Steve Nash won two NBA MVPs, played with Dirk Nowitzki, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and delivered an 18-year pro career that earned a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Which made what Nash said 14 minutes into his 21-minute induction speech so special.
“The greatest experience of my career was playing the Olympic Games for Canada,” Nash said on Friday night.
It’s no surprise given a memorable story from Nash’s one Olympics, Sydney 2000, the only time Canada has qualified for the Games in the Dream Team era.
Nash had practiced with the national team since age 16, played in the 1994 World Championship at age 19 and was MVP of the 1999 Tournament of the Americas, leading Canada to a silver medal to join the U.S. in the Olympic field.
In Sydney, Nash led a Canadian team that topped its group, upsetting Yugoslavia, then lost in the quarterfinals to eventual silver medalist France by five points. Had it beaten France, Canada would have earned a medal with a win in either of its last two games.
“I feel like I let everyone down,” Nash reportedly said that day. “We could have been in the championship game. We were good enough.”
After the game the fans filtered out to the strains of a haunting, plaintive song by Moby called Porcelain, which had been the soundtrack every post-game of the tournament. I packed and made my way downstairs to the mixed zone – the area where athletes and press are allowed to converge. I reached it just in time to see Nash coming down the tunnel with each of his arms around the shoulders of a teammate.
The teammates – I think it was Rowan Barrett and Sherman Hamilton, but here time has, as I mentioned, faded the details – were literally dragging Nash off the floor. They were because Nash was sobbing so heavily — his chest heaving, the tears streaming, his voice choking – he was unable to walk.
Nash never made it back to the Olympics as a player, but he was an integral part of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games as one of four Canadian athletes chosen to light the indoor cauldron at the Opening Ceremony.
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