Oct 30, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash (10) before the game against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Nash's Money

No one remembers the before- the before being great- when Steve Nash was an efficient player. He had yet to be Player of the Week or Player of the Month. He had yet to average 700 assists over a season. He had yet to shoot 50%. He had yet to be a Phoenix Sun. He had yet to win two MVP trophies. What Steve Nash was that year, what some remember about Steve Nash and 2003, the only thing worth remembering about that year was what Steve Nash said that got him into trouble. It has lingered to this day, his anti-war platform. You do not forget it that easily. Death was not proud, not for the ones who never returned. But Steve Nash was not thinking about individual families when he said the war was unjust. When he said we should not fight a war in Iraq. When he said he was against the conflict. He wore a t-shirt to the All Star game that said, “No War- Shoot For Peace.” He was besieged with hate mail and vilified in the media and told to shut up. It was a lesson for Steve Nash the athlete and Steve Nash the humanitarian and Steve Nash the pacifist. Sometimes you cannot be popular. And if you are not popular the least you can do is be principled.

“I want the money” is not the same thing as being an opponent of war. But Steve Nash still wants peace. Except the peace is with his own career, what is left of it. The peace is with the team he plays for and for the fans who religiously follow them. The peace is with his particular game that is currently in no-man’s land. The war he hated eleven years ago is not the same war that resides within his own body. But it feels the same. It feels like he has been terribly wounded. His career is on borrowed time and parts of him are broken.

So much has gone wrong for Steve Nash these last two years the question has reduced him to something very basic. What does he love? Is it money? Is it himself? Is it fame? Even he could not have predicted what he would become. Steve Nash is 40 years old and when next year begins he will be nearing the age of 41, straddling the impossible line between old and useless. If he loved the Lakers, the popular theory persists, he would retire. He would allow the Lakers to use his salary for a better value. He owes them for all he has failed to do. So walking away would be the true testament of the person who has been hailed as the best teammate in the game. Not walking away is something else entirely. It is selfishness not on his time but on ours. The torture of waiting and watching it fall apart again and again. Some will hate him for it, some will pretend it does not matter.

The truth in all of this is the math. And the math is the recalculation of Steve Nash the athlete who made a career no one thought was possible. He became Steve Nash because of that thing everyone wants to hang around his neck and beat him up for. Yes. He is taking money he has not earned. Yes. A part of that is selfish. Yes. He is flattered the Lakers still trust him. But Steve Nash paid for his career a long time ago, he fought for it. He has come this far, too far to give it all back because it seems unreasonable. And so the 9.7 million dollars is reflective of his career. He wants it because he deserves it. And he deserves it because Mitch Kupchak promised him it was his.

In the latest installment of the short documentary “The Finish Line”, Steve explains he is motivated by the game itself and by how much he loves it. It is a difficult sell for Lakers fans because it eliminates one important thing. Loving the Lakers trumps loving the game. From the very beginning the economics of Steve Nash did not make much sense. He was coming off one of his worst scoring years of his career. His three point percentage was down as was his assist rate. But the Lakers gave him a three year guaranteed deal anyway. They fired Mike Brown and hired Mike D’antoni because they were desperate for Steve to succeed. Isn’t there such a thing as reciprocity? Gratitude? Steve, by nature of his own generous character, should understand he can never be what he was and what he is now is a ghost. He is kidding himself if he thinks he can somehow change his body. That is what people think.

But Steve is defiant in his position that he is not going to retire and he is not going to give money back. The money is his. The contract is his. The body is his. And yet his body is not in a position to demand anything or to make any sort of promises. Steve resembles all of those athletes who no longer look in the mirror. They just can’t. Because to see their reflection is to see that objects are not closer than they appear. They are farther and farther away. Who remembers Steve’s first MVP trophy? Who remembers the game he had against the Knicks when he had 26 points and 14 assists. And then the next game Steve had 33 points and 17 assists. And the next game Steve played 40 minutes and had 25 points and 14 assists.

Fans want it both ways. They want their athletes to be extraordinary and gifted. They want them to be superlative in almost every category. They want humility. Be like me. No, don’t be like me. They want athletes to care about what fans care about it and that is where the divide lies. Fans care about their teams. Athletes care about their careers. And their money. And leaving only when they have to.

Steve Nash abhors war and this is his greatest irony. He is fighting a silent one. More than two centuries ago, in the Battle of Five Forks, Robert Lee’s troops were unable to keep the city of Richmond. They had to flee because men were captured and there were casualties. Soon the war would be over but not before one last stand. And that is how it is supposed to be in all wars, regardless of what the purpose is. There is one last stand, one last time to defend yourself against everyone who says you cannot do it. Perhaps like General Lee you are vanquished and all you have left is your dignity. And perhaps Steve Nash will get there, to that point when he was given what General Lee was given at the end of it all. General Lee kept his sword and his horse. Steve Nash will keep his trophies and his memories. And his friendships. And of course his 9.7 million dollars.

“I want the money”, ‘he said. Of all the things that are true that is the only thing anyone can trust.




Tags: Los Angeles Lakers Steve Nash

  • disqus_wdLdx4W76r

    Amen about the Money part! It stays faithful no matter what race or sex you are. Nash and Kobe need to take “paycuts” for the better of the Lakers

    • hookedonnews

      Not possible the way I understand it. Once you sign a contract you can’t go back and restructure it. You can do that in the NFL but not in the NBA.

  • hookedonnews

    Of course he wants the money. Who wouldn’t? I don’t think that’s all he wants though. He wants to prove that he can still play at a high level, and he wants to play while he still has the opportunity because he knows that door is closing.

    I don’t agree that signing him didn’t make economic sense because he had a very productive season his last year with the Suns. He was the league leader in total assists and an All-Star. He was also healthy. I also don’t agree that he is straddling the line between old and useless. He proved in that Philly game that he’s still got the skills. The problem is that he has yet to prove that he can keep this nerve issue at bay. He says he’s been ready to play for 2 weeks, but D’Antoni has chosen to shut him down to look at younger players. I personally believe that he would still be playing if he hadn’t taken that hit to his leg in the Chicago game, but that’s a moot point now.

    I don’t think they fired Mike Brown solely to benefit Steve Nash. They had lost 11 games in a row, and the Princeton offense was clearly a disaster. Yes, they had him in mind when they hired D’Antoni, but I don’t think that’s a reason to hand over $9 million dollars. He didn’t ask them to do that. What he owes the Lakers is to work hard and try to get back on the court and contribute. He doesn’t have an obligation to retire because fans think the Lakers need the cap space. He has a guaranteed contract. Not his fault he broke his leg & all this nerve stuff ensued. Anyone who has watched the Grantland videos knows how hard he’s worked to get back on the court. He could have gotten his money without going through all that if the money was all he cared about. It’s clearly about his desire to play basketball, and no one is shocked that he’s not willing to walk away from $9 million. I hope he can come back next season and prove people wrong who think he’s washed up. That would be a win for him and for the Lakers.

  • hookedonnews

    That was a cheap shot about Nash not thinking about individual families when he said he was against the war. Maybe he was thinking those soldiers should be home with their families. I didn’t agree with him at the time, but he’s entitled to his opinion on stuff like that and it shouldn’t be an issue here. Also, he was an All-Star in 2003 just like he had been the previous season and took the Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals, so I’d say that was a fairly memorable year in his career.

  • disqus_wdLdx4W76r

    Kobe had a chance when they extended his contract ..what’s he gettin? Like 28m per year? I understand he’s worth more then that to the franchise brand..but at some point in a athletes career you needa realize its time to take that cut