Lakers’ Steve Nash, right, passes off the ball as Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Pauldefends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. (Danny Moloshok/The Associated Press file photo)
The man has not played in a competitive basketball in over five months. But it wasn’t until now that Lakers 41-year-old guard Steve Nash officially announced his retirement, capping a storied 19-year NBA career that entailed two NBA MVP awards, a third-place standing on the league’s all-time assists list and an assured place in the Hall of Fame.
“The greatest gift has been to be completely immersed in my passion and striving for something I loved so much — visualizing a ladder, climbing up to my heroes,” Nash wrote in an essay on The Players Tribune. The obsession became my best friend. I talked to her, cherished her, fought with her and got knocked on my ass by her.”
The latter experiences happened plenty of times during his three years with the Lakers.
He fractured his left leg in only his second game as a Laker on Oct. 2012, an injury that first sidelined him for 24 games before spiraling into never-ending issues with the nerves surrounding his back and hamstrings. After playing in only 15 games in the 2013-14 season because of those ailments, Nash returned for the 2015 training camp only to appear in two exhibition games before the Lakers shut him down for the rest of the season. Add it all up, and Nash played in only 65 of a possible 164 regular-season games the past two seasons with the Lakers.
“When I signed with the Lakers, I had big dreams of lifting the fans up and lighting this city on fire,” said Nash, whom the Lakers acquired in a sign-and-trade for three years worth $27 million after sending two first and second-round draft picks to the Phoenix Suns. “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.”
Nash hardly built the same equity he enjoyed with the Phoenix Suns (1996-1998, 2004-12) and Dallas Mavericks (1998-2004), and the reasons go beyond his injuries. He caught some criticism for admitting in a Grantland documentary last season, “I’m not going to retire because I want the money.” Nash, who was owed $9.7 million this season, was mostly absent from the team this season. He did not mentor rookie guard Jordan Clarkson until February, 2015.
This concerned some in the organization. But Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Byron Scott publicly supported and deferred to Nash on how he spends his time.
“Last spring, when I returned to the court, I was given a standing ovation at Staples Center,” Nash wrote. “It was a dark time in my career and that gesture will be one of my best memories. There’s been a lot of negativity online, but in my nearly three years in L.A., I’ve never met anyone who didn’t show me anything but love and support for my efforts. There’s a lot of class in Lakerland, and the organization and staff have given me unwavering support.”
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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org