I have loved the Phoenix Suns since before I could remember. I remember the day Charles Barkley opened America West Arena. I remember being nine-years-old and crying when they lost the Finals to Jordan and the Bulls. I remember when KJ dunked over Hakeem, when Marbury hit the last second shot against the Spurs, and when Jason Kidd got arrested.
I remember the day they signed Steve Nash. I remember the afternoon after his press conference, when he came into the restaurant where I worked and ordered a Pad Thai. I was his waiter. I remember the first game he played after returning. I remember the team getting eliminated by the Spurs. And the Mavericks. And the Spurs. And the Lakers.
I remember being so angry at Robert Horry’s hockey check. At Artest’s last second put-back. I remember the last game of last season. “We want Steve! We want Steve!” everyone chanted.
Heck, I remember when they drafted the guy.
Steve Nash did a lot for the Suns during his ten collective years with them. After all the ineptitude following the late ’90′s and early 2000′s, he came back to the Valley and single-handily returned the team to contention. He made them something to talk about, and not just in Phoenix. Everywhere you went, people said, “I’m not a Suns fan, but I root for them because of Nash.” Seven Seconds or Less, for a moment, changed the entire way the game was played.
Nash was Mr. Sun. He was the king of Phoenix. There was the endless debate between fans over who was the most beloved Sun of all time, Steve Nash or Charles Barkley?
I thought when the day came that I would write about the end of the Steve Nash-era for the Suns, I would be sad and heartbroken. I would try to write in the times between depressing lapses where I would just stare off into space, trying to figure out what to do next.
But when the day finally came to write about the end of the Nash-era, it’s strange that I have no feelings of sadness whatsoever. As a fan, I feel nothing but anger and betrayal. I feel like the last eight years have been a giant lie. I feel like I have been cheated-on. These are strange feelings to have, especially since I am only a fan, but I never thought I would have them, because I never thought Steve Nash would sell the city of Phoenix and every Suns fan who rooted for him, down the (relative to Arizona) dry-riverbed.
But that’s just what he did.
In 2004, when Nash came (back) to the Suns (the fourth-most winningest franchise in NBA history, yet has never won a title), he did so to lead them on their quest for their holy grail. The entire city bought into it. He was to be the facilitator of the team’s illusive goal. The captor of their unicorn (a mystical beast that is unobtainable). The champion of the state.
As a fan, there were ups-and-downs of course, but the season always ended with downs. The team was always beaten just shy of their goal. There were a few weeks of depression that always followed, and then when the next season started, we all jumped on board and did it again. Collectively, we hated the Spurs, we hated the Mavericks, and we hated the Lakers. We all hated Robert Sarver. We were all in it together, for Steve. We didn’t call him Nash, or Steve Nash, it was just Steve. He was one of us. He was the ambassador of the city. He came into our homes via APS commercials and told us how to save energy. The team didn’t win it all, but we didn’t win it all together.
But, as with all things, nothing is forever. The Suns wanted to move in a younger direction, and they wanted to rebuild from the ground up. I didn’t like it, but I got it. There’s this fallacy that a team has to lose in order to win. Losing-to-win means getting a better pick in the draft, but drafting high doesn’t always guarantee wins. You could get a number one pick and take Greg Oden. You could take Kenyon Martin, who, while a good player, hasn’t brought any substantial success to any team he’s played for. Losing to win only guarantees losing. Look at the Sacramento Kings, and how well they’ve done with all their Top-Ten picks.
While I still didn’t like it, I understood. That was the direction the team wanted to go. Personally, I wanted the team to re-sign him and let him finish out his career. Regardless, it was going to be tough seeing Steve in a Knicks or Raptor or even a Heat jersey, but we’d get used to it for three years, and then he would return. We would all have a great time at his Ring of Honor induction, and remember fondly the last eight years.
Instead, he decided to destroy his Suns legacy. He decided to spit in the face of every Suns fan who ever rooted for him.
Steve Nash is no longer a Phoenix Sun, and never will be again. He is a Laker. For Suns fans (while others might feel differently), he is now the face of the immortal enemy. Phoenix hates Los Angeles, and Suns fans hate the Lakers. We hate living in the shadow of Jerry West, Magic Johnson, and Kobe Bryant. We hate their arrogance, the way they infest the state, and the way they have been handed everything without struggle. Without going so long without a championship.
Some suggest that this is a great move for the team, because they get draft picks they can use to either draft new players, or package as part of a trade. I’ll agree to that, but this is more than basketball. This is civic pride. This is standing up for your hometown and your roots against a city that is the antithesis to your own.
But now Steve Nash is Kobe Bryant and every other arrogant Laker fan out there. He is no longer one of us, and never will be again. He will forever be connected to Purple and Gold, not Orange. This is more than disappointing.
Look at Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves. KG more-or-less put Minnesota on the map, yet he won it all with the Celtics, and will now always be considered one of the greatest C’s to play for the team. That’s what’s going to happen with Nash. He will be swallowed whole by the Los Angeles media, and if he finally wins his first title, he will be the man who brought another championship to a city that’s already won so many it’s almost become old hat. It’s become an expectation. It’s a given, when we are still waiting for just one.
Nash will go down as one of the greatest points guards ever to play for the Lakers. Los Angeles will be his legacy. Steve Nash, the Lakers’ finest.
Oh, and he also won some MVP’s with that other team. He’ll still be inducted into that other team’s Ring of Honor, but that’ll just be a nice gesture. Really, at his core, he will be a Laker. They will have won him his championship while another year will pass, another decade, and the Suns will not have one. Our Nash-era legacy, as a fan base, will be inconsequential. It will be second-class.
He will be a Laker 4 eva.
He can say he did it for his family, that he did it to be close, but I don’t buy it. He told a radio station in LA that his first priority is winning. He said it was Kobe Bryant who talked him into coming to the Lakers, so they could team up and win. Chasing a ring was the final push for someone who was supposed to be “old-school.”
And that’s why I will now root against him with as much passion as I already hated the Lakers before. On the day Nash returns to Phoenix with his new team, everyone should burn his jersey on the steps of the arena. We should all hate him as much as Cleveland hates Lebron. As much as Green Bay hated Favre. We should hope the Heat sign Ray Allen. The Thunder find a way to make it work with James Harden. We should even hope the Spurs can somehow get better. We should hope for anyone, besides the Lakers, to win. Anyone, besides him.
Because his legacy should have been our legacy. Because we were supposed to be in this together. If not, every emotion felt during the last eight years will have all been (even more so) for nothing.
If this comes off as bitter, that’s because it is. Some say sports is just a business, but that’s for people who sign the checks or cash them. For a fan, it’s emotion that makes us go to the games. That makes us root for and against people in different colored jerseys. It’s (like I said before) civic pride. Pride and respect. Respect and community.
And now ours has been betrayed.
Kobe Bryant hates the Suns. Hates Phoenix. Said so himself in an interview after he torched the Suns last year for 48 points. Said it’s because the Suns used to let him know about it, all those years they used to beat him in the playoffs. That he would never let it go. That he wanted to make sure he got back at us.
Boy, did he ever.