EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Not just a Sun: Steve Nash is the world’s Hall of Famer, and that’s OK

Sep 7, 2018, 12:24 PM | Updated: 4:50 pm

Steve Nash doesn’t enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday as a member of the Phoenix Suns — or any other team.

Inductees aren’t required to choose, and it’s probably best that Nash doesn’t have to.

Of any player past or future who will enter the hall, few could be considered more of a worldly figure.

Yes, televisions allowed Michael Jordan to inspire basketball fans across the world. Players like Yao Ming and Drazen Petrovic fascinated their home countries, planting seeds for the sport to grow like a weed within a matter of a decade.

Yet it’s Nash’s time in Phoenix that altered not just the way players played basketball but how the game was played.

How many players can say that?

To this day, the two-time MVP, eight-time All-Star and five-time assists leader doesn’t put much effort in claiming a home or a playing style or a brand. Even when claiming his Naismith identity.

“I’d think I’d have to go in as a Phoenix Sun,” Nash told The Jump’s Rachel Nichols on Thursday, before his induction in Springfield, Mass. “Those were my best years, I played there 10 of my 18 years, and six of eight All-Star games were with the Phoenix Suns so I think it’s normal and natural to go in as a Sun if you had to choose.”

Logical, although he doesn’t seem to care all that much. In any case, he’s the most unlikely of figures to be here, and in that, as Suns fans know best, his absurd talent on the court was even more impressive.

As he’s enshrined, it’s important to remember what Nash meant for the city and state.

Suns fans’ blood pumped differently just when he took the court knowing they’d never be let down that night without one mind-boggling pass or clutch pull-up three. Expectation was Nash, creaky back and all, had enough skill and foresight to remain a step ahead of his opponents. His teammates loved him for, if not making the basketball easy, making for the best stretches of many of their careers.

Now third all-time in career assists, Nash got them paid.

Nash did his best work with help from former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni’s “why not?” idea — the Seven Seconds or Less offense — and playing alongside Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion — two players who have Hall of Fame probablities above 70 percent, per Basketball-Reference. Playing with Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw, Channing Frye, Goran Dragic, Jason Richardson, Raja Bell, Grant Hill and Jared Dudley didn’t hurt either.

Of course, people outside Phoenix saw all this.

In NBA circles, the Suns’ style made the league rethink the game literally inside-out (and little in-between).

Basketball aside, Nash didn’t fit the stereotypical mold of an athlete.

Partially because of his career-changing back injury, watching him run, dribble and contort his way past NBA athletes humanized him. You could see struggle on his face and in his pace — even when his vision wasn’t lost to a swollen eye or his nose wasn’t dripping blood from an elbow. He’d take long periods off from basketball and had interests that have defined him since he retired after the 2013-14 season.

Nowadays, Nash will fine-tune Kevin Durant’s skills as a Warriors player development consultant in the Bay and dish on the Champions League in a Bleacher Report studio in Los Angeles.

He might skateboard along Manhattan Beach and score goals in his annual soccer game for charity at Sara D. Roosevelt Park in New York City. Born in Jonannesburg, South Africa, raised in Victoria, British Columbia, and schooled in Santa Clara, Calif., Nash is a global ambassador for basketball.

Nash’s six years in Dallas in between his Phoenix stints marked his blossoming into an All-Star under coach Don Nelson, who pushed the selfless point guard to shoot a little more and will present Nash in the enshrinement ceremony.

Nash has since wondered if he shot enough. Probably not.

He’s one of seven players in the 50-40-90 club and only player to make it four times. Nobody else has shot 50 percent overall, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the foul stripe in a single season more than twice (Larry Bird). Look at these freaking numbers:

No, Naismith inductees don’t enter as members of just one team.

But if Nash had to choose, he’d take the obvious pick. And in typical Steve Nash style, he’ll then credit everyone else he played with. Even those Lakers.

“… My time with the Mavericks was incredible. I really grew from a player that was just trying to make a career in this league to somebody who became an All-Star and a starter, and kind of cemented himself a player who had a long career, so that was incredibly transformative for me as well,” he said. “And getting a chance to finish with the Lakers, it went horribly wrong but it was an incredible opportunity and a pleasure to try and do whatever I could at the end of my career — I’ve never worked harder in my life and will never forget the graciousness and the support I got from the Lakers as well.

“But if I had to choose one, I think it’s fair that it would be the Phoenix Suns.”

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