Steve Nash’s future has been a sticky subject for Lakers fans. When the Los Angeles Lakers signed the eight-time NBA All-Star on July 4th, 2012, there was nothing but excitement from fans who knew that a championship ring was the only thing missing from Nash’s career. In addition to the convenience of remaining close to his children, Nash was coming to Los Angeles with the intention of winning a championship to close out his career.
Nash has now missed 79 out of his 139 regular season games as a Laker. He missed 32 games in his first season in the purple and gold after suffering a freak leg accident that has since caused a spiral of related issues. Nash has played in just 10 games (missing 47 games) in his current season with the Lakers, sidelined with a multitude of nerve root issues, affecting his back, neck and virtually every part of his body.
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Since the start of his nerve root issues, the majority of Lakers fans have been calling for his retirement. Before Nash played his tenth game as a Laker, many were hoping that doctors would deem Nash unfit to play for the rest of his career and force him into medical retirement. Looking to the future, fans were hoping that the final year of Nash’s contract (9.7 million) would be removed from the books, clearing more space to rebuild.
Nash, though, was just hoping to get back on the floor and contribute. On February 7th, Nash returned to the court, celebrating his 40th birthday in vintage style, scoring 19 points in the Lakers win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Even coming back a couple weeks ago and playing in Philadelphia, in some ways it’s just a throwaway game in the middle of the season, but just to score 19 points and play 20 some odd minutes, I proved to myself I can still do it.” Steve Nash opened up in an interview with Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen. “The difficulty is to be able to do it three or four times a week, and I haven’t been able to prove to myself that I can do that yet.”
Nash wasn’t able to do it. After a solid performance in Philadelphia, Nash returned to the court against the Chicago Bulls, shooting 3-4 before exiting the game in the third quarter with nerve root irritation.
On February 11th in a loss to the Utah Jazz, Nash played in his 10th game of the 2013-2014 season. As Nash left that game, too, with nerve root irritation, so did that lingering possibility of medical retirement. Nash’s salary would remain on the books.
When asked about his perception of fame and professional athletes in an interview with Hang Up And Listen, Nash revealed that he’s very much aware of what Lakers fans want and to a certain extent he welcomes the criticism:
A lot of Lakers fans would like to get my salary off the books, and in some ways, I’ve been told how great I am for so long, and now I’m quickly in a position where ‘I’m a bum and lets get rid of him,’ and I almost would rather that, than being told how great I am. It’s closer to reality in some respects because you’re not fooling yourself.”
Last week, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak addressed questions about Nash’s future. He acknowledged that the 40-year-old’s future will definitely be a challenge, but also made it clear that Nash’s future with the Lakers is only on his shoulders. The Lakers organization is in no way pushing him towards early retirement, and Nash loves the game too much to simply walk away.
I don’t see it as a situation where I have to walk away from the money necessarily. This is a contract that I entered into.” Nash said on Hang Up And Listen. “I enjoy this too much to just walk away.”
Since the first episode of The Finish Line, a Grantland.com video series that documents Nash’s struggle over the past two years and the realization that the end is drawing near, many have become more empathetic to Nash’s situation. With five episodes remaining, some may change their viewpoints on how Nash is ending his career, but only Nash can decide how he wants to end his career. The two-time NBA MVP has deserved that right.
**For the full interview, listen below.
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