Steve Nash is one of a handful of athletes who can truly be considered a renaissance man.
Sure, he’s a two-time NBA MVP and an eight-time All-Star. He’s also part owner of a pro sports franchise. He’s dabbled in the world of filmmaking. He boasts prominent endorsements. Most importantly, he’s deeply involved in charitable endeavors.
Nash was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2006, so it’s no surprise that he's one of the most thoughtful figures in the sports world.
Fandom recently interviewed Nash and tapped him for insight about basketball, hockey, soccer, philanthropy and music as he made the rounds to discuss his partnership with Sprint to recycle unwanted mobile devices.
Here’s what transpired:
Fandom: Excluding Phoenix, what NBA city has the best fans?
Nash: I think some of the old, classic teams, the Celtics, Knicks and Lakers, they have great traditions, and they have great fans. But I also think some of the cities where basketball is their only professional franchise – the Sacramentos and Utahs – they have great fans as well. Those might not be the biggest cities or have the most tradition, but in that community they’ve had a huge impact. But I’m pretty pleased that I got to play in Phoenix for these fans. We have an amazing fan base. It’s been a great 10 years of my career here.
What city has the most ruthless fans?
I think people usually point to the Northeast somewhere. Take your pick.
You played with Dennis Rodman briefly during his final NBA season. What’s the best story you can share about that experience?
Dennis was, at that point, well on his way to building his … shall we say, media persona. One of the interesting things is he didn’t change in the locker room with us. He showered and changed in another room. The press knew he wouldn’t be in the locker room, so they waited in the hallway for him. When he came out in the hallway, he would just start walking so the press had to chase him. I guess there was some sort of allure or vision he was trying to create by having the press chase him down the hallway after every game. But they did it – like lapdogs. It was pretty awesome to see.
When you were growing up in Vancouver, who were your favorite athletes and why?
Wayne Gretzky was my favorite hockey player. My favorite soccer player was Glenn Hoddle, who was a star for Tottenham Hotspur, where my family is from in England. Then I got into this basketball thing, and Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas were who I wanted to play like. So Magic Johnson and those guys became my heroes.
Did you ever consider a career in hockey?
As a kid, I played hockey. Loved it. Wanted to play in the NHL one day. But by the time I was 12 or 13 years old, I went to the eighth grade, and all my friends in the new school played basketball. So I was traveling around playing hockey and soccer on the city team and missing out on all the fun my friends at home were having playing basketball. ... I wanted to be with them, and I wanted to be playing ball. So that was kind of the end of hockey.
As you mentioned, you’re a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur, and you’ve previously expressed interest in buying a stake in the team. How would your perspective as a lifelong fan and also as an athlete shape your role as an owner?
I’m one of the four owners of the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS, so that has already been an interesting position for me to be in – to still be a player in the NBA, but also be an owner in one of the other professional leagues. I wouldn’t say I’m stuck in the middle, but I definitely have an appreciation for both sides. I’m getting an education. That’s the most important thing: I’m learning, and I’m enjoying being exposed to new aspects.
Could you compare and contrast American fans to Canadian fans?
Without people from both countries hating me, I think when it comes down to it they’re all pretty much the same. You have some fans who are diehard, and you have fans who just enjoy the entertainment. ... I think it depends more so on the sport or the city than it does the country.
You’ve been involved in a number of charitable endeavors over the years. Which has been the most rewarding for you?
At the forefront of my foundation the last few years has been Educare Arizona, which is a school for [newborns] to 5-year-olds who are at-risk kids. Many of these kids don’t have the opportunities, through whatever ills they may face in their domestic life, to succeed. Or the odds are stacked against them to succeed. You take a lot of these kids and give them a head start at this beautiful new school we’ve built here in Phoenix. There’s a health care and clinic component. There’s counseling, education and health care for the parents as well. Kids who have come from neglect, abuse, illiteracy, poverty -- whatever it may be in their home life that has been a detriment to education -- this is going to allow these kids to be the first kids in their families to go to college and reverse that cycle for their families.
Who are some of your athletic peers that you most admire for their philanthropy?
Lance Armstrong comes to mind for all the things he’s done with [the fight against] cancer, but there’s a ton of people out there that have done things in all different fields. But to see how Lance has beaten cancer, raised all that money and awareness for cancer, created his own line that benefits cancer [research] with Nike and lobbied government, he’s gotta be at the top of the list as far as someone who’s had a charitable impact on our society as an athlete.
You’re stranded on a desert island. Amazingly, there’s a turntable waiting for you there. What three albums are you taking with you?
Definitely Bob Marley. I don’t know which album. That would be a tough one, but I would pick one. Rolling Stones and Notorious B.I.G.
Let’s play word association: Santa Clara
We played together in Phoenix my rookie year. I mean, he might have or might not have cost me a chance at a championship. But you can’t look at that one play and say he’s a bad person or anything. It happened, and the repercussions were the repercussions. But he was a great teammate when I played with him.
Tell us about your involvement with Sprint to recycle unwanted wireless devices.
I think it’s gonna take forward-thinking corporations like Sprint to take a lead in our communities and show people how important it is to hold an environmental conscience in many different ways. ... There’s about 125 to 135 million cellphones that end up in landfills every year, emitting harmful gases and all sorts of things that are detrimental to our environment. People can recycle their phones instead, through a buy-back program from Sprint, where they can get up to $300 credit on a new cellphone – even if it’s not a Sprint phone. So it’s a pretty amazing opportunity for people to help the environment and get a new phone.