Today, At 40, Nash Plays Stubbornly On


VIDEO: Nash’s Top 10 assists (from January, 2013)

Happy 40th, Steve Nash!

And it should be a happy birthday for the NBA’s eldest graybeard (who thankfully shaved his recently) and two-time MVP. He’s back where he belongs — in uniform and on a basketball court.

Nash is scheduled to start for the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at Philadelphia. It will be just his eighth game of the season and second since returning from months of relentless, behind-the-scenes work in pursuit of mending a body he won’t dare let fail him.

In reality, the grueling comeback started many months ago. Halloween Night 2012 in Portland, Nash sustained a small fracture to his left fibula. Aftershocks have haunted him ever since. The road to recovery meandered through doctors offices and training facilities near and far as he shuttled between L.A. and Vancouver for the most thorough possible care. Some wondered if a full recovery was possible; if retirement was inevitable.

The latter, never pondered by Nash, came from those unwise enough to doubt the resolve of this future Hall of Famer.

Steve Nash (Noah Graham/NBAE)

Steve Nash (Noah Graham/NBAE)

“I just want to play,” Nash said in December. “That’s what gets me through every day. I want to play. I still love to play. I still feel like I have the skills to do it and I’d like to end my career on a positive note. Just fighting every day to get that little bit of joy for playing basketball, being one of the guys, running up and down the court and trying to beat somebody.”

When he finally took the court earlier this week, defeating (at least for now) the needling nerve irritation that stemmed from the initial leg fracture, he doled out nine assists to go with seven points in 24 minutes of action. The Lakers lost to the Timberwolves, but it was a win for Nash, who for a night could laugh in the face of the 40 candles he’ll blow out today.

“It’s been a tough road, but tonight there’s a part of me that feels like a kid, like a rookie that got to play in the NBA,” Nash told reporters. “It’s a pretty cool feeling.”

Nash, an eight-time All-Star, has provided basketball fans with dozens upon dozens of pretty cool moments and countless reasons to admire his determination since he became the 15th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. But the past 16 months — since that Halloween night — might be the most inspirational of his career. He’s played in only 57 games since then, and most of those in pain that would sideline many. Yet, when it would have been so easy to walk away, to tip his cap to Father Time, Nash chose to fight.

You want to talk role model? You want to talk work ethic? You want to talk perseverance? You want to talk loyalty?

Talk Nash. At 40.

The 6-foot-3 guard from Victoria, B.C., and Santa Clara University could have simply hung ‘em up. And who would have blamed him? The Lakers are in disarray. The championship vision that took shape with the assemblage of he and Kobe and Pau and Dwight has evaporated.

Nash has earned enough to keep his great, great grandchildren living high. He captained some of the most prolific offenses in NBA history. He beat out Shaquille O’Neal and then LeBron James for consecutive MVP trophies. He is basketball royalty in his home country. His legacy as an all-time great is secure, despite the fact he has never made it to the NBA Finals.

Still, he pushes on, and with any luck, Nash will feel like that kid he described for the rest of this season, and maybe even next (he has one more year left on his contract at $9.7 million). At some point — maybe this season, maybe next — he will have to consider the R-word. He will have to evaluate his body, re-evaluate his desire and come to grips with the decision that every athlete faces.

These past two seasons are not how Nash saw himself going out. Will that drive him to finish this contract, playing a 19th season in 2014-15, matching Jazz Hall of Famer and all-time assist leader John Stockton in seasons and age? Stockton played all 82 games in his final year (2002-03). He turned 41 on March 26 that season. Jason Kidd made it to 40 last March, but by then he was fading fast and, at season’s end, he called it a career with two years left on his deal. Bob Cousy played seven games at age 41 as coach of the Cincinnati Royals, six years after he retired from the Boston Celtics.

That’s it for 40-plus point guards. The demands of the position are so great, so physically and emotionally taxing season after season, that point guards just don’t last that long. Nash knows this. He feels it every day.

But today he will play.

29 Comments

  1. Nz NBA Fan says:

    This (insert heat player) HOF dude is genuinely hilarious. But what is more hilarious is all the noobs who get riled up about it.

    Please continue to make comments like this lbj, they give me lolz.

    P.S steve nash should be everyone’s favourite player of all time. What an awesome dude.

  2. Annie M. says:

    Happy 40th Steve, keep on truckin’.

  3. Drago says:

    Those injuries are so stupid nervs and bruises really lame.If he tore his ACL or Achiles than i would be sceptical.The health thing is realy anoying.

  4. cufk-you-riggyboy says:

    lbj the norris cole one is old, nice but old. find new ideas please (a fan)

  5. pekkarr cz says:

    a z České republiky vše nejlepší :-)

  6. pekkarr cz says:

    Good luck and you are best :-) you learning me basket :-)

  7. dustydreamnz says:

    Surely he doesn’t need the money. He could play soccer, heard he’s good at that.

  8. Tony C says:

    Stick a fork in him. LOL

  9. Mr Net Breaker says:

    another excellent player that will end up with no ring
    like Charles Barkley Patrick Ewing and many others
    i respect Nash i just fell bad for him playing for the lakers
    i doesn’t matter if you win a ring or not
    you will always be remember as the best free throw shooter in history
    better than mark price
    and mark price was good
    i hope you don’t drop your free throw percentage
    or you will fall to second place

  10. RespectTheElders says:

    Great article– Nash’s perserverance truly is a testament of his character. In a society obsessed with winning, Nash’s struggle to play again for the pure love and enjoyment of the game (and not for personal accolades like titles and legacy) is refreshing.
    Way to go Steve.

  11. Scisca says:

    C’mon Larry, make a trade and get Nash to run the second squad of Indiana! The man deserves a ring and he would make Bynum happy and producing at a high rate.

  12. hahahahaha the “norris cole will be a HOF player” dude is back, sorry bud but first of all half the guys on my team are better than norris cole, nash is stayin in LA until he retires, go lakers! (and someone rly has to ban this clown from commenting, its actually ridiculous how stupid some nba fans are, especially band wagon heat fans)

  13. Guest says:

    Good for him, this isn’t coming from a Lakers fan but it’s nice to see him back and I hope he can play well for the rest of the season.

  14. lbj says:

    playing stubbornly on won’t win you a ring. you need to come play with the King “LeBron” in miami. we will trade future hall of fame point guard Norris Cole and corner 3 ball machine Shane Battier.

    • Pakyaw says:

      ^^this..tsk.tsk.tsk

    • Marcus says:

      lbj, you sound stupid calling Norris Cole a future hall of famer
      Like do you watch basketball ? I guess not…don’t make him sound good cause right
      now he’s average he is still young and he can improve but you just sound dumb.

    • zuul says:

      I have read a lot of stupid trade suggestions but this one probably would make my top 10 list of worst hypothetical trades made by fans… ever.

    • kevin says:

      another lbj comment about the heat…u fantasize about them at night ?

    • see you next time says:

      lmao this guy get me everytime

    • SodaPop says:

      Gosh, delete your account already and quit trolling. You got nothing better to do? On second thought, judging by your comments you really don’t

    • wew says:

      u sure? trading 2 important bench just for 40 yr old, who might retire soon? think about future man. . .

    • LeggoHeat says:

      OMG be quiet, smh…

    • pat oslon says:

      THANKS; WE’LL TAKE THAT TRADE ASAP!!!!!!

    • LBJ says:

      your just plain stupid

    • herpaderp says:

      whyyyyy would Miami make that trade, soooo horrible. two good contributers and really good defenders, one of whom is at the beginning of his career, for a 40 year old that, unfortunately, has had trouble staying healthy and was never a good defender. Miami won its titles because of its defense, nash wouldn’t have fit in with Miami’s zone defense in his prime. Not to mention his contract is not very friendly

    • hi says:

      this is possibly the worst trade ever suggested….

    • Eaham says:

      This page was for nash, lets leave lequeen and miami phuggets out of this. but yeah i am glad to see steve nash back on the court dishing those delicious dimes. Wishing him happy birthday and a great run to end the season off healthy :)