Dear Steve Nash
We met in 1996 as I leafed through the pages of Sports Illustrated.
You had just finished your senior year at Santa Clara as the 2 time WCC Conference Player of the Year, and for a kid in grade 11, wide eyed and dreaming big about a future in soccer, you served up a large plate of inspiration and I lapped it up like a giant bowl of water on a crazy hot day.
The SI article detailed your story: a skinny white no-name high school basketball player from Victoria who no one cared to recruit out of high school who had gone on to dominate a conference that was a virtual mecca of elite college basketball. For me a chicken-legged, no name soccer player out of British Columbia, as I read through the article enough times to turn the pages into a well-worn mess, I felt that if Steve could do it, I could too.
You promptly joined Cam Neely as the other sporting figure that I began to worship and tried to emulate.
In the Winter of 1996/1997, you probably don’t realize this, but in my recruiting process, you became a verb.
A verb you ask?
I took the approach of any Canadian kid that had no idea about how to go about the recruiting process and sent letters to hundreds of schools, basically any address that I could find.
Well, some schools, many schools actually, I would write, 2 or 3 times and not even elicit a response.
So I printed up and photocopied that Sports Illustrated article and those schools got “Steve Nash-ed.” You even got your own row on my Excel spreadsheet kept to document where I was at with communication with schools.
Steve Nash-ed? Check.
With a photocopy of that great SI article, I included a letter saying that I had written them a couple of times, hadn’t gotten a response, and thought they may be interested in reading the article on you in Sports Illustrated.
It didn’t get me scholarship offers, but the coach of one big time school in particular thought it was pretty funny and clever, gave me a call, and offered, although he didn’t have any scholarship money left, to be a sounding board for me as an objective voice on any school that I was considering.
But Steve, you inspired me. And you made me think that my dreaming big tendency actually could have some tangible results.
I got to college, and I struggled, and I sat benches, but I continued to believe, I continued to be driven, because I wanted to be like Steve Nash and I wanted to do something with my soccer. And I was proud to see you starting to make a name for yourself in the NBA. Like I had a piece of it, cause a kid from my (provincial) neighborhood was making it.
I got to know your brother as we played for the same club at the same time, and he was a total class act. Your sister played in university with some of my friends and it was the same conversation everywhere. The Nash’s were humble, great, down-to-earth people despite your skyrocketing popularity.
Being in an elite sporting culture that both subtlety and outwardly promotes an overflowing narcissism, it was nice to know that there was an example out there of someone who never seemed to lose his work ethic or humanity despite living in the elite sporting bubble.
As a young athlete trying to figure out what was important, what mattered, and what kind of person I wanted to be and who I needed to be to be successful, you were a beacon of light. All of a sudden basketball became a big deal at the youth level at home, with leagues springing up under your name and philanthropy. Every charity event back in Vancouver seemed to have you attached to it in some way, and yet you kept performing and started becoming a big time player in the NBA.
You showed you could actively give back and be a good human and not lose anything on the court. I took note.
While you had your physio Rick Celebrini who you thanked in your retirement letter, I had my own Celebrini, Rick’s brother Randy who’s played a crucial role as a physio and mentor in my own journey. I’d hear snippets about your work ethic, attention to detail and I’d try that much harder in my sessions, knowing that that was how a champion trained. And I made sure to enjoy it all, because you seemed to perform at the level you did with a joy that exuded out of your every movement on the court.
Yet, the one certainty in life, is that at some time, everything is going to come to an end.
That being said, even in retirement you have inspired with your authenticity and integrity, your retirement letter laced with the same enjoyment of the work ethic in the process and humility that defined your entire career.
So thank you Steve.
Thank you for giving a sixteen year old in Vancouver a tangible example of why it was ok to dream, and for inspiring me through my own career that there is nothing that is secret to becoming successful at something besides fully investing yourself in the process of that journey every single day.
You will be missed on the court, but your legacy has been weaved through so many people both near and far that has had the privilege to watch your journey through the years.
May all of us be inspired to not only give everything we have to our own process and passion, but more importantly to give back to raise the level of everything around us as you have done.