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Steve Nash's bite-free soccer match

6/26/2014

NEW YORK -- On the eve of the NBA draft, Dirk Nowitzki, Wilson Chandler and Steve Nash traded in their dunks for cleats at Sara D. Roosevelt Park in New York City for the seventh annual Steve Nash Foundation Showdown. Nash, who grew up playing soccer in Canada, scored a goal in the first few minutes and never looked back as his squad defeated Nowitzki’s 10-7.

After running up and down the soccer pitch, the three players can rest tomorrow and watch the United States take on Germany for a spot in the round of 16.

“I think it’s going to be a German win,” Nash said. “I think the United States is going to play great to put up a battle. Let’s hope it’s close enough that they get though.”

Germany failed to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London in both soccer and basketball, but Nowitzki has played for the German national basketball team since 1997. One year later, he declared for the NBA Draft and made himself at home in Dallas since.

“Hopefully it’s a tie and both teams get to go through,” Nowitzki said. “That’s what I’m pulling for, but when push come to shove, I’ll obviously pick Germany.”

Chandler is only following the United States team during the World Cup. The Denver Nuggets forward has not lost hope after Portugal scored in the 95th minute to steal a victory from the Americans.

“I think we’ll win 4-3,” Chandler said. “Last game, I was in the airport while on my way here. I turned my back for maybe 30 seconds when it was 2-1 and everyone went crazy because Portugal scored. I turned around was like ‘Ohhh no.’”

Chandler has yet to see the clip of Luis Suarez of Uruguay biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, but remembers a similar incident involving teeth and playing defense against the Golden State Warriors in 2010.

“When I was with the Knicks, we played against David Lee and the Warriors,” Chandler said. “At one point during the game, we both tried coming down for a rebound and my tooth ended up in his elbow. That’s the closest to biting in the game.”

Nash has never experienced the wrath of teeth in the NBA.

“It’s tough. Athletes live on the edge,” Nash said. “ They have to be emotionally under control and that can be difficult. Unfortunately, he’s done it a number of times.”

Fans still swarmed Nowitzki after a game where he kicked more soccer balls out of the park than on goal. Nowitzki chuckled at the mention of Suarez after the game.

“That was a little aggressive,” Nowitzki said. “Thankfully, I’ve never been bitten before.”

Mike Dunleavy, Jr. of the Chicago Bulls did not play, but sat on the sidelines offering words of encouragement to members of Nowitzki’s squad. When asked if a championship title was in the line and there was a guarantee that he would not get caught, he may be OK with biting.

“I’ve never experienced biting in the NBA, but there are a lot of other weird things that have been done and I can’t get into,” Dunleavy said. “I’d also do anything I have to in order to win.”

Several fans in the stands and on the sidelines wore white T-shirts with black bold letters that read ‘Bite-Free Game.’ No players were bitten. No red cards were handed out, although Nowitzki fell to the ground once and contested with the referee.

Nash remained undefeated in his own tournament. More importantly, several NBA players looked to develop awareness for soccer in America with a friendly match in New York City.

“Soccer needs time,” Nash said. “Basketball didn’t grow overnight. Tradition took time to develop over 20 to 30 years and it’s grown every year since.”