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Steve Nash Leaves the NBA After Leaving a Mark That Can't Be Removed

Kevin Ding@@KevinDingNBA Senior WriterMarch 21, 2015

Jerome Miron/USA Today

LOS ANGELES — It wasn’t for naught.

The sleepless strategizing. The sort of paint-peeling pain on a consistent basis that would have brought other men to tears and certainly retirement, and so much rest in hopes of incremental healing (waiting being the worst of all for an up-and-at-‘em go-getter)…there was a payoff.

It came on Steve Nash’s 40th birthday: Feb. 7, 2014.

He played—and played wellin Philadelphia. The ledger shows 19 points, four rebounds and five assists. There was even a magical behind-the-back crossover to lose Evan Turner and breeze to the basket.

It stands now, after Nash’s retirement announcement Saturday, as the final time Nash won a basketball game.

“I love the game,” Nash said that night. “And when you realize it’s almost gone, you love it more.”

They say you get what you put into it, and that has been undeniably true of Nash’s love for basketball.

So much was shared back and forth between Nash and this game—his nonstop high-fives and delicious passing to teammates making every appearance on the court a celebration of the game’s joy—that there was plenty for fans watching to revel in and draw inspiration from, too.

Nash clung to the hope of more in recent years despite breaking his leg in his second game as a Los Angeles Laker in 2012, sending the circuit of nerves throughout his body all out of whack. He made it that night in Philly to join Bob Cousy, John Stockton and Jason Kidd as the only 40-year-old point guards in NBA history, but he couldn’t squeeze out much more.

The very game after that blissful one in Philadelphia, Nash took a light blow to the left leg and was derailed again. He played one more game before needing another month-and-a-half off.

He came back for five more games late last seasonenough to pass Mark Jackson for third on the NBA’s all-time assist listat Mike D’Antoni’s urging, finishing behind only Stockton and Kidd.

Nash was free Saturday to finally announce his retirement after indulging the Lakers’ request not to do so most of this season. Knowing his body just could not continue, Nash accepted a strange limbo while the Lakers tried to trade his expiring contract for future assets.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20: Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with teammate Kobe Bryant #24 while playing against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on February 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackno
Noah Graham/Getty Images

It didn’t pan out, just like most of Nash’s time with the Lakers.

The breadth of his career is mind-boggling in its scope, though, which is why Nash actually has just as many pages devoted to his bio in the Lakers’ 2014-15 media guide as Kobe Bryant, likewise a product of that 1996 NBA draft.

Nash at times trailed Mark Price in recent years for the honor of all-time best free-throw shooter, but Nash emerged victorious in the end: 90.4 percent, 3,060 makes against 324 misses. He was the NBA MVP in 2004-05 and '05-06 for D’Antoni’s revolutionary Phoenix Suns who spread the floor for Nash to dominate, and those theories remain in use throughout the league now about a decade later.

There was no NBA championship in Phoenix, yet as Nash noted in his Players’ Tribune essay, “It was the time of my life.”

With Nash, as we said, the love flowed both ways.

That’s why Grant Hill, of those Suns, offered his congratulations to Nash in retirement.

grant hill @realgranthill33

Congrats @SteveNash for all you've done for the game of bball..It was worth fighting to resume my career to have the chance to play with you

Nash loved the game, the game loved having him, and we are all better from getting to see it.

Thanks in part to all those who didn’t love the game as much as Nash did, we got to see it for a long, long time.

Here’s how Nash put it on the box of his 2005 workout video: “If every basketball player worked as hard as me, I’d be out of a job.”

Now, he finally is.

But what a job he has done.

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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