On the basketball court, Steve Nash was a transcendent talent who revolutionized modern point guard play, and for that reason alone, his illustrious career deserves to be celebrated.
Saturday afternoon, the future Hall of Fame inductee officially announced his retirement after 18 wondrous NBA seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers in a first-person essay for The Players' Tribune:
I heard someone once say there comes a day when they tell us all that we can’t play anymore. We’re not good enough. Surplus to requirements. Too slow, maybe. When you’re a teenager with outsized dreams and a growing obsession, and someone tells you this ain’t gonna last forever, it’s scary. I never forgot it.
Arguably the most electric distributor and steady three-point shooter of his generation, Nash's game was defined by an unmatched blend of grace, elegance and composure.
"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," Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding wrote.
Nash leaves the game an eight-time All-Star and two-time MVP whose accomplishments in Mike D'Antoni's transcendent seven-seconds-or-less offense helped push the league into a new era characterized by space and pace.
|Nash's Career Snapshot|
|Free-Throw Percentage||90.4%||No. 1|
|3-Point Percentage||42.8%||No. 9|
Unfortunately, the 41-year-old Nash couldn't return to the court this season after recurring nerve issues in his back prevented a return to the Purple and Gold.
However, the last two years should have no bearing on a career littered with rare historical achievements.
"Look at everything he’s done over the course of his career & look at him that way, not at what ended up happening here," Lakers head coach Byron Scott said, according to ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes.
So, as a way to honor Nash's brilliant resume, here's a statistical look back at his unparalleled excellence.
Nash ranks tied for fifth all time with two MVP awards perched atop his mantle. That's the same total as the legendary Tim Duncan and Karl Malone.
Capturing the league's highest individual honors in 2004-05 and 2005-06, Nash is the shortest player to do so twice, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
And as Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick noted, Nash didn't pile up the accolades until he was past what many would perceive to be peak prime years. Specifically, he nabbed his MVPs at ages 31 and 32, with a second-place finish coming at 33 years old.
Here's how his two MVP-caliber seasons looked on paper:
- 2004-05: 15.5 PTS, 11.5 AST, 3.3 REB, 1.0 STL, 50.2 FG%, 43.1 3P%, 88.7 FT%, 22.0 PER
- 2005-06: 18.8 PTS, 10.5 AST, 4.2 REB, 0.8 STL, 51.2 FG%, 43.9 3P%, 92.1 FT%, 23.3 PER
Nash led the league in assists during each of those memorable campaigns and scorched opponents to the tune of 50-40-90 shooting splits in the latter season.
Perhaps more important is that Nash led Phoenix to Pacific Division titles and Western Conference Finals appearances during each of his MVP seasons. The 62 wins the Suns rattled off in the 2004-05 season remain tied for a franchise-best (1992-93).
Since Nash's back-to-back triumphs, LeBron James is the only other player who has accrued multiple MVP awards.
In the history of the NBA, no player has converted free throws at a higher rate than Nash.
That's right: Nash leaves the game as the all-time leader in free-throw percentage with an absurd tally of 90.43 percent. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Mark Price is the only other player to post a qualified career free-throw percentage above 90, at 90.39.
To put Nash's insane efficiency in perspective, here's a look at where the closest active players sit on the all-time list:
- Stephen Curry: 89.9 percent, No. 3 overall
- Kevin Durant: 88.1 percent, No. 13 overall
- Dirk Nowitzki, 87.9 percent, No. 14 overall
- Kevin Martin, 86.95 percent, No. 23 overall
- Mo Williams, 86.94 percent, No. 25 overall
En route to hitting the league's top mark, Nash shot better than 90 percent from the line in nine of his 18 seasons. Per Basketball-Reference.com, the only players to record more over the course of their careers were Ray Allen and Reggie Miller.
However, Nash's shooting prowess wasn't restricted to uncontested offerings from 15 feet.
If there's ever a leadership summit for members of the NBA's 50-40-90 club, Nash will be the keynote speaker. Heck, he's already president.
With four such seasons under his belt, Nash is seemingly the most well-rounded, potent and selective scorer the league has seen since the three-point line came into existence.
Possessing a lethal stroke and a fantastical array of moves off the dribble, Nash burned opponents with jumpers from beyond the arc and at the free-throw line with a patented fadeaway that created unprecedented separation.
According to the Toronto Star's Bruce Arthur, Nash owns 40 percent of the league's total 50-40-90 seasons.
The crazy thing is, Nash could be in front by a more substantial margin.
While he broke down the 50-40-90 barrier in 2005-06, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10, he fell 0.1 percent short of qualifying from the stripe during the 2006-07 campaign. Otherwise, he'd be three seasons clear of Larry Bird for the all-time lead.
But as things stand, only three other active players (Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Jose Calderon) have qualified for the esteemed shooting list, and Nash has more than all of them—combined.
A dime-dropping sorcerer, Nash departs the professional ranks with 10,335 total assists. That's good for No. 3 all time behind John Stockton and Jason Kidd. And were it not for a five-assist performance against the Houston Rockets on April 8, 2014, Nash wouldn't have passed Mark Jackson, who sits a single dime back in fourth place.
"Arguably the greatest jump shooter in NBA history, Nash used that weapon to put pressure on defenses and open up angles for passes to guys like Amar'e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion," SB Nation's Satchel Price wrote. "It was a devastating offense that Nash and Mike D'Antoni concocted, and we'll surely never forget Seven Seconds or Less."
On seven different occasions, Nash finished with a double-digit assist average. In five of those seven seasons, the Canadian floor general topped the league's distributive leaderboard.
Magic Johnson (nine) and Stockton (10) are the only players who have topped 10 assists per game in more seasons. Here's a short list of retired players Nash bested in that regard:
- Oscar Robertson (five)
- Kevin Johnson (four)
- Isiah Thomas (four)
- Jason Kidd (three)
- Mark Jackson (two)
Mid-range shots may be viewed as the antithesis of practical analytical convention, but that didn't stop Nash from making them his bread and butter.
Here's the thing about Nash: He didn't just knock down mid-range jumpers with aplomb—he did so while shooting them at a rather high volume.
For his career, 23.1 percent of Nash's total shots came between 16 feet and the three-point line, according to Basketball-Reference.com. That space is supposed to be a statistical abyss reserved for only the most ambitious shooters.
But Nash didn't shy away. He attempted a higher percentage of shots from mid-range than he did within three feet or between three and 10 feet. The only spot he launched more attempts from was beyond the arc, where 25.5 percent of Nash's looks originated.
Six times, Nash shot better than 50 percent from the dreaded mid-range, as he chose to pepper defenses with silky step-back jumpers and casually magnificent crossovers.
And as Matt Femrite noted on Twitter, Nash actually shot better than 50 percent from an array of spots during the 2006-07 season.
Here's something mind-boggling to consider: Nash finished his career as a 48.4 percent shooter between 16 feet and the three-point line. That's a higher conversion rate than Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and James Harden have recorded from the field to this point in their respective careers.
A one-of-a-kind mid-range maestro, indeed.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.