Most Canadian boys have sports heroes, and many of them are hockey players. Not Steve Nash. In eighth grade, Nash had a dream to play basketball. Despite those who thought he was too short and would never play university basketball? let alone be drafted to the NBA? he met and surpassed every goal he has set.
The son of a semi-professional soccer player, Nash grew up in a family of athletes. "I was born into soccer. My first word was goal." Soon after Steve's birth, his family settled in British Columbia. Steve developed a real talent for soccer but also loved lacrosse, rugby and hockey. In eighth grade, he discovered basketball, and as a student at St. Michael's University School he worked on his game non-stop. "I was lucky that I went to a new school with a lot of kids who liked to play basketball." In his senior year, he averaged 21.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists, leading St. Michael's to the provincials.
Despite his accomplishments, Nash had difficulty breaking into the world of American university basketball, a prerequisite for an NBA career. After more than 30 letters to American schools, Nash finally received an offer from tiny Santa Clara University, a Jesuit university south of San Francisco. They offered him a full ride.
In Nash's four seasons with the Santa Clara Broncos, the team made three NCAA appearances, and he was twice named West Coast Conference Player of the Year. In 1993, Nash was tapped to play for the national team, winning a bronze medal at the Canada Games and a silver medal at the World University Games. Nash is grateful for the opportunity that Santa Clara head coach Dick Davey gave him to play NCAA Division I basketball. "I couldn't have gone to a more perfect university for me. I owe so much to my experience there."
After graduating with a degree in sociology, Nash entered the NBA draft in 1996 and was drafted 15th overall to the Phoenix Suns. He was soon trade to the Dallas Mavericks (1998) and made his first NBA All-star appearance in his third season. In Dallas, Nash quickly made a name for himself as one of the best point guards in the NBA.
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Nash captained his team to wins over Spain and Yugoslavia, before suffering an emotional loss to France in the quarterfinals.
After the 2003-04 season, Nash became a free agent and retuned to the Phoenix Suns, where he is credited with helping to turn around a team with a losing record. At the end of the 2007-08 season, he had an 89.7 percent shooting average (third best in NBA history), and a 43.1 percent career shooting average (fifth best in league history). A two-time Most Valuable Player winner, Nash is only the second point guard to win the MVP award multiple times and the third guard in NBA history to earn back-to-back MVP's. Nash loves to play basketball. "It feels good every morning when I wake up to set goals for myself that make me feel good to go to bed at night. That's really the theme of it for me."
As a professional athlete, Steve Nash knows he has the ability to make a positive impact on the lives of others. In 2001, he founded the Steve Nash Foundation, focusing on the needs of underserved children in Arizona, British Columbia and Paraguay. "It's just something I felt compelled to do. Studying sociology, realizing more in-depth the inequalities of the world, it made me feel like there is so much you can do as a human being."
Not content to let others do when he can, Nash will team up with the city of Victoria B.C, to build a sports and cultural centre for youth in Uganda, a country recovering from a 21-year civil war. The centre will provide sports and arts equipment, as well as classes and counseling. "The youth of that community have experiences absolute horrors," said Nash. "We want to create a centre to give those youth the opportunity we're afforded."
Nash has been inspired by many people, and his next project focuses on one of his childhood heroes: Nash will team up with ESPN Films to make a documentary on his childhood hero, Terry Fox. "As a six-year-old in Canada, I remember what it felt like and how proud w were when he was running across the country to raise money for cancer research. I also remember what it felt like when we found out that he couldn't continue. Those things have stuck with me." Nash's film directorial debut will air on ESPN.
Steve Nash is living his dream. As he says, "This was what I wanted to do? and here I am."
Steve Nash founded the Jim Jennings Memorial Endowment Fund at SCU, as well as the Steve Nash Foundation which focuses on the needed of underserved children in Arizona, British Columbia and Paraguay.
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