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Steve Nash: The Playboy Interview

4/6/2007

Playboy hired freelance writer Kevin Cook to sit down with Steve Nash for a longish interview, which is featured in the May issue.

I'm not linking to it because it's not online anywhere that I can find, which is something of a relief, because I also promised ESPN I would not link to porn. So you'll have to go buy it yourself, and when you do, be sure to tell everyone that you really want to read the articles.

If there's a more insightful Steve Nash interview out there, I have not seen it. And it's a relief to find this one, honestly. I cringe when reporters approach Steve Nash for a halftime interview. He always ends up looking like it's painful for him to be addressed in such an artificial way.

The way most of the media relates to most NBA players is predicated on the notion you should talk to players with a certain mindlessness that you'd never use on your friends. You know the famous scene in "Bull Durham" when the older veteran teaches the young whipper-snapper to handle media interviews only with rote, mindless responses? Half the time, it seems sports reporters are asking questions with the same playbook: "Tonight you shot 8 for 12. What was the key to such hot shooting?"

I realize this question is fishing for an answer like: "Well golly gee, ol' Coach D'Antoni noticed a little something funny in practice yesterday with how I place my thumb, and ever since we corrected that, everything is just right as rain."

But 99% of the time the true answer is that you practice all the time, and in games you shoot 'em when you're open, and sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't, and it would be sweet relief to be set free from the decades-long quest to pretend we can explain it much more than that.

The Nash interview is long, and covers a ton of ground, from how often he shampoos, how NBA groupies should behave, and what his two-year-old kids think about his career. There's a ton of interesting stuff.

For instance, I'm sure someone will make a big fuss about Nash's admission that his agent, Bill Duffy, arranged for Nash to work out with Jason Kidd and Gary Payton while Nash was still at Santa Clara.

I know there are NCAA rules about that kind of stuff, but let's be honest, this particular kind of contact between agents, NBA players, and college players is neither uncommon nor especially hurtful. The bigger problem is the charade that top college players are free to enjoy amateurism, while all kinds of stuff is happening on campus.

Wait, you say, but if this kind of contact was allowed, we'd have agents and runners lined up ten deep at courtside of college games, trying to wow impressionable young players with promises of this or that and the other thing! Umm, if that's the nightmare scenario? The nightmare is now, people. I say we admit it and move on to worrying about how to make that reality better serve basketball fans and players. Like this, for instance.

I digress. (Boy, do I ever?)

Wasn't I talking about Playboy?

Kevin Cook asks Nash what a Canadian says when you step on his foot, and the answer is "excuse me." I love Nash's reply: "That's not a joke. That's true. But you can be laid-back in life and fierce in your profession." Amen.

Then he puts that I'm-going-to-stay-positive-but-I'm-not-backing down message into practice with talk about the NBA's image, race, war, and various other little things.

PLAYBOY: Were you offended when a few sportswriters said you had won your MVP awards over Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James because you're white?

NASH: They talked about racism. I said there might be reverse racism going on.

PLAYBOY: You meant it may be harder for a white guy in the NBA.

NASH: I didn't say it was the case. I said it was possible.

PLAYBOY: Eminem said that about hiphop. He felt he had to prove himself twice over because he was white. Do you feel like a minority in your game?

NASH: It's a black man's game. The numbers support that view. The question is, What does it mean to me? Nothing. The ball is orange.

PLAYBOY: What about the league? Is the NBA worried about its image?

NASH: The league is concerned. All businesses are concerned about their public image.

PLAYBOY: You took a political stand at the 2003 All-Star Game, wearing a T-shirt that read No War -- Shoot for Peace. Opposing the invasion of Iraq seems awfully smart now. Do you feel vindicated?

NASH: I don't need to feel vindicated about Iraq. Look, it's not about "I told you so." I just don't believe in aggressive war. Aggression should be a last resort. I didn't think we had done all we could to find weapons of mass destruction before launching an invasion. That's all. I wasn't being anti-American or anti-Bush. And I didn't say you have to believe what I believe. I just wanted everyone to try to be a little more informed, to dig a little deeper.

PLAYBOY: You're not anti-Bush?

NASH: I don't want to spend time being anti-anyone.