When Steve Nash joined the Phoenix Suns in 2004, he changed the game of basketball. But more than that, he changed the entire NBA fan base.
You are going to read a lot about how Steve Nash changed the game of basketball in 2004 when he joined forces with Mike D'Antoni and the young Phoenix Suns in 2004. They started that season 31-4 and finished 61-20 by running, gunning, passing and generally turning the NBA on its plodding head.
I figured I would focus this article on what Nash meant to me, a typical NBA fan looking for a reason to obsess. Steve Nash fed an obsession for the league like few others in the history of the game have done.
I'm not talking about an obsession over a single player at the expense of others. I'm talking about an obsession for the entire sport. An obsession where you begin to hold the NBA to a higher standard because of the play of a single individual. Nash in 2004 was a rock dropped into a stagnant pond, the ripples biggest at the point of impact (the Suns) but spreading inexorably outward until eventually pushing all the way to each shore.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird did it in the 80s. Michael Jordan in the 90s. Steve Nash in the 00s.
I watched every NBA game through the lens of Steve Nash basketball. Are they passing enough? Are they unselfish enough? Do they get the most out of marginal talent? Do they get the most out of superstar talent? Are they smiling? Are they setting up the play with every move, every dribble? Are they playing "the right way"?
Unlike some other stars, being a fan of Nash didn't make you a hater of everything else. Nash fans didn't spend all their time tearing down other stars to make their favorite player look better.
Being a Nash fan meant being an NBA fan. Nash fans loved good, unselfish, inclusive basketball. Nash fans didn't hate other superstars at Nash's level just because they weren't Nash.
Nash fans wanted everyone in the NBA to play the way he did. And they only developed hatred for other teams or players because they didn't play the same way.
Nash fans never developed a dislike for the Mavericks, for example, even though the Mavs topped the Suns in 2006 in the West Finals.
But they did develop a hatred for the Spurs. Not just because the Spurs beat the Suns time after time in the playoffs. But because of HOW the Spurs beat the Suns. Pitting the bulldog Bruce Bowen against Nash felt like they were playing dirty. Bowen beat up Nash in ways the refs couldn't see, and he was so consistent with it the refs didn't even call the fouls when they did see them.
They hated the Spurs as a team because they would find a way to win ugly. Nash fans didn't appreciate ugly basketball. Did the Spurs care? Hell no. I respect Pop to no end. I respect whiny Duncan. I respect floppy Manu. I respect slippery Tony. I respect Bruce Bowen. Strike that. F-u Bruce Bowen.
What Steve Nash meant to the NBA was to bring the league to a higher standard to pleasant, beautiful basketball.
Let's call it Nashketball.
He wasn't all about just passing, though. Nash's stint with the Suns from 2004-2012 was about shooting too. He made the 50/40/90 shooting club on a regular basis.
And he was a superstar shotmaker when he needed to be.
One of the reasons the Suns eventually declined, besides Nash aging, was that the league finally caught up to them as a team. By the late 00s, the Suns weren't the only pass-happy fast breaking team anymore. Most of the league was playing the same way, which meant that regular season wins were harder to come by. You win in the regular season by being different. By 2012, the Suns were no longer different enough to hide the lack of talent.
When Nash retired in July 2012 (yeah, yeah, I know), he'd ushered in a completely new NBA. No longer is a running, gunning team unable to win championships. The Spurs won last year with, basically, the Suns offensive game plan. The Warriors and Hawks this year are a great example of Nashketball.
We've missed you, Steve. And now that you've 100% retired from basketball, we will start to miss you even more than ever.
I can't wait till the next Steve Nash shows up on the NBA's doorstep with a smile and a high-five for everyone in the room.