Best Superstar - 2009
Steve Nash is a good guy. And he's all we've got in this basketball-crazy town. He's the only superstar left on the Phoenix Suns.
He's a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and the anchor of our professional basketball club. Sure, he's getting some miles on him. Point guards probably run 20 miles a game, and Nash is more frenetic than most — darting, weaving, passing, falling back for a long jumper. Putting the team on his back. Whenever there's a timeout, he can be seen flat on the floor, giving that gimpy back a rest from all the team weight he carries. At 35, he's wearing out as a professional athlete (he recently got a rich, two-year extension on his already-lucrative deal, and we'll be surprised if he can play at an elite level for that long).
Fact is, Nash is an internationally known athlete. He's the pride of Canada, practically a Canadian saint. Yeah, we know the Canucks aren't allowed to canonize anybody — not even Wayne Gretzky (who's still the most popular athlete ever in the 51st state). Despite us thinking the Suns should move on from geezers (by NBA standards) like Nash, we still love him. He exudes niceness. He's always out there building stuff in impoverished neighborhoods, posing with cancer patients, handing out Suns memorabilia at schools, giving pointers to kids on playgrounds.
Nash went to China to join Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets' 7-foot-6 center, in helping Chinese orphans (Nash's idea, natch). Nash persuaded several NBA superstars to travel to Beijing to play in a charity game (just before training camps started). Nash chartered the plane that flew them there. The game raised $2 million for various Chinese charities.
Lots of NBA players don't like each other; many are thugs. But, thug or not, nobody has a bad thing to say about Saint Steve. All you hear are words like "humanitarian" or "generous" or "caring" or "socially responsible" coming out of their mouths. "A genuine great guy," Shaquille O'Neal said, long before he donned a Suns uniform. (It was when Nash edged Shaq out for MVP.)
There's no doubt that Nash has lost a step or three, but let's talk about superstar stats: In addition to his back-to-back MVPs as a Sun, he's been an All-Star six times, first-team NBA three times, he's ninth all-time in assists, has never missed more than eight games in a season, boasts 90 percent shooting from the free-throw line, 43 percent from three-point range, and more than 50 percent from the field all five years he's been in Phoenix. When you couple his career 15-point-per-game shooting average with his 8-assists-per-game average, he's not only destined for a banner in the rafters of US Airways Center (alongside Charles Barkley and Cotton Fitzsimmons), but a spot in the NBA Hall of Fame as one of the greatest point guards ever (pretty good for a scrawny player from tiny Santa Clara in California).
That he's such a mensch, too, makes us glad he's staying around for a couple more years.