HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Mention Steve Nash‘s name in the wrong way and you better get ready for a fight.
You either believe in Nash, the narrative and everything else that comes with it, or you don’t.
His supporters are passionate in defense of the two-time MVP and future Hall of Famer. They feel, perhaps rightly so, that he is often targeted unfairly by those who don’t believe he was the rightful MVP.
Now that his 2014-15 season is over because of a recurring back injury, the Los Angeles Lakers veteran will spend what could be his final season in Los Angeles and the league, at the center of yet another great debate.
Where does Nash rank all time?
His offensive numbers suggest that he belongs among the game’s titans, one of the best point guards to play the game and easily the most accomplished shooter to play the position. Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas and John Stockton , in whatever order you’d like, make up most people’s top four. When you get to the fifth spot is where things get tricky.
Does Nash rank ahead of guys from his own era, guys like Gary Payton and Jason Kidd, a Hall of Famer and a future Hall of Famer who have been to The Finals, and in both cases they played in multiple Finals and own rings? And would Nash have been as effective in a different era, when the rules of the game didn’t allow offensive players, point guards in particular, the freedom of movement they enjoy now?
Nash’s offensive prowess cannot be disputed. But his defensive shortcomings and the fact that he never appeared in The Finals damage his case when you are talking about where he stacks up among the best of the very best.
Anytime there are more questions than answers my colleague and Hang Time California bureau chief Scott Howard Cooper, born and raised in Los Angeles and as knowledgeable about the Lakers and their lore as anyone in the business, finds me.
We’ve sparred about Nash before, but never in this context (with the end of his fantastic career clearly in sight). While I acknowledge he’s been one of the best of his era and a true Hall of Famer, I don’t know if I’m ready to slide him into my top 10 point guards of all time (I don’t even rank him ahead of Tony Parker, a Finals MVP and multiple time NBA champion who is destined for the Hall of Fame as well).. So we had no choice but to try to settle this debate in Jump Ball …
On Oct 24, 2014, at 2:42 PM, “Scott Howard-Cooper” wrote:
Jump Ball: Steve Nash’s place in history
Steve Nash hasn’t officially announced his retirement, but the Lakers have said he is done for the season after Nash had previously said this would be his final season. Maybe he decides he can’t go out this way and wants to make one last attempt. It sounds like he’s done, though.
Either way, it’s fair to consider his legacy, because even if he does come back in 2015-16, it won’t be for long. I have him as one of the great offensive point guards ever and in the upper-echelon at the position overall. He wasn’t a good defender, a hit when comparing Nash with star two-way PGs like John Stockton and Gary Payton. But an automatic as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I would also say he’s in the top five of international players.
No disagreement there, right?
On Oct 24, 2014, at 12:01 PM, Smith, Sekou wrote:
Yeah! Right …
You have to remove those Nash-colored glasses, Sir. You mention defense as an afterthought. That’s a huge part of the game, a critical part of the game that is often foolishly overlooked.
I don’t want you to go there, Hyphen, but you are scaring me. Would You take Nash take in his prime over Gary Payton or Jason Kidd? I won’t even add Magic, Isiah, Oscar, or Stockton to that mix. What about Tony Parker? Shall I go on?
I love Nash and what he brought to the game. And the MVPs … well, I shouldn’t go there.
But throwing him in the mix with the greatest point guards of all-time, the top four or five international players. I say let him officially retire first.
And let’s think long and hard about who you’d want in his prime between Nash, perhaps the greatest shooting point guard of all-time, and the other elite point guards we’ve seen who were much more complete players than Nashty!
Sent from Sekou’s iPhone
From: Scott Howard-Cooper
Date: October 24, 2014 at 3:20:41 PM EDT
I can’t take of my Nash-colored glasses. (Molson rules!)
I didn’t mention defense as an afterthought. I mentioned it front and center. He was not a good defender and it’s why he doesn’t rate with some others who played around the same time. But he was at a special level on offense. Nash could play fast or slow, distribute or shoot. He was smart and always showed up ready to play. No head games. There was a toughness.
Obviously, as you said, Magic, Oscar, Stockton and Payton are ahead in the rankings. I would say J-Kidd as well, although that’s a decent debate because Kidd was a poor shooter until late in his career and Nash was a great shooter, Kidd was a very good defender and Nash struggled, Kidd was too often accompanied by drama and Nash was the opposite.
But I don’t see Tony Parker over Nash as the easy call you seem to make it out to be. Parker is great and a Hall of Famer as well, so don’t try to turn this into me knocking Parker to get the French mad at me. (Oh, who cares. Get the French mad at me.) Nash on the Spurs instead of Parker results in championships as well. I just don’t see a single thing to knock about Nash on offense and Nash in the locker room.
On Oct 24, 2014, at 1:14 PM, Smith, Sekou wrote:
Look at you, going all patriotic on me … Two times! Classic. Haha. I’m gonna stick to my roots and what I know.
I’d prefer we keep this debate in the realm of reality. And in what realm does a Finals MVP and four-time champion like Tony Parker take a backseat to a great player, no doubt, but one who never saw the inside of the NBA Finals?
This is not about disrespecting Nash or his legacy. We agree. He’s a Hall of Famer. A case could be made that he’s earned every bit of whatever hardware has come his way (a case you undoubtedly will try to make … haha).
I just refuse to buy into this syrup-soaked narrative of yours. I can’t do it. I won’t. “If Nash was on the Spurs” automatically squashes the whole thing.
If you have to employ the word “if” to make your case, you have no case!
Sent from Sekou’s iPhone
On Oct 25, 2014, at 4:48 PM, “Scott Howard-Cooper” wrote:
No question the lack of a Finals appearance, let alone a championship, is a big hole in the resumé. But look at what Nash did in the playoffs. Consecutive postseasons of 23.9 points/11.3 assists/52-percent shooting, 20.4/10.2/50.2 and 18.9/13.3/46.3. Another at 17.8/10.1/51.8. A career 40.9 behind the arc in the playoffs.
At some point you have to drop “Didn’t win a championship” as a tipping point. It’s obvious that shortcoming is not on Nash.
On Oct 25, 2014, at 2:25 PM, Smith, Sekou wrote:
When discussing the best of the very best, winning a championship becomes the ultimate dividing line, or at least one of them.
You’re either a champion or not. Same rules apply for other great players at other positions.
Why would we drop it now? That’s crazy talk.
This is not about Nash’s shortcomings, the one or two you want to nit pick. This is about an age-old debate about how great players stack up in the history of the game. Nash can’t get a pass here because we loved the narrative that came with him or because he’s such a great guy (which he no doubt is and always has been).
This is about facts and not circumstances. Whatever the circumstance, Nash, as you conceded, has glaring holes I. His resume. The same holes that any all-time great and future Hall of Famer would have to own.
I can appreciate Nash’s career for what it has been, but I’m not going to elevate it to another level when the facts simply do not support such action.
Great player, great numbers and a truly great guy. We don’t need to inflate his impact or accomplishments. And there’s no shame in being a great player.
But a transcendent player … slow down buddy!
Sent from Sekou’s iPhone
On Oct 25, 2014, at 5:36 PM, “Scott Howard-Cooper” wrote:
Right. Facts and circumstances, as you say.
The only player in history to shoot at least 50 percent overall, 40 percent on threes and 90 percent from the line four different seasons. Larry Bird did it twice. No one else did it more than once.
Third in career assists.
Along with John Stockton the only players to average more than 11 assists beyond age 33. Nash did it three times.
One of five players to ever total more than 800 assists in four consecutive seasons.
First all-time in free-throw percentage.
Ninth all-time in three-point percentage (minimum 250 makes).
Along with Magic Johnson the only point guard to win multiple MVPs.
This has nothing to do with loving the narrative and respecting the person. It has everything to do with facts and circumstances.
I’m glad you agree with me. About time.
On Oct 25, 2014, at 3:09 PM, Smith, Sekou wrote:
All of these statistical qualifiers wouldn’t be necessary if you could give me just one trip to The Finals on his back. Just one.
What do your eyes tell you? You’re old enough to have seen the game evolve over the past 30 years or more. You know in your heart of hearts that even with all of the pretty numbers, there’s something missing.
Mark Cuban got smoked for letting Nash go to Phoenix and breaking Dirk Nowitzki and Nash up.
History, however, will be on his side.
The Mavs won it all after Nash departed and the Suns never got over the hump with him at the helm.
Like I said before, you’re either a champion or you’re not. Facts, not circumstances.
There is no qualifier needed.