Phoenix Suns: NBA History Needs to Give Steve Nash Credit

Phoenix Suns Steve Nash (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Steve Nash (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

How Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns changed the NBA forever

Most of the time we, as NBA fans, tend to heap praise onto championship-winning teams, and rightfully so. We often applaud them for climbing the mountain and fighting through the adversity.

Then on the flip side, every contending team that fails to win a title, we view them as critical failures mostly only looking at their shortcomings. Think of it like this, though, people everywhere widely view “The Empire Strikes Back” as an amazing movie, but it didn’t when Best Picture. Does that make the film any less amazing than “The Godfather”?

Of course not. So, why do it with NBA teams?

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Let’s be real now, the Phoenix Suns during Steve Nash‘s tenure were one of the greatest teams in NBA History regardless of their title status. Looking back, it’s easy to say that they were so much ahead of the times compared to their peers.

Don’t believe it? Well, look at the modern NBA. The fast pace, the floor-spacing, the small-ball lineups, the reliance of 3-point shooting. It all started with Steve Nash, Mike D’Antoni, Shawn Marion, and Amar’e Stoudemire. The Suns’ run from 2004-10 was a precursor to everything the game is today.

Without those Suns, you can make the case that there’s no 2014 San Antonio Spurs championship, and there might not be the recent Golden State Warriors dynasty. The father to it all is really Steve Nash. It’s crazy to believe that a point guard entering his thirties would turn the NBA upside down, but that’s what Nash did.

It was seeing how Nash played with the youth on the Suns’ roster that sparked Mike D’Antoni to run and push the pace. Nash won two MVPs for that reason, changing the game. As much as people want to say Nash stole MVPs from Kobe Bryant, the truth is Nash won and did things that not many athletes could do in their 30s.

During their six-year run, the Nash-led Suns won an average of 55 games a season. They reached the Western Conference Finals in three of their seasons. Even better, the Suns had the top offense in the league during their stretch, one of the most prolific in NBA history. Top it all off, in an era where basketball was still recovering from the slug-fest of 90s basketball, the Suns consistently played at the fastest pace in the league.

Thank a lot of that to Mike D’Antoni, his views of basketball from times overseas combined with Steve Nash’s soccer background brought an unselfish European style of basketball that the league could’ve never expected.

It’s more than just the numbers though, these Suns brought the small-ball lineup into popularity. Moving 6-foot-7 Shawn Marion from playing the small forward position to the power forward is the start of modern wing-big hybrids in the NBA.

Marion is now the player most teams would view as the ideal forward. His versatility would once have been viewed as a weakness and these suns created it to be a strength.

Look at Amar’e Stoudemire, before these Suns run he would have been viewed as a power forward but with these Suns, he became the beginning of the rim-running, screen-setting center. The quickness Stoudemire possessed was the start of the small-ball five. It opened the door for the likes of Draymond Green to thrive in the modern-day.

That leads right back to the man that orchestrated it all, Nash. Steve Nash was the start of the modern point guard in the NBA. Still placed in the facilitator role that the point guard position was considered to be historically, it was Nash’s scoring efficiency that was the start for modern guards like Stephen Curry and James Harden.

The 40/50/90 seasons, the 3-or-drive mentality. The getting to the line at an excellent rate. It all was the start of the era of modern basketball. If Nash never started the trend with the Phoenix Suns then Curry and Harden would never have been able to take it to the level they have now.

Okay great, they started these trends, but they never won a title? It doesn’t matter that this team never won a title because honestly, they were better than some teams that made the Finals, and even some that won it.

These Suns were actually tough as nails, look at Marion and the gritty Raja Bell. They played a rugged style. Don’t think Nash was tough? Nash played playoff games with a gashed nose, an eye swollen shut, and played his whole career with a spinal disorder slowly destroying his back.

The Suns were in the tough Western Conference, most of their Western Conference Finals appearances were actually better than the Finals themselves. Then, look at all the bad luck Phoenix faced.

What if Joe Johnson never broke his face? What if Stoudemire and Marion didn’t get a questionable suspension? What if Ron Artest never got that lucky rebound?

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It takes luck to win a championship, and luck just never went the Suns’ way. The Nash-D’Antoni Phoenix Suns were just as great Magic’s Lakers, Bird’s Celtics, Jordan’s Bulls, and Duncan’s Spurs because unlike any of those teams the Suns turned the league absolutely upside down.