A mere week into the 2010 NBA campaign and the Phoenix Suns' season hopes have been annihilated for this year and many years to come. Superstar point guard Steve Nash has informed Suns management he's leaving the team permanently November 15 to pursue a political career in his native Canada.
Nash's long-term goal is eventually to become prime minister of Canada, the country's highest position. To that end, he's entering the Victoria, British Columbia, mayor's race and must almost immediately establish residency to run for office.
Stephen John Nash grew up in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, and he remains the city's most famous and well-loved son. Just last year, the University of Victoria awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree in recognition of his athletic achievements and philanthropic efforts. The race for mayor is a formality. The winner will be Nash in a Canadian avalanche.
Says current Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, "Stevie Nash for Mayor? He's got my vote!"
Nash is more popular in Canada than bacon and is substantially lower in fat. He's been awarded Canada's highest civilian honor, the Order of Canada, and a star on Canada's Walk of Fame. In an often-frozen land that is hockey-centric, Nash thrice has been voted Canadian athlete of the year. At the Vancouver Winter Games this year, Nash became the first NBA player in Olympic history to carry the torch and light the Olympic cauldron.
A week ago, Nash and his agent met with Suns officials to inform them of his plans. Like Nash himself, the meeting was relatively short. There was no hidden agenda. It wasn't a ploy for more money or a contract extension. It was a simple statement — he was quitting basketball to enter Canadian politics.
Unlike LeBron James, who toyed with the affections of most of the basketball-loving cities in North America for months before slaughtering and field-dressing Cleveland, Nash didn't seek a monumentally lame ESPN special to announce "The Decision." LeBron declared, "I am going to take my talents to South Beach."
Nash has gone him one better. He's taking his talents nearly to the North Pole.
Number 13 is already in escrow on a new home in the heart of Victoria, a city of 78,000 nestled within a general metropolitan area of 330,000. The house closes on November 15, and on that day, the two-time league MVP and perennial All-Star will head north.
Suns owner Robert Sarver and Coach Alvin Gentry are, naturally, shattered by the Nash bombshell. Both have begged the veteran to change his mind and are praying he will, but have been repeatedly told by Nash's agent that the decision is final and irrevocable.
Lon Babby, the newly named president of basketball operations for the Suns, who came on board to replace Steve Kerr, has been weeping uncontrollably, insiders tell New Times.
Expect the Suns to deny that their franchise player is leaving until the bitter end. Nash offered to clear out his locker immediately, but owner Sarver pleaded with him to continue playing in the hopes that a few wins can be salvaged from a brutal early schedule.
Suns players and personnel have been threatened with heavy fines and worse if they so much as breathe a word about Nash's imminent defection. Management is deathly afraid the news will immediately impact attendance. In a tough economy, the last thing a team needs is to lose a star player who puts derrieres in chairs. If the Suns fare badly this year, US Airways Center will be so empty, the airline could land one of its 747s in it.
Nobody is better qualified to calmly assess the situation than a Phoenix sports legend — former Suns chairman and CEO Jerry Colangelo. When contacted by New Times, he had this to say: "This is a huge loss for the Suns, but Steve has earned the right to control his own destiny. He's a great guy who truly wishes to make the world better, and he has the will and the gift to change hearts and minds.
"That said, I wish he weren't Canadian. He could go all the way in U.S. politics. He's not the first Sun to go into politics, you know — Kevin Johnson is the mayor of Sacramento. Charles [Barkley] always threatened to run for office, but seriously, what the hell is he going to fix? Chuck can't even straighten out his golf swing."
As Colangelo confirms, the departure of the franchise's brightest Sun is a dagger to the heart of an organization that lost free agent power forward Amar'e Stoudemire to the New York Knicks and then stumbled through a series of embarrassing lopsided losses in the pre-season. The team's very expensive off-season acquisition, Hedo Turkoglu, has looked hopelessly lost on the offensive end, and total team defense has been abysmal. Meanwhile, Stoudemire has been throwing down thunder for the Knicks.