Slam Dunk: A Writer Explains His Hoax Regarding Steve Nash's Quitting the Suns

My name is Barry Friedman and I am a liar. The last time I lied to New Times readers was in 1991 when I claimed gold had been discovered under the Scottsdale Galleria and hundreds of people raced there to file claims.

That little prank occurred before computers ruled the world. This time, I wanted to write a hoax that would test the power of the Internet and thought the Suns would be a good target. They go 2-6 in the preseason; Amar’e Stoudemire leaves; Steve Kerr departs the front office; Nash’s good friend Leandro Barbosa is traded, and Nash says in interviews that this season looks iffy. He reportedly has a great sense of humor (and won’t sue or hurt me) so I decide to focus on the great point guard. He’s taken strong stands in the past on Iraq and the Arizona immigration laws, so I decide politics is a plausible career switch for him. I declare he’s quitting the Suns to enter the mayor’s race in his hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, and eventually wants to be prime minister of Canada.

The story posts on New Times’ Web site and all hell breaks loose immediately. Fans all over the country believe Nash is leaving the team. The Suns’ switchboard explodes. People are demanding to know whether Nash is leaving; others want to cancel their season tickets.

I receive a call from Channel 5’s Pat McReynolds. He’s at the Suns-Spurs game and says, “You’ve turned my world upside down.”

The Suns then post a “Steve Nash Update” on their Web site: “A humorous article has been published by the Phoenix New Times joking that Steve Nash is retiring to enter Canadian politics. We want our fans to rest easy. This is a hoax!! Happily, Steve continues to be a member of our team.”

Oh, yeah, they definitely thought my article was a laugh riot. If murder were legal, I’d be pushing up daisies.

After the game, Nash was asked about his political future. “I just heard about it tonight during the game. I don’t know what to say about that,” he laughed. “I mean, obviously I’ll be prime minister one day, but I wasn’t going to do it until after I finished playing basketball.”

Enter former Suns star Tom Chambers, who now does commentary during televised Suns games. Fox Sports Net showcases Chambers and his on-air partners live against a frightening backdrop of hundreds of Suns fans.

At the end of their recap, announcing sidekick Brad Steinke reassured viewers my article wasn’t true and Chambers snarled, “Why are we even acknowledging New Times?” Easy there, big boy. Are those jaunty free outfits from The Clotherie a little too tight?

The story ended up running all over the United States and Canada. Mayor Dean Fortin of Victoria revealed that he plays a little basketball himself and proposed a swap: Nash becomes mayor and he becomes the point guard of the Phoenix Suns.

For those of you who appreciated the hoax, thanks. For those of you who think I suck, thanks.

And Steve, you know the article was a love letter to you from a real fan. If you ever leave us, I’ve already written a heart-wrenching farewell. Quite frankly, I think you owe me a cup of coffee. You buy, I’ll lie.

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Barry Friedman