Steve Nash’s silver lining

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column-rick olivaresTHE news that Steve Nash was injured once more—this time carrying his gym bag—and will be out for the entire year was met with disbelief and ominous-sounding career obituaries.

After playing in only 15 matches the previous year, the latest setback for the perennially injured 40-year-old Nash, one of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) greatest players and all-around good guys and is certifiably Hall of Fame-bound, means his career could possibly be all over.

While talking about working his way back from injury last season, in his opening lines in The Finish Line, a multipart documentary about Nash’s season on the shelf, he wonders: “One of the hardest things about this whole thing is the feeling like I am stuck in this no man’s land. Like it’s a black hole. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day. I’ve gone through so many days over the last eight months  where I am not sure. It’s painful to go through the same thing over and over, and hope that the rehabilitation will come through and you will get better.”

“Is it the truth that I am done?”

One of the hardest good-byes is not going out the way you want. When Father Time and injury take those options away from you.

I thought of the late Lou Gehrig’s speech at Yankee Stadium “about a bad break.” Maybe. But who knew?

When his NBA career started, it didn’t look like Nash would even play. The Suns had the incumbent Kevin Johnson. Phoenix gave up on the Charles Barkley experiment and traded him to Houston. One of the players the Suns received was point guard Sam Cassell, who they unloaded a little over a month into the new season to Dallas for Jason Kidd. They also acquired Rumeal Robinson from the Los Angeles Lakers, giving the Suns a four-point guard rotation. Robinson was eventually waved. With KJ down with injury, Nash got playing time as Kidd’s backup where he gave a good account of himself. But he logged only 10 minutes of playing time.

The Dallas Mavericks acquired him in 1998 and that gave him the opportunity to really show the league what he could do playing alongside Dirk Nowitski. Nash’s stock went higher and in his return to Phoenix for the 2004-2005 season, he became the first Canadian and only third point guard to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. And he won them back-to-back. Except his Suns came up short, as well.

Pundits might say that Nash played big but his teams always came up short. Especially in his injury-shortened Los Angeles Lakers stint. Nevertheless, that should not detract one iota from his individual accomplishments and from his eventual enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. Basketball is a team game, after all. Furthermore, the Hall doesn’t only feature players who won a championship because many players didn’t.

Theoretically, Steve’s career isn’t over at all. If he gets healthy, he could be good for one more year as a solid backup for a team looking for some veteran leadership while providing quality but limited minutes.

If Nash is indeed done, I feel bad for him. Having said that, I believe that Nash’s second career will be just as good, if not better. He has always been described as a talented and gifted athlete. That is true in a basketball and non-basketball sense. Steve’s passions, charities, and ventures from soccer to his production house Meathawk have provided glimpses of independent films with a heavy dose of humor and heart. When he produced the 81-second Training Day video for Nike, Nash used New York City as his playground and as a means to stay in shape by playing soccer and tennis and skateboarding (while dribbling a basketball).

Steve brings a nice perspective to sports with his sense of humor and creativity. He is a product of multicultures. He is Canadian yet has British citizenship owing to his parents. He lives and works in America. His desire to reconnect with his British roots through Tottenham Football Club could inject a badly needed dose of cash, outside-the-box thinking and good PR as the club is mired in mediocrity (they sit at 10th spot in the current English Premier League standings). Now how cool would that be? He already co-owns the Vancouver Whitecaps in Major League Soccer. He’d be the second NBA player to be a part of an English club after LeBron James, who is a minority partner of Liverpool Football Club.

After seeing recently retired New York Yankees’ captain Derek Jeter launch “The Players Tribune” a potential game-changing site for athletes and interaction, Nash, who has had a head start, can do a lot as well. After all, he’s been named by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in sports. Now with his talents, there is so much he can do.

Yeah, maybe Steve Nash did catch a bad break because I enjoy watching him play as not many play with his intelligence and passion. But, you know, I am excited to see what he will do now. And for what it’s worth, I think I don’t want to see him in a broadcaster’s booth. That would be a waste.

Talented and gifted, anyone?

The world is yours, Steve.