The Sobering Side Effects of Steve Nash’s Latest Setback

Atlanta Hawks v Los Angeles Lakers

At some point in every conflict, there comes a point when the desire to continue is outweighed by the practicality of simply removing yourself from the situation.  When your palms are burning so intensely in a game of tug of war, you’d rather just let go of the darn rope and accept the punishment of 50 pushups. When you’re in a heated senseless argument with your significant other, you’d rather just admit that you’re wrong (even when you’re really not), rather than continue bickering the entire evening. On a grander scale, when a country realizes it no longer has enough resources to defend whatever cause they got into the war for in the first place.

That moment may have come for Stephen Nash on Sunday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves when the 39-year-old Canadian point guard didn’t return for the second half of the game due to what is now being diagnosed as nerve root irritation in his back.

Nash told a throng of media on Monday that, “I’ve come out a few times this year, because I’m not able to get it done or produce, so it’s not worth being out there.”

And even if his career is not done, he’s under contract for this season and the next, one of his teammates seemed to have written the obituary to his career as a player.

“Steve’s a professional. He’s had a great career,” Jodie Meeks told ESPN LA’s Dave McMenamin after shortly after Sunday’s game.

***

Eminem once rapped in his 2002 hit “Till I Collapse”: “and every single minute you spend trying to hold on to it because you might never get it again./So while you’re in it, try to get as much {expletive} as you can, and when your run is over, just admit it’s at its end.”

Nash’s second freak injury in two years with the Lakers serves as a sobering reminder that everything has an expiry date — especially the apex of an athlete.

Nash has logged 42,180 minutes in 1,328 games in 17 seasons of his illustrious career where he reached every height that there is to reach in the NBA besides winning the championship (he also failed to lead Team Canada to a podium finish at the Olympics, but that’s just my Maple Leaf bias). So, in the summer of 2012, he teamed up with one of his arch rivals of his career in Kobe Bryant, in hopes of completing his NBA resume.

It was meant to be a match made in heaven: a crafty point guard, who thrives on making others better, and the maniacal shooting guard, who has never played with a point guard of Nash’s caliber before.

Those dreams of Nash’s first championship and Bryant’s sixth were swiftly crushed, when Nash broke his left leg in what appeared to be a mundane collision with Damian Lillard in the second game of the 2012-2013 season.

He was only supposed to be out for a week, but a week turned into 32 games and nothing was the same, as Nash’s fellow countryman, Drake, would say. It felt like a perpetual waiting game for Nash to return to the Nashty of old, every time he slipped on the golden armour.

Ever since the leg contusion, every time Nash stepped on the floor against a younger and more nimble opposing point guard, it was akin to watching Apollo Creed box Ivan Dragon in Rocky IV. In the sense that Laker fans began cheering for his survival, more than success.

His patented runner was replaced by a man who was barely able to run in the latter stages of last season.

He worked meticulously to be ready for this season, but it became obvious from the get-go that father time was to remain undefeated. From complaining of neck pains in the pre-season, to sighting some “strange things” happened on the court en route to defeating the Clippers on Opening Night, finally culminated in Sunday night when his body tapped out to the strains of being an elite professional elite.

This time, the Victoria, B.C. native is reportedly out for at least two weeks. This time, no one is holding their breath for his return. The emergence of Xavier Henry and Steve Blake, coupled with the return of Jordan Farmar can hold down the fort until the dream backcourt of Nash and Bryant return, if ever.

The last time the two stepped on the floor together was March 30, 2013 in Sacramento, the night when Kobe surpassed Wilt for fourth on the all-time scoring list, and we may never see it again.

***

Barring a miracle, it’s safe to say the daring pairing of Nash and Bryant was made too late. The project failed to launch, as due to various injuries to both elder statesmen, they only played in 47 games combined together. Even the stretch of games from late December to early March when the two were relatively healthy, they never seemed to mesh as well on the court as they did on paper.

With Nash now out for the foreseeable future, this brings us to Bryant’s return that is on the horizon.

When I think about the night that the Black Mamba tore his Achilles, what he said post-game will resonate with me forever.

“I made a move I’ve made a million times and it just popped,” Bryant said, whlist standing on crutches with tears in his eyes, about the drive on Harrison Barnes that led to the injury.

One can easily apply that same sentiment to the night when Nash initially got hurt in Portland. An action that is made a million times throughout the duration of an NBA season, turned out to be the demise of the former back-to-back MVP.

Now, I’m not suggesting Bryant will suffer from the lingering effects of one major injury as Nash has; the injuries are different, and so are their bodies.

But in the grand scheme of things, there can be some parallels drawn.

With both players having protracted their primes for so long, it’s easy to overlook (and expect) their greatness as it’s become the standard. We as fans have definitely been spoiled by this era of living legends, from Bryant to Nash to Duncan to Nowitzki, etc.

Hard to believe we are nine years removed from when Nash won his first of two MVP awards in his reign of terror with the Suns, and six years removed from Bryant’s sole MVP coronation.

Enjoy it all while it still lasts, as Nash’s unfortunate reoccurring saga of injuries has conveyed the sobering truth behind sport: an ability to be great takes endless hours of work to attain, but it only takes a moment to be all taken away.

When Bryant does return, let’s all just hope that he can fend off father time one more time, so that his marketing slogan of “the last chapter” does not abruptly lead to “the next chapter” of his life.

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