By David “D-Wil” Wilson
I’ve been a critic of “Little Stevie Wonder-Nash.” Naw, that’s not even fair. I’ve slammed Nash. Ciphered his stats into oblivion. Got in cross-country pissing contests with NBA-only bloggers about B.C.’s second most wanted import. Attributed his two MVP awards to white mainstream media bias (which I maintain is most def’, in part, true).
I’ll step off Mr. Nash as a baller. I’m almost always one to take the word on an insider, a coach, an athlete or ex-athlete, or GM, over the word of me, another blogger, or the most-respected sportswriter in the country. And I will do the same now.
Check out what Bill Russell had to say about the man I will henceforth refer to as, “Mr. Nash” or “Mr. Steve Nash” or “Little Stevie Fingertips” (for his role in getting the Sam’s Microfiber Club Quasi-Euro-Ball” banished to appearances on NBA and NBA-related commercials filmed prior to the start of the season):
“I think, on the world stage, he’s one of our great athletes in all sports,” Russell said last night by telephone. “I’m a big fan. The two M.V.P.’s he got, he deserved. Part of the reason that he’s so good and so effective is that the guys like playing with him. He creates an atmosphere where they win games.”
Unfortunately, “Mr. Salty,” Isiah Thomas, who still isn’t given his due as one of the three best PGs ever (Magic and Clyde being one and two, Isiah three, Couz and Mr. Nash tied for fourth) chimed in with just a bit more than a touch of bitterness:
And yet, when asked if Nash needed to win an N.B.A. title to be considered great, Thomas said that the M.V.P. award used to have different criteria.
“When I came in, you had to win; that was the bar that the media set,” Thomas said last night before Nash had 22 points and 14 assists. “It was always to me — what Cousy won. Till you win, you can’t be talked about in the same breath as Cousy.”
Russell won 6 of his 11 titles with Bob Cousy at point guard, including in 1956-57, the only season Cousy won his M.V.P. award. Russell said that Thomas’s argument was legitimate, but that Nash’s lack of a title did not diminish his accolades.
“I think that the M.V.P. is for the regular season,” Russell said. “I will say this — first of all, his career is not over. A lot of guys that won championships, they won it after their prime.
And a lot of guys did not win it at all, he added. “Do you consider Charles Barkley great?” said Russell, 72, who was also the M.V.P. in 1957-58 and 1964-65. “You have to consider the body of their work. I’ve been watching the N.B.A. since 1950. And so I’ve known what I was watching, and Steve Nash is one of the guys that stands out over that period.”
Russell went on to provide me, at least, with the ultimate insider quote on the criteria set for dispensing MVP awards:
Russell said he was curious to see how the rest of the season unfolds for Nash and the Suns. In New York to attend a board meeting of his foundation, the National Mentoring Partnership, Russell dismissed talk of Nash’s suspect defense. It is not as if Nash is the only superstar whose defense has been questioned.
“Get in line,” Russell said.
Finally, Mr. Russell inadvertently backed up my earlier statement about the nature of the Suns and what team they are most like:
Asked if Russell would have loved to have played with Nash, he answered with a chuckle. “I played with a guy just like that — and it was fun,” Russell said.
Bob Cousy had something, however, that Nash does not have, Russell added: “He had me.”
Hope ya heard your graddaddy, Amare.
For more of D-Wil’s writing make sure you check out his blog Sports On My Mind.