The face of Canadian basketball has called it a career.
Victoria's Steve Nash announced his retirement Saturday following an illustrious 19-year NBA career that included two MVP awards. The 41-year-old Canadian made his announcement both on Twitter and in a letter on The Players' Tribune, a website where he is a senior producer.
"I will likely never play basketball again," Nash said in the letter. "It's bittersweet. I already miss the game deeply, but I'm also really excited to learn to do something else.
"This letter is for anyone who's taken note of my career. At the heart of this letter, I'm speaking to kids everywhere who have no idea what the future holds or how to take charge of their place in it. When I think of my career, I can't help but think of the kid with his ball, falling in love. That's still what I identify with and did so throughout my entire story."
Nash's announcement wasn't surprising. The veteran point guard played in just 65 games over the last three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers due to injuries. Back and nerve issues prevented him from hitting the court at all this season.
Nash's announcement created widespread reaction on social media.
"It was an honor to play with you @SteveNash and I'm proud to have you as a friend! Thanks for what you taught me. #2xMVP #Legend," Lakers teammate Boris Diaw tweeted.
"Thank u to my big bro @SteveNash for being such an inspiration to Canadian basketball hopefuls like myself.Congratulations on you retirement," tweeted Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, a Brampton, Ont., native.
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry also commented on Nash's announcement.
"Unbelievable career @SteveNash," Lowry tweeted. "Glad I had a chance to play against you. It was an honor & pleasure! Enjoy the rest."
B.C. Premier Christy Clark also commended Nash for an outstanding NBA tenure.
"@SteveNash exemplifies the values of hard work, team spirit, and giving back," she tweeted. "Congratulations on an amazing career."
Image Credit: Twitter
An eight-time all-star, Nash ranks third in NBA history with 10,335 assists — behind only John Stockton and Jason Kidd. Nash also leaves as the league's all-time leading free-throw shooter at 90.4 per cent.
Three times Nash was presented the Lionel Conacher Award as The Canadian Press's male athlete of the year. About the only accomplishment missing from Nash's impressive resume was playing for an NBA championship squad.
Nash also often wore Canada's colours internationally, playing for his country at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and leading the national team into qualifying for the 2004 Games, where it fell just short. On May 8, 2012, Nash was named general manager of the Canadian senior national team and brought back Jay Triano as head coach.
The six-foot-three, 180-pound Nash won MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 while in Phoenix as the pointman of its up-tempo offence. But Nash's tenure with the Suns began inauspiciously as the club dealt him to Dallas in 1998, just two years after drafting him in the first round, 15th overall, out of Santa Clara.
Nash was voted to his first NBA all-star game during his tenure in Dallas and teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley to lead Dallas to a Western Conference final berth. He became a free agent after the 2003–'04 season and returned to Phoenix.
"I remember when Dirk and I were nobodies," Nash wrote. "He used to say over dinner sometimes, 'How are us two stiffs gonna make it in this league?'
"Somehow we made something of ourselves. After all the wins and all the great times we've had around the world together, what really means the most to me are the late nights early in our careers when we'd go back to the Landry Center in Dallas, to play a few more games of HORSE and one-on-one."
It was during his second tenure in Phoenix when Nash earned his MVP honours and finished as the runner-up to Nowitzki 2006-'07. He led Phoenix to the Western Conference final in the 2004–'05 season.
"It will always hurt that Phoenix Suns fans didn't get the championship they deserved during our run," Nash wrote. "Yes, we had some bad luck but I always look back at it and think, I could've made one more shot, or not forced a turnover, or made a better pass.
"But I don't regret anything. The arena was always sold out and rocking. It was the time of my life. Thanks, Phoenix."
In 2012, the Lakers signed Nash to a three-year, US$28-million deal and sent four draft picks to Phoenix. But in just his second game with L.A., Nash broke a bone in his left leg and missed 24 games.
Still, Nash started 50 contests that season and averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 assists per game. But he played in 15 games last season, averaging 6.8 points and 5.7 assists.
"When I signed with the Lakers, I had big dreams of lifting the fans up and lighting this city on fire," Nash said. "I turned down more lucrative offers to come to L.A. because I wanted to be in the 'fire,' and play for high risk and high reward in my last NBA chapter.
"In my second game here, I broke my leg and nothing was the same."
And Nash also praised basketball fans for their continued support.
"Fans around the world have shown me so much appreciation throughout the years, it’s unbelievable," Nash said. "Going out to shoot hour after hour, day after day as a kid, I never sought or dreamed of the amount of support and love people have shown.
"It's been a huge source of motivation and inspiration. Thank you eternally."