Steve Nash: A Threat to the Triple
Only three players in NBA history have ever won three
consecutive Most Valuable Player awards. Steve Nash is about to become the fourth.
People tend to forget things. Perhaps due to selective memory,
or perhaps it’s just a natural process of the mind that attempts to keep
the most current and relevant information at the forefront of your
recollection. Myself, I tend to forget things when my mind is
preoccupied with other things.
You then can imagine my dismay when I when I wake up in South Texas, the land of the hot and humid even in December, to realize everything outside is frozen over worse than Antoine Walker on a bad shooting night. Some ridiculous weather phenomenon has decided to wreak unholy frigid hell on most of the country, the usually warm southern region not withstanding. If you ask me it’s old man winter being a bitch after we got away with seventy degree weather during Thanksgiving and Christmas down here.
This particular brand of bitch slapping, cold snapping, frost
biting weather, leaves you with little a choice but to choose some indoor
activity. Thankfully, I’m a writer, and sunlight scares me anyway.
Stereotypically I’m supposed to lock myself in a room and avoid human
contact until I conjure some sort of literary achievement of worth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to go outside, but my front door is
literally frozen shut and the roads are unsafe anyway.
Perfect, I think to myself, holding a cup of tea and staring at
a blinking cursor, I can focus on this here column. The problem is that
every few seconds I can’t help but glance out the window and notice
there’s a icicle the size of my arm hanging from the neighbor’s
carport. When you’ve lived in a warm climate your entire life, that’s
like trying focus while a naked juggler goes by walking on his hands,
spitting nickels, while doing disco – it’s so weird it’s unnerving.
What does any of this have to do with Steve Nash? I couldn’t
figure it out for a while myself, but rest assured there is a method to my
madness. In the most ridiculous form of trying to focus I could think
of, I tried thinking ‘warm thoughts’. And I thought of Steve Nash.
Because he plays in Phoenix. For the Suns. No, I’m not joking.
But cold weather is not all that brings you this piece, because
as I said at the top of this article, what I’m about to write about is very
much about forgetting. Because of uncomfortable weather, I forgot (and
remembered) the most obvious choice of topic – the best player in the
league and the most valuable player on any one team.
Because of indifference, or simply not paying attention, some
folks may have forgotten a certain statement that was made about Steve Nash during a recent nationally broadcasted game. Some of you may not have even seen or heard it, but it’s worth discussing regardless. I don’t remember the exact game, or date, but I remember clearly enough what was said. Bill Walton, wonderful pundit that he is, made the ‘observation’ that was made at the very outset of this article, that
only three players in history of the MVP have ever won the award three
times consecutively. These players are Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain,
and Bill Russell, in case you didn’t know.
Bill went on to say that Steve Nash should not win the award
this season, because it would unjustly put him in the same company as those great players. Simply put, Walton, and many of Nash’s critics, feel
content to gleefully ignore any comparisons to the current crop of
Association players, and the fact that Nash is more valuable to his
team, than any of them are to theirs.
It’s one thing to disregard the issue at hand and introduce a
secondary one, it’s completely different thing when your secondary
issue (you know, the one that’s irrelevant), it also wrong. If the
Steve Nash critics would like to deny Nash the MVP trophy on the
grounds that he isn’t as influential to his generation as Bird,
Chamberlain, and Russell were to theirs, well I have some news to
break to you.
Yes he is.
Steve Nash is as dominant and consistent a force in basketball
now, as Bird, Chamberlain, and Russell were in their times. Get that
through your noggin. Now I’m sure at this point there’s some sort of
basketball fundamentalist alarm going off in your head that’s urging
to find a basketball bible (or write one) so you can smack me over the
head with it. And then preferably burn me at the stake. Hold on there,
allow me to explain.
First of all, I’m not about to imply there isn’t some sort of
relativity in my statement. We’re talking about three entirely
different eras of basketball, and there exists drastic differences
between them. I would be remiss if I didn’t address that outright. The
way the game is played now, the way it was played in the 80s, and the
way it was played in the 60s leave us with a great deal of
inconsistencies when it comes to comparing anything from these
different points in time. So any direct comparisons have to go out the
window. What that leaves us with is an inexact exchange rate of sorts,
a relative comparison, if you will.
Chamberlain and Russell played at a time when big men ruled the league, and they dominated, Bird played at a time that essentially
consisted of him and Magic Johnson reviving the league, but besides
that I’d say the 80s were marked by overly physical play and hard
Steve Nash doesn’t play in a league like that. In fact, Steve
Nash plays in a league that’s just the opposite. Great big men aren’t quite as prevalent as they used to be (Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, and the ‘coming soon’ Greg Oden might change that) and defense and physicality are being all but outlawed by Sheriff Stern. Nash plays in a league that’s becoming smaller, faster, and more about finesse and clever play than anything else, and his game epitomizes that. That, in
essence, is why Nash is as good as he is, because he’s a reflection of
what today’s game is about, and he’s the best at it.
Nash has mastered his generation’s style of play the same way
other great players have done with theirs in the past. If you want to
compare eras as a more accurate measuring method, that’s something
different. If you don’t like today’s brand of basketball, more power
to you, but it is what it is, it’s not going to change any time soon,
and Nash and his Suns are the prime example of how small ball, quick
shooting, and little defense can actually work.
Nash isn’t physically or athletically imposing, and no, he isn’t
exactly your top pick for a defensive stopper. But he is deceptively
quick, awkwardly resourceful, a great shooter, able to penetrate, a
master playmaker, and a perfect passer. But more importantly than his
skill set or his numbers is the fact that he is the driving force
behind the Phoenix Suns.
I don’t care what anyone says, the Suns don’t play defense. And
players and coaches have admitted that often times there are no
offensive sets called in the half court, that Steve Nash just creates
and they follow his lead. Think about that for a second, a team with
no defense, but the best offense wins 60 games a year, and that
offense is completely dependent on one man – are you beginning to get
the picture of what ‘most valuable’ means?
I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Kobe Bryant; I’ve
got nothing but goods things to say about my guy Agent Zero, aka Gilbert Arenas. And Dirk Nowitzki infuriates me to no end, but the man can straight up ball with the best of them, and I give him major props for
that. There are few, if any knocks I can throw at the other MVP
candidates this year, but they don’t do what Steve Nash does.
There was a time when we had to worry about people not
recognizing just how good Steve Nash is, I was guilty of it myself at one point. Now our worry shouldn’t be that people forget how good he still is, that isn’t likely to happen any time soon. What we as objective
basketball observers should be weary of is that Nash, despite how
great he is and all of his accomplishments, still has haters, people
who still don’t believe he’s as good as he is.
Some time around last season, when Nash was on his way to a
second straight MVP, his remarkable play without the likes of the loaded
lineup he once had in Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, and Amare
Stoudemire (hurt last season), made me forget all the reasons I ever
had to doubt his first MVP award. Something tells me that by season’s
end, he’ll have given all his remaining doubters a third reason to do