For a player who won the NBA Most Valuable Player award twice, Steve Nash didn't look much like a professional basketball player. Lean and shaggy-haired, Nash resembled a marching band member who accidentally wandered onto the court. But for a multi-year stretch in the last decade, Nash, who announced his retirement on Saturday, was better than them all. A dazzling point guard who combined precise passing skill with a devastating jump shot, Nash drove an up-tempo Phoenix Suns team that evoked memories of Magic Johnson's Showtime Los Angeles Lakers.
Nash's 19-year career provided no shortage of on-court heroics. But his real legacy may be his exceptional willingness to speak out politically. As the U.S. planned its invasion of Iraq in early 2003, Nash, then with the Dallas Mavericks, appeared in warmups wearing a t-shirt that read "No War. Shoot For Peace." He didn't back down while speaking to reporters.
I believe that us going to war would be a mistake. Being a humanitarian, I think that war is wrong in 99.9 percent of all cases. I think it has much more to do with oil or some sort of distraction, because I don't feel as though we should be worrying about Iraq.
Nash's comments provoked a fierce reaction in the media, particularly by journalists outraged that a professional athlete had the temerity to express an political opinion. ESPN gadfly Skip Bayless, then of the San Jose Mercury News, told Nash to "shut up and play" and reminded readers that basketball players "are paid money because they serve as an escape." Dave Krieger of the Rocky Mountain News, meanwhile, said that athletes "seldom know what they're talking about."