picture, so I kind of get that they’re passionate, especially online. There’s a bit of a pack mentality, and I feel bad for our kids that they’re gonna grow up in that world. I don’t have a real problem with that. I’m not saying it’s awesome, but you play professional basketball for18 years, you’ve faced your fair share of criticism no matter how much success you’ve had.
Q: On what it meant to him to play for the Lakers:
Nash: It’s pretty special. The history that this club has and the incredible players and teams that have represented the organization — to get to experience that is something special for sure. So that was a pretty cool opportunity for me.
Q: On whether he felt like his team in Phoenix had a chance for a championship if they hadn’t been broken up when they were:
Nash: When you’re knocking on the door in this league, it’s so hard because the stakes get raised so much. There’s so much expectation. There’s so much criticism for not getting over the hump that sometimes we may be a little hasty in our decisions, not just (head coach) Mike (D’Antoni) leaving (and) the reasons Mike left, but also the personnel moves. Instead of keeping a core together a little longer and maybe see it through, (we) maybe skip a level here by making a move. That’s part of what makes this business so hard, because sometimes there’s more pressure surrounding a situation then it is the actual ideology inside the franchise.
I think we were a championship-caliber team and we didn’t get there and we might’ve had another shot or two at it if we stuck together. But we did claw our way back in 2010 and had a shot at it against a terrific Lakers team. Starting that season, I think we were picked 13th in the West, so to be there taking them to the wire was a great season in the context of things, but disappointing in that we got really close.
Q: On whether there was a specific time when he made peace with the idea that his career is over:
Nash: It was a stretch of time. It was the days after that first preseason game when I realized what state my body was in, which is kind of laughable now in a way. But it was difficult for me at the time. And then to feel like: “I’ve got to try this now.” With the way this year’s gonna go, I didn’t know If I could go out there and work myself up to a level that’s acceptable here. I couldn’t, so I had this kind of week or 10-day or two-week period where I’m mulling it over and I met with Mitch a number of times and spoke with people who are close close to me, and I finally found that clarity and that realization.
Q: On whether he felt that he was the last one to realize that he couldn’t play anymore:
Nash: I think (athletic trainer) Gary Vitti, who I became very close with over my time here, said that to me. And I think probably the (doctors) were gracious and not telling me that earlier. I think they probably gave me a nudge and a hint a number of times that I pretended to ignore or pretended to miss. I wouldn’t feel as clear or in full acceptance of this if I had’ve backed out at any 8time before I did. Maybe it was stubbornness, but whatever caused me to come to the realization when I did. But I definitely opened every single door I possibly could.
Q: On how the city of Los Angeles has treated him:
Nash: I’m gonna stay in L.A. with my kids and make this home forever, hopefully. I know there’s been a lot of negativity online, but people in Los Angeles have been incredible to me. I’ve never had anyone say a negative thing to me in person. And in fact, the amount of support I’ve gotten for the effort and the constant fight to get back on the court (through) the broken leg and the nerve issues and the back has been incredibly touching, frankly, to get that kind of support.
Amidst a lot of negativity online, there’s a lot of class and a lot of people who are incredibly gracious, and the organization has led the way for me. It’s one of those strange things: Sometimes the Internet becomes our reality until we realize that’s not at all how it is in flesh and blood. So there are kind of these two worlds, and I am really for grateful for the one, and the other I understand and accept.
Q: On who he credits with the biggest influence on his career:
Nash: Obviously my parents are incredible: just endless support. I had a mom who is my biggest fan. She has also had so many tough qualities that I think I learned from her. And my dad was an athlete and had a real view of the game that I know wasn’t normal for a lot of kids. He was very creative and understood the subtleties of sports. In some ways, he was like the perfect dad for a playmaker, even though he never played basketball in his life. My parents had a phenomenal impact on me, and I realize not everyone gets to have a home like that. And I feel very fortunate.