Steve Nash

AP

Steve Nash puts Olympics atop his basketball career after tearful experience

1 Comment

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.”

From the National Post in Canada in 2015:

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.

MORE: Coach K on his Rio Olympic wish list, LeBron in 2020

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Canada’s return to Olympic basketball on hold after heartbreaking loss; Argentina qualifies

Venezuela
AP
1 Comment

Canada came oh-so-close to making its first Olympic men’s basketball tournament since 2000 on Friday but will now have to wait until one month before the Rio Games for its last chance to qualify.

“Our dreams have just been put on hold,” Canada coach Jay Triano said, according to TSN.

The Canadians, with nine NBA players on their roster, lost 79-78 to Venezuela, with zero NBA players on its roster, in the FIBA Americas semifinals in Mexico.

With the game tied 78-78, Venezuela guard Gregory Vargas was fouled on an offensive rebound with three tenths of a second left (a call held up after review) and hit the first of two free throws to clinch his nation’s first Olympic basketball berth since 1992.

“It was David versus Goliath and we came on top, we leave everything out there,” Venezuela coach Nestor Garcia said, according to The Associated Press. “This is an historic day for Venezuela. Many people doubted that we were capable of this.”

Venezuela joined the U.S., Brazil, Australia and Nigeria in the Olympic field so far. Later Friday, 2004 Olympic champion Argentina beat Mexico 78-70 in the other FIBA Americas semifinal and became the sixth nation to make the Olympic field that will eventually be 12 teams.

Canada, Mexico and fifth-place Puerto Rico advanced to a global, last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in July.

Canada has the talent to compete for a medal in Rio, should it qualify.

Its FIBA Americas roster featured NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph and Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk, who had game highs of 34 points and 13 rebounds against Venezuela.

For the Olympics, it could add Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson.

The talent is much deeper than the 2000 Canadian Olympic team that had two NBA players — eventual two-time MVP Steve Nash and center Todd MacCulloch.

Nash, now the general manager of Team Canada, has said as much and described that 2000 team as “out for a scrap.” It lost by five points to France in the quarterfinals, just missing the chance to play for a medal in Sydney.

Nash was reportedly sobbing and had to be dragged off the floor after that defeat, but he recovered to smuggle beer into the Closing Ceremony the following Sunday.

Canada owns one Olympic basketball medal — silver at Berlin 1936, the first Olympics to include basketball.

Venezuela’s roster at FIBA Americas included Kobe Bryant‘s cousin John Cox. It could add Milwaukee Bucks guard Greivis Vasquez for the Olympics.

Argentina, which has played the U.S. in the last three Olympic semifinals, qualified for Rio without stalwart Manu Ginobili, who at 38 has likely played his final international game.

Argentina’s team at FIBA Americas included 2004 Olympic champions Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni.

MORE BASKETBALL: Five Olympic questions with Steve Nash

*Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported Gregory Vargas was fouled while shooting with three seconds left.

Donovan Bailey jumps off CN Tower; Steve Nash lights cauldron at Pan Am Games Opening Ceremony (video)

Leave a comment

Steve Nash was asked June 24 who he thought would light the cauldron at the Pan American Games Opening Ceremony.

The question clearly caught him unprepared. Nash stumbled and mumbled at first.

Wayne Gretzky,” he eventually said in a telephone interview for this Olympic Q&A, “but there are so many great candidates. Sometimes it’s not the most high-profile athletes.”

Nash was wrong, but maybe he knew all along. It wouldn’t be Gretzky lighting the cauldron in Toronto on Friday night. But it was very much a high-profile athlete.

Nash was the man tapped to light the Pan American Games cauldron at the Opening Ceremony, receiving the flame from the next great Canadian basketball star — NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins (who had received the flame from his mom, 1984 Olympic 400m runner Marita Payne-Wiggins).

It’s the second time Nash, a 2000 Olympian, has been part of a multisport event cauldron lighting in Canada.

In 2010, he helped light the Vancouver Winter Olympic cauldron, after a malfunction delay (Nash remembered that nervous delay in last month’s Q&A).

It capped a night that also started with a highlight. A video was shown of the 1996 Canadian Olympic champion 4x100m relay team running through Toronto with the flame, one torch bearer at a time passing to the next.

Eventually, Bruny Surin carried the flame briskly along the CN Tower EdgeWalk and handed to 1996 Olympic 100m champion Donovan Bailey, just as he did the baton at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Stadium on Aug. 3, 1996.

Bailey then base jumped off the 1,800-foot-high building (via stunt double) — and, in a nice bit of technology — dropped into Rogers Centre with the flame to set off the Opening Ceremony.

Other Canadian legends involved in the Opening Ceremony included Hockey Hall of Famers Bobby Orr and Mark Messier, MLB Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, two-time Olympic triathlon champion Simon Whitfield, two-time Olympic 500m speed skating champion Catriona LeMay Doan and six-time Paralympic track and field medalist Rick Hansen.