|Birthplace:||Johannesburg, South Africa|
Steve Nash, (born February 7, 1974 in Johannesburg, South Africa) was obtained by the Dallas Mavericks in a trade with the Phoenix Suns, on June 24, 1998, in exchange for Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells, the draft rights to Pat Garrity and a 1999 first round draft choice, coincidentally used to select a player who would also play for Dallas in the future Shawn Marion.
Nash comes from an athletic family. His father John 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 has made 30 appearances for the Canadian national soccer team, and even played for the Dallas Sidekicks when Steve was in Dallas. His sister Joann was the captain of the University of Victoria women's 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 the Tottenham Hotspurs, of the English Premier League, 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 hockey and lacrosse as a child.
Nash 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 nine rebounds—led his team to the British Columbia 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 went completely unrecruited by the U.S. 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.
Nash was selected 15th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft. Upon hearing the draft announcement, Suns fans booed in disapproval of the relatively unknown player. Despite his impressive college accomplishments, he had not played in one of the major college conferences. During his first two seasons in the NBA, he played a supporting role behind NBA star point guards Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson.
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.
During Nash's first year in Dallas, the lockout-shortened season of 1999, he notched the starting spot and averaged 7.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. He missed the last 10 games of the season due to a lower back injury.
In the 1999-2000 season, the team's prospects improved considerably. Nash missed 25 mid-season games due to an ankle injury, but he came back to notch six double-doubles in the last month of play, finishing the season with averages of 8.6 points and 4.9 assists per game. More importantly for the team, second-year teammate and friend Dirk Nowitzki was blossoming into a superstar, veteran Michael Finley was having an All-Star-caliber year, and the team's new owner, billionaire Mark Cuban, was bringing new energy and excitement to the franchise. Nash now had a supportive environment in which he could thrive.
In 2000-2001, Nash averaged 15.3 points and 7.3 assists per game in a breakout season. 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 marked the beginning of a memorable title run for Nash and the Mavericks.
In the 2001-2002 season, 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." Dallas earned another trip to the playoffs and again lost in the second round to the Sacramento Kings 4 games to 1.
Nash closely replicated his previous season's performance in 2002-2003, 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 Mavericks from an incredible 14-game winning streak to open the season all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the eventual NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs 4 games to 2. It was only the second Conference Final appearance in franchise history.
The 2003-2004 season saw a drop-off in Nash's scoring contributions and he was left off the All-Star and All-NBA team rosters. Despite this, he achieved new career highs in assists per game (8.8) and free throw accuracy (91.6%). Dallas suffered defeat in the first round of the playoffs to the Sacramento Kings 4 games to 1.
Now a free agent, Nash attempted to negotiate a long-term contract with Mark Cuban. Cuban did not want to lose Nash, but wanted to build his franchise around the younger Nowitzki and did not want to risk signing the older Nash to a long-term deal. Instead he offered a four 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 back in Phoenix, where he still had a home and ties to the local community. Unfazed by Nash's age (30), the Suns offered him a six-year, $63 million contract. He was reluctant to leave Dallas and returned to Cuban to see if he would match the deal, but with the Mavericks over the salary cap, the deal would have cost the team $126 million when you factor the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax. Nash signed a long-term contract with the Phoenix Suns for the 2004-05 season.
Nash was resolved to show that he was not old and breaking down, and spent the offseason getting in the best shape of his career.
In 2005, his first season back in Phoenix, Nash edged Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat to win the NBA MVP award. Nash became the first Canadian and only the second foreign-born player (after Hakeem Olajuwon) to earn the honor (note: Tim Duncan, winner of the MVP award in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, was not born in any of the incorporated territories of the United States, but rather, the Virgin Islands, an unincorporated territory). He is the first MVP who did not lead his team in scoring since Dave Cowens in 1972-73. Nash is just the third point guard ever to be named MVP — along with Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy — and only the sixth guard (Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, and Allen Iverson being the others). Nash was the first white player to win the award since Larry Bird in 1986.
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?"
After losing three key players in the off-season (Stoudemire to a knee injury, Joe Johnson to a trade for Boris Diaw (who was later on named "Most Improved Player" of 2006) and Quentin Richardson to a trade with New York) the Suns were not expected to repeat their successful 2005 season. However, because of Nash's leadership and the great play of teammates Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw, the Suns remained one of the elite teams in the NBA. They again were the highest scoring team in the league with seven players averaging 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). While he shot the ball more than the previous year, he averaged a league-leading 10.5 assists 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. He would later be awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canadian athlete of the year.
The MVP award was announced by the NBA on May 7, 2006 and Nash won it for the second year in a row. 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. The Suns would lose in the Western Conference Finals to the Dallas Mavericks in 6 games.
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.
Although no longer a Maverick, the 6'3 guard still ranks ninth in franchise history in points, third in assists and fifth in 3-PT field goals.
In addition to his NBA successes, Nash captained Canada men's national basketball team 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 in 7th place, 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. However, 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 that Canada did not qualify for the Olympics.
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 half a million dollars to charity. Nash replied that "there was so much more he could do".
Another aspect of his life that has caused Nash to stand out more 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 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. They married in June 2005. Dirk Nowitzki is the godfather of his children.
In May of 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 basketball 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 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 tries not to let his condition mar his performance on the hardwood. He tries to keep moving while on the court. When he is taking a rest, he doesn't sit on the bench, but rather lies supine on the end line in order to keep from stiffening.
His College jersey (#11) was retired at Santa Clara, in September 2006.
Nash and a Montreal-based partner, Leonard Schlemm, opened the first Steve Nash Sports Club in the spring of 2007 in downtown Vancouver, a high-end, $5-million, 38,500-square-foot facility that will mirror Nash's own fitness philosophy.