One of the great “what ifs” in NBA history was the Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki Dallas Mavericks under Don Nelson. From 2001 through 2004 — when Nash had flowing long hair — the team had the best offense the NBA had seen in decades playing a style closer to today’s game, and won at least 50 games each season (60 in 2002-03, when the team made the conference Finals). If that team had stuck together and embraced its groundbreaking ways, would the ring have come earlier in Big D?
The way the Nash and Nowitzki era began, it didn’t look like we would be asking that question, nor did it look like Nash would end up a Hall of Fame player, as he will officially become this weekend when he is enshrined.
Nash told Marc Stein of the New York Times, for his weekly email newsletter, it was Nelson who pushed him to greatness, but in a way he didn’t expect.
“Nellie was really hard on me, but he also really believed in me,” Nash said in a phone interview the other day. “He had more belief in me than I did.
“It was him imploring me to score. And that was a fundamental building block for me, because once I balanced the playmaking with the scoring, it opened up everything for me and my teammates.
“My nature is just to pass, pass, pass — to give. Nellie finally got it in my head that that was B.S. — that you’re hurting us by doing that. He challenged me, without exactly saying it this way, to realize I was being selfish.”
Very few players enter the NBA being “selfish” by passing too much, but we’ve other great passing point guards get held back to varying degrees by not being enough of a scoring threat (Ricky Rubio may be the most famous example, but there are others). Nash had the scoring in him, both around the rim and as a jump shooter, he just had to trust it and unleash it.
When he did, and with coaches who trusted him — including Mike D’Antoni — Nash helped revolutionize the NBA. And win a couple of MVPs along the way.
It all led to the Canadian icon entering the Hall of Fame this weekend.