In a few months, Steve Nash’s legacy to the game of basketball will live forever in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Raised in Victoria, “Hair Canada” became one of basketball’s most revered athletes of all time and one of the best athletes to ever emerge from Vancouver Island.
He sits third on the NBA’s all-time assists. The 50-40-90 club — signifying shooters who hit 50 per cent of their two-point shots, 40 per cent of their three-point shots and 90 per cent of their foul shots over a single season — has just seven members. Nash did it four times, falling short of a fifth time by just one foul shot. Only Nash and Larry Bird have done it in back-to-back seasons.
Ian Hyde-Lay, head coach at St. Michael’s University, coached Nash for two years and said he probably felt like most Canadians basketball fans when they heard about Nash’s induction.
“Very proud, it’s the ultimate honour for any basketball player,” he said.
Hyde-Lay said he had no idea the heights Nash would reach in his career, but at each step, he saw Nash possess the ability to step his game up to any level and excel.
It was in Nash’s sophomore year in college at Santa Clara University that Hyde-Lay thought Nash would make it to the NBA, and after two MVP awards that he thought he would be in the conversation for the Hall of Fame.
Hyde-Lay said Nash’s greatest legacy is his combination of raw skill, competitive spirit and an unparalleled work ethic.
“He’d be the first in the gym and the last to leave,” he said. “He’d be in first thing on a Sunday morning after winning MVP of a big tournament the night before.”
Nash’s second stint with the Phoenix Suns was the perfect concoction that showcased his abilities as a leader, scorer and teammate. Hyde-Lay said having a coach like Mike D’Antoni, who liked to push the tempo, and the introduction of rule changes in the NBA also worked to Nash’s advantage.
The Suns were compared to the Lakers’ “Showtime” era, high flying, with Nash’s flashy, patented behind the back passes.
A modern-era Bob Cousy, Nash helped the Suns to the best record in the NBA in 2005 (62-20), and won his first MVP, and D’Antoni won coach of the year. That same year Nash received the Lou Marsh Trophy for Canadian athlete of the year and the Lionel Conacher Award for Canadian male athlete of the year.
Nash was instrumental in changing the way basketball is played today, “now everybody plays the way Phoenix did 12 years ago,” Hyde-Lay said.
In an interview with TSN, Nash said that Phoenix was forced to play an up-tempo game because they didn’t have a true post player, so they relied on movement on the floor. Phoenix played team basketball, with a point guard who could distribute the ball and be an offensive threat, similar to the Golden State Warriors today.
Nash won his second MVP in 2006, and arguably could have won it again in 2007, but his friend Dirk Nowitzki was honoured with the award.
An eight-time NBA All-Star, the only thing Nash had left to do in the sport was win an NBA championship as a player. He made that happen as part of the Warriors coaching staff when they won the world championship last year.
The B.C. Sports Hall of Fame inducted Nash into their Hall of Fame in 2016 for its 50th anniversary. The B.C. Sports Hall of Fame requires athletes to have been retired for three years before even being allowed a nomination ,or have won an Olympic gold medal or world championship, neither of which Nash had done by then.
Jason Beck, curator and facility director at the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, said Nash’s career more than warranted an immediate induction and that only in exceptional circumstances is the committee allowed to override the rules.
Nash is only the second person the hall of fame made the exception for, and the hall of fame thought the honour would pair nicely with the 50th anniversary.
Beck said the only other person the hall has made an exception for was Lui Passaglia, the former kicker and punter for the B.C. Lions.
“He [Nash] is one of B.C.’s best athletes of all time and Canada’s best athletes of all time,” Beck said.