Stephen John Nash is the greatest free throw shooter in NBA history.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, on February 7, 1974, into a soccer-minded family, the first word he ever spoke was “goal.” Steve is the oldest of three children. His sister, Joann, was team captain at the University of Victoria and his brother, Martin, was a five-time All-Star in the professional United Soccer League and midfielder for the Canadian national team. Their father, John, also played professionally in South Africa. Tired of apartheid, he moved the family to Regina, Saskatchewan, before settling in Victoria on Vancouver Island. Nash played ice hockey, lacrosse and soccer—his favorite sport—before joining a basketball team in eighth grade and telling his mother he was going to be an NBA star. He attended Mount Douglas Secondary School in Saanich but his parents moved him to St. Michaels University School, a private boarding school in Victoria, due to failing grades. Nash was a standout athlete at St. Michaels, playing rugby, soccer and basketball. As a junior, he was named British Columbia’s most valuable soccer player and was invited to join the Canadian national team. In his senior year, he led the Blue Jaguars basketball team to the AAA provincial championship title and was named British Columbia’s Player of the Year. Despite his success on the floor, Nash received only one basketball scholarship offer, from Santa Clara University.
When Steve Nash arrived in the Silicon Valley in the fall of 1992, Santa Clara had not been to the NCAA tournament in five years. That winter, the freshman point guard led the Broncos to the West Coast Conference title and a berth in the NCAA tourney, where they upset the number-two seed Arizona Wildcats in the first round. The Broncos slumped to a losing record the following season but rebounded in 1994-95, as Nash–named WCC Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring and assists–directed Santa Clara to another WCC crown and berth in the NCAA tournament. Nash played for the Canadian national team the summer before his senior season and worked out with NBA stars Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. In Nash’s senior campaign, Santa Clara captured their third WCC championship in four years and upset Maryland in the first round of the NCAAs while their 6’3” point guard was named WCC Player of the Year and honorable mention All-America. When Nash graduated in 1996 with a degree in sociology, he was Santa Clara’s all-time leader in assists, free throw percentage and three-pointers attempted and made.
Phoenix Suns fans booed when it was announced that the team had selected the relatively unknown Steve Nash with the 15th overall selection in the 1996 NBA Draft. He played sparingly in his first two seasons in the desert and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks prior to the 1998 season, where he instantly became a starter. Nash led Dallas to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade in 2000-01, made his first All-Star team in 2002 and guided the Mavs to the 2003 Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the eventual-NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. Nash returned to Phoenix as a free agent in 2004 and completely turned the Suns around, taking the team from a 29-53 record to an NBA-best 62-20 in one year. “Nashty” was named league MVP, becoming the first Canadian and third point guard [Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy] to earn that honor. He captured his second MVP the following season and nearly made it three in a row in 2006-07 before being narrowly edged out by former Mavericks teammate and good friend, Dirk Nowitzki. In 2009-10, Nash produced two 20-assists games and the Suns were the highest-scoring team in the league for the fifth year in a row, yet still could not get to the NBA Finals. On April 21, 2012, Nash passed Oscar Robertson [Daily Dose, November 24] for career assists. Three months later, “Captain Canada” was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he spent two injury-plagued seasons before retiring in 2014.
In 2006, Mr. Nash was named by ESPN as one of the ten best point guards in NBA history and by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He was an eight-time NBA All-Star, two-time MVP, led the league in assists five times and owns the NBA’s highest free throw shooting percentage. He was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete in 2005 and has won the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s male athlete of the year three times. Nash is a member of the Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor and is the only player in Santa Clara basketball history to have their number retired. Steve Nash directed the 30 for 30 documentary “Into the Wind,” detailing amputee Terry Fox’s cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research, and was the first NBA player in Olympic history to carry the torch and light the Cauldron at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
On this date in 2013, Steve Nash became the 5th player in NBA history to record 10,000 career assists.