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Stephen John Nash, (born February 7, 1974 in Johannesburg, South Africa is a Canadian professional basketball player. He currently plays for the Phoenix Suns. He is the present and two-time consecutive recipient of the NBA Most Valuable Player Award.
Born in South Africa, Steve Nash's parents relocated to Canada, settling in Victoria, British Columbia before he was two years old. They did not want to raise their children in an environment of apartheid. As his mother Jean later said, "I didn't want our son to grow up in a place where one group of people was second-class citizens."
Nash comes from an athletic family. His father John Nash was a minor league professional soccer player in South Africa, while his mother Jean was a member of the English national netball team. His brother Martin Nash has made 30 appearances for the Canadian national soccer team and is also a player for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the United Soccer League. His sister Joann was the captain of the University of Victoria soccer team for three years. Nash had decided to focus on basketball in his early teens, but still played soccer through high school, and was named British Columbia player of the year in soccer as well as basketball in his senior year. Since his father is a native of Tottenham, Nash grew up rooting for Tottenham Hotspur and even trained with the "Spurs" in North London as a teenager. Soccer continues to be an important part of Nash's life. In fact, when Dirk Nowitzki arrived in the NBA from Germany, he and Nash became close friends, in part because they enjoyed watching soccer together. In addition to soccer, Nash excelled at ice hockey and lacrosse as a child.
Nash grew up in Victoria, British Columbia and played high school basketball for Mount Douglas Secondary School and St. Michaels University School along with his younger brother Martin. In his senior season, he averaged nearly a triple-double per game—more than 21 points, 11 assists, and 9 rebounds—led his team to the BC AAA provincial championship title, and was named the province's player of the year. However, because of the limited attention afforded to the Canadian high school basketball circuit, Nash didn't get recruited by any NCAA schools. His coach, Ian Hyde-Lay, sent letters of inquiry and highlight reels on Nash's behalf to over 30 American universities to no avail.
Acting on a tip, Santa Clara University head coach Dick Davey was intrigued enough however to twice request video footage of the young guard before finally making the trip up from Northern California to visit the recruit in person. After watching Nash dominate a game, Davey recalled later, "I was nervous as hell just hoping that no one else would see him. It didn't take a Nobel Prize winner to figure out this guy's pretty good. It was just a case of hoping that none of the big names came around." Nash was awarded a scholarship by Santa Clara for the 1992-93 season. As a freshman, he helped lead the Broncos to West Coast Conference title and an upset win over No. 2 seeded Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the 1993 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.
First Stint in Phoenix
Nash was selected 15th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft. No Canadian had ever been drafted so high. This accomplishment meant little to Suns fans, however, and they vigorously booed the team's selection. Despite his impressive college accomplishments, he was a relative unknown because he hadn't played in one of the major college conferences. Nevertheless, he took his place behind NBA stars Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson in his first two seasons in the NBA. In his rookie year in 1996-97, Nash averaged just 3.3 points and 2.1 assists in very limited playing time. With persistence, however, his minutes grew and the next year he averaged 9.1 points and 3.4 assists, playing more than twice the minutes he did in his rookie year. However, it would be the last time Steve Nash would compete in a Suns uniform for six years.
Nash had met and befriended Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Donnie Nelson when he was at Santa Clara and Nelson worked for the nearby Golden State Warriors. Following his spell in the Bay Area, Nelson took a job with the Suns, and it was he who convinced the team to select Nash with the 15th pick. After moving to Dallas, Nelson was able to convince his father, Don Nelson, who was then the Mavericks coach and GM, to acquire Nash. On Draft Day, June 25, 1998, Nash was traded from the Suns to the Mavericks in exchange for Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells, the draft rights to Pat Garrity, and a first-round draft pick which was later used to select Shawn Marion.
Nash's first year in Dallas, the lockout-shortened season of 1999, all but erased the gains he had made in the previous season. He missed 10 games due to a lower back injury, and fans booed the newcomer throughout the season in disapproval of the trade their team had made.
In the 1999-2000 season, the team's prospects improved considerably. While Nash missed 25 games due to an ankle injury, he did come back to notch six double-doubles in the last month of play, finishing with 8.6 PPG and 4.9 APG. More importantly for the team, second-year teammate and friend Dirk Nowitzki was blossoming into a superstar, veteran Michael Finley was putting up All-Star numbers, and new billionaire owner Mark Cuban was bringing new energy and excitement to the franchise. Nash finally had a supportive environment on which he could build.
In 2000-01, Nash averaged 15.3 points and 7.3 assists per game in a breakout season, garnering Comeback Player of the Year honors from Basketball Digest. With Nash directing the offense, Nowitzki and Finley playing at their best, and new acquisition, All-Star Juwan Howard, complementing the high-scoring trio, the Mavericks earned a playoff berth for the first time in more than a decade. Dallas lost in the second round, but it was only the beginning of a memorable run for Nash and the Mavericks. It was this season when Shawn Bradley dubbed him Nasty Nash for "personifying all that is nasty".
In the 2001-02 campaign, Nash posted career-highs of 17.9 PPG and 7.7 APG and earned a spot in the NBA All-Star Game and on the All-NBA Third Team. He was now an all-star, increasingly appearing in television commercials and, with Finley and Nowitzki, part of the Dallas Mavericks "Big Three." The trio even made a memorable cameo appearance together in the summer 2002 basketball flick Like Mike, starring Lil' Bow Wow. Dallas again made the playoffs and again lost in the second round, but signs were encouraging.
Nash closely replicated his previous season's performance in 2002-03, averaging 17.7 points and 7.3 assists per game, again earning All-Star and All-NBA Third Team honors. Nowitzki and Nash led the Mavs from an incredible 14-game winning streak to open the season all the way to the Western Conference Finals for only the second time in franchise history, where they lost to the eventual NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs.
This would be as far as Nash and his "Big Three" cohorts would ever get. The 2003-04 season saw a drop-off in points for Nash (down to 14.5) and he was left off the All-Star and All-NBA team rosters. Despite this, however, his field goal percentage was up from the past season, to 47 from 46.5, and his assists average (8.8) and free throw accuracy (91.6%) were new career highs. Nevertheless, Dallas did not make it past the first round of the playoffs, their worst finish since they were left out altogether in 1999-2000.
With his contract expired, Nash tried to negotiate a long-term contract with Mark Cuban, but failed. Cuban didn't want to lose Nash, but he did want to build his franchise around the younger Nowitzki and didn't want to risk signing the aging Nash to a long-term deal. Instead he offered a 4 year deal worth about $9 million per year, with a 5th year partially guaranteed. Cuban wrote in his own blog that this is what he considered fair and if Nash could get a better offer from another team he should take it and Cuban would be happy for him. Nash continued looking for a better deal and found one in Phoenix, where he still had a home and ties to the local community. Unfazed by Nash's age (30), the Suns quickly offered him a six-year, $63 million contract. He was reluctant to leave Dallas and went back to Cuban to see if he would match the deal. Nash's agent gave Cuban a very limited window of opportunity to match the deal and when Cuban hesitated, Nash signed a long-term contract with the Phoenix Suns for the 2004-05 season. On a June 14, 2006 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, Cuban wondered out loud, "...you know Steve's a great guy and I love him to death, but why couldn't he play like an MVP for us?"
Second Stint in Phoenix: Nash's Career Transformed
The Phoenix Suns had two young superstars in forward Shawn Marion and forward-center Amare Stoudemire, the 2002-03 Rookie of the Year. Despite their young and talented roster, however, the Suns posted a 29-53 win-loss record in 2003-04. Aside from the additions of Nash and swingman Quentin Richardson, the line-up was essentially unchanged from the previous season, and most pundits projected them to finish towards the bottom of the Western Conference.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni, who had taken over midway through the previous season, decided to employ the "run and gun" style of basketball that was in vogue in the 1980s. Fielding a small, quick line-up, D'Antoni gave the ball to Nash and let him orchestrate a fastbreak offense. Nash and his teammates would consistently outrun their opponents to their end of the floor and every player had a green light to shoot at all times. The result was the highest-scoring NBA team in a decade, averaging 110.4 points per game during the regular season. Nash's precision passes and alley oops to Stoudemire, Marion, Richardson, and Joe Johnson provided many SportsCenter highlight reels.
The Suns posted a 31-5 record before Nash went down with an injury in the first half of their next game. The Suns lost their next three games without their leader. After Nash returned, however, the team won four of five, and eight of their next nine. The Suns finished the season with an NBA-best 62-20 record, a 33-game improvement from the previous season.
As the Suns' starting point guard and a veteran among youngsters, Nash was the discernible leader of the team's dramatic turnaround. While he averaged a modest 15.5 points per game, his field-goal shooting percentage was remarkable: 50.2%, a career high, and a rare figure for a guard. Equally impressive were his 11.5 assists per game, a career best and the best in the NBA; no one else had more than 9; the last player to average more was John Stockton with 12.3 APG in 1995. Nash's numbers affirmed his status as an unselfish, "pass first" player. Nash also ranked sixth in the league in both three-point percentage (43.1%) and free throw percentage (88.7%). Nash also ranked third in the NBA in double-double totals — a statistic traditionally dominated by big men with high rebounding numbers — behind only Kevin Garnett and teammate Shawn Marion. Nash was the only player to average double figures in both points and assists. Nash also earned his second career triple-double on March 30, recording 12 points, 12 assists, and a career-high 13 rebounds in just 27 minutes. Perhaps Nash's greatest contribution to the team was that he made his teammates better. Many of them were posting the best seasons of their careers across the board, and both they and outside observers attributed this to Nash.
In the playoffs, Phoenix swept the Memphis Grizzlies in four games, before meeting Nash's former club, the Dallas Mavericks, in the second round. In leading the Suns to a 4-2 series win, Nash played some of the best basketball of his career, averaging 30.3 points, 12 assists, and 6.5 rebounds per game, recording his first playoff triple-double, and scoring a 2005 single-game playoff high of 48 points. In the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1993, the Suns lost to the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in 5 games. In the series, Nash averaged 23.2 points and 10.6 assists per game. Despite the loss, Nash and the Suns were still pleased with how far they had progressed and optimistic about how far they could go in the future.
Most Valuable Player: 2005
In 2005, Nash slightly edged Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat to win the NBA MVP award. Nash became one of the most distinctive players ever to win the award, as the first Canadian and the third foreign-born player (after Hakeem Olajuwon & Tim Duncan) to earn the honor. Along with Allen Iverson, he is one of only two players under 6'6" to win the award in the last four decades. He is the first MVP who did not lead his team in scoring since Dave Cowens in 1972-73; coincidentally, the 2005 runner-up, Shaquille O'Neal, did not lead his team in scoring either. He had the third-lowest all-time scoring average for an MVP, ahead of only Wes Unseld (13.8 in 1969) and Bill Russell (14.1 in 1965). Nash is just the fourth point guard ever to be named MVP — along with Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, and Bob Cousy — and only the sixth guard (Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson being the others). He is also the first white player to win the award since Larry Bird in 1985-86.
With a new starting lineup consisting of mainly unproven players and no real center, the Suns were not expected to repeat their successful 2005 season. However, due to Nash's leadership and the great play of teammates like Marion and Boris Diaw (who was voted as the Most Improved Player of the year), the Suns remained one of the elite teams in the NBA. Despite the loss of several key players and an injury to Amare Stoudemire, who was sidelined for all but three games of the 2006 season, the Suns were the highest scoring team in the league, scoring over 100 points per game. Seven Suns ended up averaging in double figures in points per game. Nash was voted as a first time starter for the 2006 Western All-Star team. On May 17 it was announced that Nash had been named to the All-NBA first team.
Nash was widely viewed as an MVP candidate as the regular season came to a close. He set career highs in points (18.8), rebounds (4.2), field goal percentage (.512) and free throw percentage (a league-leading .921), although he was also the league leader in turnovers per 48 minutes. While he shot the ball more than the previous year, he was still first in the league for assists (10.5 per game). He also became the fourth player in NBA history to shoot better than 50% from the field, 40% from three-point range (43.9), and 90% from the line, joining Larry Bird, Reggie Miller and Mark Price. Along with Shawn Marion, Nash led the Suns to another Pacific Division title and 54 wins. Nash was thought to be the player who carried the team with the considerably heavy loss of Amare Stoudemire.
Most Valuable Player 2006: Nash Wins Again
Following a leak in late April that appeared in the Arizona Republic newspaper, the MVP award to Steve Nash for the second year in a row was officially announced by the NBA on May 7, 2006. Nash received more votes than LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Chauncey Billups of the Detroit Pistons. The official announcement came only a day after the Phoenix Suns (playing against the Lakers) became the eighth team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series. Nash received 924 ballot points total; James was second with 688 points. Nash also finished with the most first-place votes (57); Bryant was second with 22.
Nash is only the second point guard, along with Magic Johnson, to win the MVP award multiple times. Nash joined eight other NBA players with back-to-back MVP awards: Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Tim Duncan.
Steve Nash captained Canada men's national basketball team at the Basketball at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. He had been offered a place on the Great Britain basketball team, but he turned it down to play for Canada. At one point, with a successful round-robin record and a berth in the quarter-finals of the tournament, commentators regarded Canada as a contender for a medal. This was followed by a tough loss in the quarters to France, by 5 points. However, Canada won their final game of the tournament, a placement game against Russia, which enabled Canada to finish 7th overall. Nash expressed disappointment in the result, saying "It hurts a lot. I feel like I let everybody down." Nevertheless, he did see a possible silver lining, saying "Hopefully kids [in Canada] will be inspired to play -- that's what I really hope."
Nash again led Team Canada during qualifying for the 2004 Summer Olympics. Canada would qualify for Athens 2004 if they finished in the top three. Unfortunately, Canada lost the semi-final to the United States, and then the third place match to the home team Puerto Rico. Nash was named tournament MVP, but he admitted that he was disappointed since Canada did not qualify for the Olympics.
Nash is seen as one of the premier point guards in the NBA. He led the league in assists in the 2005 (11.5), 2006 (10.5), and 2007 (11.6) seasons. He is an astute ball handler, as evidenced by his victory in the 2005 NBA All-Star Skills Contest. During the 2005 season, Nash's assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.98 was 11th best in the league among guards, but his average of 3.5 turnovers per game was 3rd worst in the league among guards. He is a high percentage three-point shooter (43.9% lifetime average up to the 2009 season) and is an outstanding free throw shooter: his lifetime average of 90.0% (up to 2009) is second in NBA history. Nash is also very effective playing the pick and roll, as demonstrated with former Dallas teammate Dirk Nowitzki and later with the Suns' Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion.
During the first eight years of his career, Nash did not make any of the annual all-NBA first or second teams. ESPN.com's Bill Simmons suggested that Nash's recent success has been due in part to recent NBA rules changes which play to his strengths.
Nash is not known for his defense. He has yet to be selected to any of the annual All-NBA Defensive teams, chosen by NBA head coaches, and he failed to win a single vote from 2003 to 2006. Nash's career average of 0.81 steals per game is also considered low for a point guard.
On May 11, 2006, ESPN.com rated Nash as the 9th greatest point guard of all time.
At the end of the 2005-06 season, Nash had played a total of 102 career playoff games without making it to the Finals, the most among active NBA players.
Off the Court
Nash set up the Steve Nash Foundation in order to help underprivileged kids in all aspects of their lives. In one story recollected by his father, Nash was told to cut down on his philanthropy since he had already given a half-million dollars to charity. Nash replied that "there was so much more he could do". After he won the MVP award, numerous companies approached him to be the spokesperson for their products and appear in advertisements, including MDG Computers Canada and TSN. He also went on a humanitarian trip to Central America. Nash also makes time meeting sick children in hospitals.
Another aspect of his life that has caused Nash to stand out from other NBA players is his keen interest in art, politics, and the world around him. For one, he is a discerning reader, tackling the works of such authors as Immanuel Kant and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Nash also has a passion for travel, saying that "Whenever I travel, I feel almost calm. I love people. I love the world."
Nash's interest in politics led to controversy during the lead-up to the Iraq War when he chose to wear a custom-made T-shirt that stated "No war -- Shoot for peace" to the 2003 NBA All-Star Game. Nash explained his position by saying that the United States had provided insufficient evidence that Iraq was a threat and that the UN inspectors should be allowed to complete their mission. Although Nash did get positive support from teammate Nick Van Exel among others, he also drew criticism from David Robinson, a former Naval officer and fellow NBA player. Journalist Skip Bayless criticized Nash as being uninformed and advised him to "just shut up and play".
On October 14, 2004, Nash and longtime girlfriend Alejandra Amarilla became the parents of twin girls, Lola and Bella, who were born in Phoenix, Arizona. They married in June 2005.
In May 2006, Nash was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In the accompanying write-up by Charles Barkley, Nash was lauded for his unselfishness on the court, and being "just a nice guy" who had paid for a new pediatric cardiology ward in a Paraguayan hospital.
Nash is the subject of a book by Jeff Rud, Long Shot: Steve Nash's Journey to the NBA.
Nash has been named captain of the "All-NBA Interview Team" numerous times.
Nash suffers from a medical condition called spondylolisthesis, a forward movement of one of the vertebrae in the spine in relation to the one below it, causing muscle tightness and back pain. Nash does not let his condition mar his performance on the hardwood. He tries to keep moving when on the court and lies supine on the endline when not in the game in order to keep from stiffening.
In Nelly Furtado's 2006 single "Promiscuous," she asks, "Is that the truth or are you talkin' trash... is your game MVP like Steve Nash?" Furtado also grew up in Victoria, British Columbia.
Rapper Cam'ron makes a reference to Nash in the song "Get 'em Daddy" featuring Hell Rell when he states "I got weed hash, When I breeze past, Breathe fast, Eat a**, On point like Steve Nash"
On Saturday, July 22, 2006, Nash hosted his second annual charity basketball game (previously held a year ago in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto known as the Steve Nash Foundation Charity Classic, at the GM Placein Vancouver. At the classic, Nash sported a new hairstyle - he had shaved off his famous locks, and had a close-shaved crew cut. During the charity classic, Nash spoke to a group of youngsters, talking to them about how he achieved success in the NBA. While at the start of the fourth quarter he announced that the losing team would have to do 20 pushups in front of the 19,000 present in the stands. Coincidentally his team (the West) lost by 5.
In August 2006, Nash trained with the Red Bull New York of Major League Soccer as he is friends with Red Bull coach Bruce Arena. He was not allowed to participate in contact drills.
His College jersey (#11) was retired at Santa Clara, September 2006.
- Selected by Phoenix Suns in 1st round of the 1996 NBA Draft (15th overall) on June 26
- Signed by Suns to three-year, $3.2 million contract on July 24, 1996
- Traded by Suns to Dallas Mavericks for Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells, draft rights to Pat Garrity and 1999 1st-round pick (#9 - Shawn Marion) on June 24, 1998
- Contract with Mavericks expired, became free agent on July 1, 2004
- Signed by Suns to six-year, $66 million contract on July 14, 2004
Awards and Accomplishments
- 2-time NBA Most Valuable Player: 2005, 2006
- The Sporting News NBA Co-MVP (along with LeBron James): 2006
- 4-time NBA All-Star: 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006
- 4-time All-NBA:
- First Team: 2005, 2006
- Third Team: 2002, 2003
- 2-time NBA regular season leader, assists per game: 2005 (11.5), 2006 (10.5)
- 2-time NBA regular season leader, assists: 2005 (861), 2006 (826)
- NBA regular season leader, free throw percentage: 2006 (.921)
- Career stats: 13.5 ppg, 2.8 rbg, 7.1 apg, 0.07 bpg, 0.81 spg, .477 FG%, .421 3FG%, .896 FT%
- GQ Best Dressed List (2005)
- Steve Nash - vid highlights
- Steve Nash's MySpace Page
- NBA.com profile
- Basketball-Reference.com: Steve Nash
- Steve Nash Foundation
- Steve Nash Player Profile (InterBasket)
- Steve Nash's MVP season review and brief biography
- Suns.com with an article on Nash in his rookie season
- Nash's professional and college stats
- 'Young Nash a Gem Waiting to Be Mined' - About Santa Clara's Coach Discovering Nash
- Steve Nash biography from SteveNashMVP.com
- FrozenHoops.com History of NBA basketball in Canada. Selection of Top 100 Canadian players of all time
- 2000 Olympic Games - bios Canoe.ca