NBA 75th Anniversary Season
Archive 75: Steve Nash
It’s the dimes. Steve Nash is fourth all-time in total assists (10,335), but let’s be honest. We remember some of his more than possibly any others in NBA history.
There’s the one behind his head to Grant Hill in the left corner. There’s the no-look, behind-the-back drop-off to a trailing Tim Thomas. They’re the dimes we dream about dropping in our pick-up runs.
It didn’t matter if Nash was going to his left or to his right. Nor did it matter if the ball was in his left or in his right hand. He found the angle that put his teammate in position to score.
Nash’s story is unique. He was initially a soccer player, growing up in Victoria, British Columbia, the son of a couple from England. But when he started hooping, he dove right in.
Nash certainly wasn’t given the keys to the Suns’ offense when he was drafted. Instead, he was backing up Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson, who both ranked in the top five in assists per game in 1996-97.
But he showed flashes of being a future star in his rookie season. He got the start in his first homecoming game, scoring 17 points and dishing out 12 assists in a loss to the Vancouver Grizzlies.
A week later, he had 14 and seven off the bench in Houston. As you listen, you can even hear the building excitement of the Rockets announcers as they are impressed by his bold play
Nash’s career took off when he joined Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas. They became fast friends, workout partners and the foundation for the best offense in the league three years running.
Nash wasn’t just a great passer. He was also an elite off-the-dribble shooter, the precursor to Stephen Curry. He ranks 11th all-time in 3-point percentage and second all-time in free throw percentage, and he’s responsible for four of the 13 50-40-90 seasons in NBA history.
Great passer, great shooter, great teammate. An infectiously positive personality, Nash might be the NBA’s career leader in high fives.
But all the dimes and the positive vibes weren’t just highlights and feel-good fodder. They were tremendously effective.
Nash had a remarkable, nine-season run, from 2001-02 through 2009-10, where eight of his nine teams led the league in offensive efficiency, with the only exception (the 2007-08 Suns) finishing just a hair behind the Utah Jazz. Over the 25 seasons for which we have play-by-play data, the two best offenses in regard to points scored per 100 possessions vs. the league average were the 2003-04 Mavs (+9.0) and the 2004-05 Suns (+8.2). Four other Nash-led teams are in the top 11.
So he led one team to the best offense of the last 25 years. Then he left, played a different style with a different team, and pushed that group to the No. 2 spot in the last 25 years, earning his first MVP award. The Mavs version of Steve Nash was a two-time All-Star. The Suns version, playing for Mike D’Antoni and alongside great athletes and sharp shooters, was a two-time MVP.
The “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns were Showtime 2.0. They generated one of the best basketball books in history, and also some great behind-the-scenes footage.
The video above includes footage from one of the best regular-season games of the last 20 years, a double-overtime classic authored by two of the best point guards in NBA history. Jason Kidd finished with 38 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds. Nash had a career-high 42 points and 13 assists, hitting the biggest shot of the night and leaving New Jersey with the 161-157 victory, part of a 33-2 stretch that the Suns had in the 2006-07 season.
Simply put, Steve Nash is one of the best point guards in NBA history. He was a winner and a leader, and he helped change the league.