| Date of
(NBA): 15th pick, 1996
Out of: Santa Clara
Experience: 16 years
| Agent: Bill Duffy (BDA Sports)
It may seem like a strange thing to say about one of the game's all time assists leaders, about a pass-first point guard who won multiple MVP awards based on his pass-first nature and a multi-time winner of the seasonal assist title. But passing does not rank amongst Steve Nash's two strongest strengths as a basketball player.
That's not to say that he's not good at it, because he obviously is. He's extremely good at it. He's as good as passing I am with avoiding double negatives; hitting cutters from all angles, thriving in transition, making both simple and complex passes with consummate ease. He finds players who didn't even know they were open, and is essentially unrivalled in his ability to do so. Yet it's still not one of the two things Nash is best at.
Instead, the two things he's best at are his ballhandling and shooting abilities. Nash is able to collapse defenses in the way that he does, and push the tempo as relentlessly as he does, because he's able to get to any spot on the floor with the ball in his hand without needing excess flair to do it. He can drive to any part of the court, never lose his dribble, and never picks it up either. Spiting his ever increasing age, his comparative lack of athleticism and the disease spondylolisthesis that is his permanent companion, Nash gets to wherever he wants to go, not necessarily where the defense wants him to go. And when he gets there, that's when the passing skill takes over.
Furthermore, Nash scores ridiculously efficiency for any man, and not just an unathletic average sized point guard. At the time of writing, Nash is one of only six players in the history of the sport (the others being Mark Price, Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki and Jose freaking Calderon) to be a member of the 50/40/90 Club; that is, over the course of a full season, to shoot over 50% from the field, 40% from three point range and 90% from the free throw line. He is one of only two players to have done it more than once, the other being Bird. And he's done it more times than Bird. Nash does this while shooting almost exclusively jumpshots; roughly 85% of his field goal attempts are jumpshots, and they're not just open shots either. Nash hits off the dribble, falling away, contested, from two point range, three point range, over two defenders, in the clutch, in can't-miss situations....everything. And he does so with ridiculously good efficiency.
If he's not the best jumpshooter ever, in the history of the game, then he's damn close. Even if he isn't, Nash has simply got to be the best off-the-dribble shooter there's ever been. And that's a pass first player we're talking about.
Defensively is a different story. Despite his good positional sense when it comes to taking charges, Nash is pretty easy to get around on the perimeter, and he doesn't have great hands either. But that story isn't as fun to tell, so why tell it?
Nash represents a true one of a kind. He is an elite talent, dynamic, creative, entertaining, a player around whom entire offensive schemes have been devised and copied league wide. He is personal, funny and nice, and unashamed to wear a terrible haircut for over a decade. He is unbelievably good at what he does, and still underappreciated even after back to back MVP awards. What's not to like?
- 26th January, 2010.