Mavs From the Past: Steve Nash

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Steve Nash had an illustrious Hall of Fame career that spanned almost two decades. He’s continued to grow his legacy, now as an NBA head coach.

Early Years

During his high school years, he was a star player in basketball, soccer, and rugby at St. Michaels University School. In his senior year, he averaged 21.3 points per game (PPG), 9.3 rebounds per game (RPG), and 11.2 assists per game (APG). In his final year of high school, he led his team to the British Columbia AAA provincial championship, and was named his province’s Player of the Year.

College Years

Nash’s high school coach, Ian Hyde-Lay, sent out footage and even letters of inquiry to 30 American Universities on Nash’s behalf but none of them tried to recruit him. When Dick Davey, the head coach of Santa Clara University, saw Nash’s video reel and his abilities in person, he just hoped none of the big-name schools came around and saw how good Nash was. Santa Clara offered Nash a scholarship to play there and he accepted.

In Nash’s first year at the school, he averaged 8.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 0.8 steals per game (SPG) in 31 games. The team went 9-5 in conference play, finished third in the conference, and won the West Coast Conference (WCC) tournament. In Nash’s first year on the team, they qualified for the NCAA tournament, something the Broncos hadn’t done in six years. They entered the tourney as the 15th seed in the West Region and in the first round they defeated the second seed, the University of Arizona, in a huge upset. The Broncos met the end of their tournament journey in the next round when they lost to the seventh seed, Temple University. Even though they only made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament, their shocking win against Arizona put them on the map. The team finished the season 19-12.

The following season wasn’t as kind to the Broncos but it was for Nash. He improved his scoring, assists, and steals. He put up 14.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.3 SPG in 26 games played. The team faltered in conference games as they went 6-8, finished sixth in the conference, and missed out on the NCAA tournament. They capped off the season with a losing record of 13-14, their only losing season while Nash was on the team.

Nash had his best collegiate season in his junior year, when he averaged 20.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 6.4 APG, and 1.8 SPG in 27 games. The Broncos also had their best season since Nash’s arrival, they went 12-2 in conference games, finished first in the conference, and they made their return to the NCAA tournament. They entered the tourney as the 12th seed in the West Region, but their tournament journey was an abrupt one, as they got eliminated in the first round by the fifth seed, Mississippi State University. The Broncos finished the season with a winning record of 21-7. To cap off Nash’s impressive year he was named the WCC Player of the Year.

In Nash’s final year at Santa Clara, his numbers took a small dip but was still dominant enough that he led the team in scoring, assists, and steals. He put up 17.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 6.0 APG, and 1.3 SPG in 29 games played for the season. The team again dominated the conference as they went 10-4 in conference play, repeated as No.1 in the conference, and made their second consecutive NCAA tournament. This time around they clinched the 10th seed in the West Region. Santa Clara defeated the seventh seed, the University of Maryland, before getting knocked out in the second round by the second seed, the University of Kansas. The team finished another winning season with a 20-9 record. Nash finished his collegiate career with a second WCC Player of the Year award and was an All-American honorable mention by The Associated Press and the United States Basketball Writers Association.

Nash broke several records at Santa Clara, some of which still stand today. Nash is currently second all-time in assists, 510, and first all-time in assists per game, 4.5. He has the highest free-throw percentage in a season, 89.4%, while also having the all-time highest free-throw percentage, 86.7%. His 45.4% from three in the 1994-95 season is the highest in a single season, along with his 40.1% from beyond the arc is the second highest in the school’s history. 

Welcome to the NBA

Nash was drafted 15th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the jam-packed 1996 NBA Draft. Suns fans booed him when his name got announced due to him not playing at a major college, which made him a relatively unknown player compared to other draft picks. Donnie Nelson, Suns assistant coach, played a crucial role in Nash getting drafted by the team. He first met Nash in high school and they became friends over time.

Nash spent two years on the Suns where he came off the bench in a supporting role to Suns’ star point guards Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson, and Sam Cassell. In his first year with the team, he got minimal playing time, but by year two his playing time more than doubled and so did his numbers. His numbers for those two seasons were 6.4 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 0.6 SPG while starting in only 11 out of his 141 regular season games with the team. In both of Nash’s years on the Suns, they made the playoffs but were eliminated in the first round. He started in one of the eight playoff games he appeared in and averaged 3.4 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, and 0.4 SPG.

Dallas Welcomes the Big Three Era

In 1998, Donnie Nelson became the assistant general manager of the Dallas Mavericks under his father, Don Nelson. Donnie persuaded his dad to trade for the undervalued Nash. Upon Nash’s arrival to the Mavericks, Dallas’ Big Three was formed, consisting of him, Michael Finley, and their newly drafted prospect Dirk Nowitzki.

Nash’s first season in Dallas was the 1998-99 lockout season, where teams only played 50 games that year. He averaged 7.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 5.5 APG, and 0.9 SPG while starting in all 40 games he played in. The Mavericks had a subpar season as they went 19-31, missed out on the playoffs, and finished as the 11th seed in the Western Conference.

The 1999-00 season brought improvements in all aspects. Mark Cuban became the owner of the Mavericks and did everything in his power to improve the team on and off the court. The young star trio of Nash, Finley, and Nowitzki all improved their games and were ready to take the Mavericks into a new era of success. In Nash’s second season with the team, he put up 8.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.9 APG, and 0.7 SPG for the season. Due to an ankle injury, he missed part of the season, but still played in 56 games and started 27 of them. The Mavericks had another down year as they went 40-42, finished ninth in the conference, and missed out again on the playoffs, but the Mavs’ luck would soon change.

The 2000-01 season was a breakout year for Nash. He put up 15.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 7.3 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 70 games played. The Mavericks also had a successful year of their own as they went 53-29 and clinched the fifth seed in the West. In the first round of the playoffs, the Mavs defeated the Utah Jazz in five games. The end of their season came in the second round of the playoffs when they lost to their rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, in five games. In Nash’s 10 playoff starts he averaged 13.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 6.4 APG, and 0.6 SPG.

The 2001-02 season brought even more success to Nash and the Mavericks. Nashty, as Nowitzki called him, averaged 17.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 7.7 APG, and 0.6 SPG while starting in all 82 games. Nash was rewarded for his hard work by being named to his first All-Star Game. The Mavs had another impressive season as they went 57-25 and clinched the fifth seed in the conference. They swept the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round of the playoffs, they had a repeat of the previous year as they got eliminated in five games, this time by the Sacramento Kings. Nash averaged 19.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 8.8 APG, and 0.5 SPG in his eight starts. To cap off Nash’s impressive season he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.

Nash and the Mavericks continued to dominate in the 2002-03 season. Nash put up a similar stat line to his previous year’s, 17.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 7.3 APG, and 1.0 SPG, while again starting in all 82 games. He made his second All-star Game appearance. The Mavericks finished off the season 60-22 and third in the conference. In the first round of the playoffs, Dallas defeated the Portland Trailblazers in a seven-game series. The following series against the Kings also went to seven games and the Mavs again came out on top. The Mavericks’ luck ran out in the Western Conference Finals when they lost in six games to the Spurs. Nash started in every playoff game and averaged 16.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 7.3 APG, and 0.9 SPG.

The 2003-04 season would be Dallas’ Big Three last chance to win a ring together. Nash’s scoring took a bit of a dip but he improved in other areas of his games such as passing. He averaged 14.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 8.8 APG, and 0.9 SPG while starting in all 78 of his appearances. The Mavericks continued their winning ways as they went 52-30 for the season and finished fifth in the West. 

Dallas’ Big Three journey to a ring ended in disappointment when they were eliminated in five games by the Kings in the first round of the playoffs. Nash put up 13.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 9.0 APG, and 0.8 SPG, he led the playoffs in assists per game. Even though his numbers still held up well, he wasn’t awarded any honors like the previous years.

In the 2004 offseason, Cuban made a mistake that he still regrets to this day, he let Steve Nash walk. Doctors informed Cuban about Nash’s injuries and how he might not play at the level he was used to, so the Mavs offered him a contract but it wasn’t the amount he was looking for. The Suns, his original team, then swooped in and offered him a bigger contract and Nash accepted.

Nash’s Peak Years

Nash spent the next eight years, his prime years, on the Suns. He averaged 16.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 10.9 APG, and 0.7 SPG while starting in all 603 regular season games he partook in. In his eight seasons with the team, he won back-to-back MVP awards in 2005 and 2006. He was also named an All-Star in six out of his eight years there. Nash was named to three All-NBA First Teams and two All-NBA Second Teams while in Phoenix. He led the league in assists per game five times and averaged double-digit assists in all but one year. 

Nash’s biggest achievement on the Suns, aside from being a two-time MVP, was entering the 50-40-90 club. There are currently nine NBA players that have shot 50% from the field, 40% from three, and 90% from the free-throw line in the same season; Nash did it four times. He achieved those monumental feats in the 2004-05 season, 2007-08 season, 2008-09 season, and the 2009-10 season. He almost did it five years in a row but was .001% off in free throws in the 2005-06 season. Nash’s years in Phoenix showed that he is one of the most accurate and efficient shooters in NBA history, he even led the league in efficient field goal percentage in the 2006-07 season, 61.3%.

In Nash’s second stint with the Suns, the team made the playoffs five times. Phoenix reached the Western Conference Finals three times, two of which were in Nash’s first two seasons back, but they never made it to the NBA Finals. The Suns knocked out the Mavericks in the 2005 Western Conference Semifinals, but the Mavs exacted their revenge the following year in the Western Conference Finals. In the playoffs, Nash put up 20.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 10.7 APG, and 0.5 SPG.

Final Years

During the 2012 offseason, Nash became a Los Angeles Laker when he went over in a sign-and-trade between the Suns and Lakers. Multiple leg and back problems plagued his time as a Laker. He started in 60 out of the 65 games played in his three years there. In his final year with the team, he only got to play in three preseason games because back problems kept him out the whole year. As a Laker, Nash averaged 11.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 6.4 APG, and 0.6 SPG.

The Laker trio of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Nash only made the 2013 playoffs together and were quickly swept in the first round by the Spurs. Nash averaged 12.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, and 4.5 APG while only playing and starting in two of the Lakers’ playoff games.

After missing out on the full 2014-15 season due to back problems, Nash called it a career. He finished his career third all-time in assists and currently sits fourth in that milestone.

In his time with the Mavericks, Nash averaged 14.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 7.2 APG, and 0.9 SPG. He played a huge role in the Mavericks’ turnaround in the early 2000s. He along with his fellow members of Dallas’ Big Three, Nowitzki and Finley, led the Mavericks into a new era, a winning era.

Team Consultant

In September 2015, Nash joined the Golden State Warriors as a team consultant. The Warriors ended up going 73-9 for the season but lost in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors would return to the finals the following year where they won their second NBA championship of the 2010s and Nash won his first ring as the Warriors’ team consultant. The Warriors would go back the following year and repeat, giving Nash two rings.

Coach Nash

During the 2020 offseason, Nash was announced as the new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. He was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for the month of February 2021. The Nets finished the season as the second-best team in the East with a record of 48-24. In the first round of the playoffs, they defeated the Boston Celtics in five games before losing a hard-fought seven-game series to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The following season, Nash guided the team to a seventh seed finish and a 44-38 record. The Nets, however, would quickly be eliminated from the playoffs as they got swept in the first round by the Celtics.

National Team Career

In the 19990s Nash was cut from the Canadian junior national team by head coach Ken Olynyk, father of future NBA player, Kelly Olynyk. 

At age 17, Nash was the youngest member of Team Canada at the Summer Universiade, where the team won the silver medal. 

While in college he played for the Canadian national team at the Tournament of the Americas, where they came in seventh place. He also participated in the Canada Games and won a bronze medal. He participated in the Summer Universiade and won another silver medal.

Nash led Team Canada to the silver medal and was named tournament MVP.

Nash led team Canada to a seventh-place finish in the 2000 Olympics after being eliminated by France in the quarterfinals. Nash captained team Canada again in the 2004 Olympic qualifying tournament. The team finished fourth and missed out on the Olympics but Nash led the tournament in assists and was named the tournament MVP.

In 2012, Nash became the general manager of the Canadian national team and rehired his old Canadian national team head coach, Jay Triano. In 2019, he transitioned to a senior advisor role.

Personal Life

Nash had three kids, twin daughters and a son, with his ex-wife, Alejandra Amarilla. He also has two more children, a son and a daughter, with his current wife, Lilla Frederick.

Nash’s younger brother, Martin, played professional soccer with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and played for the Canadian national soccer team. His sister, Joann, was team captain of the University of Victoria’s women’s soccer team. Nash is also the godfather of current New York Knicks player, R.J. Barrett.

Nash suffers from spondylolisthesis, which causes muscle tightness and back pain. To prevent his muscles from stiffening, he would lie on his back instead of sitting on the bench during games.

Nash loves to do a lot of charity work even starting his own charity. In 2001, he started the Steve Nash Foundation. The foundation aids kids that are stricken with poverty, illness, abuse, or neglect and help them get the assistance they need. In 2008, the foundation won the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy.

Nash sponsors the Steve Nash Youth Basketball League in British Columbia.

In 2006, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. Nash also received the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada, two of Canada’s civilian honors awards. He even received his own star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Nash was an avid soccer player growing up and is still a devoted fan of the sport.

Legacy

In 2006, his alma mater, Santa Clara University, retired his No. 11 jersey, he became the first Santa Clara student-athlete to have his jersey retired.

Nash ended his basketball career as a two-time MVP, eight-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA, and five-time Assists Champion. In 2018, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Nash was also named a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.

Nash’s established awards and achievements speak for themselves. Nash cemented himself as one of the best point guards in NBA History. He’s continued to grow on his legacy as an NBA head coach. His time on the Mavericks is unforgettable, he helped turn the Mavs from a team that missed the playoffs for almost a decade straight to legitimate contenders. Nash is a Hall of Fame player that the franchise and fans will remember and appreciate for life.



Categories: Mavs Fans For Life, Mavs From the Past

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