The Phoenix Suns, who played a Nash tribute video on the arena big screens during the first timeout in Sunday’s game, love the surefire future Hall of Fame point guard more than any franchise. But the Mavs are a not-too-distant second.
Here’s how some prominent members of the Mavs organization, most of whom had close ties with the two-time MVP, will remember Nash:
Power forward Dirk Nowitzki, Nash’s teammate from 1999-2004: “Honestly, for a whatever, 5-10 guy from a little town in Canada, he had an amazing run. Amazing run. He was one of the fiercest competitors I’ve been around in my 17 years in the league. He always worked on his game, always worked on his health, on his body, on his core strength and legs. I mean, he was just constantly working out. He was an animal, and he had that drive and he also had the mental toughness.
“Most nights, he was outmatched physically and speed-wise at the point guard, and he took those matchups every night and competed. There were some years where I felt he was our toughest guy out there, getting in fights, getting in scraps. That’s the kind of guy he was, one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever seen.
“He helped me make it in this league. My first year was extremely tough. I didn’t know anybody and my family was far away, and he was the one. He’d been in the league two years in Phoenix, so he kind of knew his way around. He knew people, he’d gone to college in the states, so every time when we were on the road instead of me just sitting in my hotel room thinking about my hometown, he got me out. He got me going. ‘Hey, let’s go get dinner. Let’s go to a movie.’
“He was big for me, on and off the floor, my first couple of years. And so was Fin. Those two guys supported me and wanted me to get better and pushed me. Once I did get better, they shared the limelight with me. Those two guys are my friends for life. I’ll never forget that.”
Executive Michael Finley, Nash’s teammate with the Suns from 1995-97 and with the Mavs from 1998-2004: “He was one of my favorite teammates of all-time. He was a consummate pro, very unselfish. His career was unbelievable. He’ll go down as one of the best point guards to ever play the game, a future Hall of Famer without a doubt. To see where he came from to where he ended is just a great story.
“I played with him here in Phoenix first. We worked out before practice and after practice, and I just saw his work ethic. I saw the skills that he had. He just lost a little bit of confidence when he came to Dallas because he was playing hurt, but I knew that once he got back to being himself that he had a chance to be a great point guard. Future Hall of Famer? At that time, I didn’t see it, but he proved a lot of people wrong.”
Center/forward Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash’s teammate with the Suns from 2004-10: “Probably one of the greatest point guards of all-time, if you ask me. I think he played the game the way the game should have been played. He’s a team-first kind of guy. He’s the ultimate team player.
“He was maybe one of the greatest shooters in the game of basketball, but he was reluctant to shoot because he wanted his teammates to get a lot of shine and glory. He made the best out of us. All of us thrived and improved because of him and vice versa.”
Equipment manager Al Whitley, Nash’s childhood friend: “To be honest with you, it’s still almost unthinkable what he achieved in the NBA considering where we came from. For what he did and what he accomplished is truly incredible. For me to be a small piece of it along the way, growing up as kids together and then to see him and see what he did in the NBA is a truly unique experience that I’ll treasure forever.”
Owner Mark Cuban: “Any guy who wins two MVPs, you describe his career as amazing. He had a big impact on Dirk’s career. Who knows what would have happened if they’d gone in a different direction. He had an amazing career.
“I mean, who knows how things would have turned out [if the Mavs didn’t let Nash leave in free agency]? But it is what it is. All I could do was take the best advice I had going for me. It was at a time when we had the better team and lost four out of five to Sacramento in the first round. So you know, it was a different time, a different set of circumstances. If I knew then what I know now, it would probably be different. All I knew was that I was being told we were going to have to cut his minutes. Whoops.”
Coach Rick Carlisle: “He has been a game-changer in this league. If he hadn’t come along with D’Antoni’s teams here in Phoenix, I think our game would look different than it does now. What those guys did led by him really redefined the NBA in many ways. Consecutive, back-to-back MVPs I think validates that completely.
“You don’t want to see a guy that great with that much integrity have to go out injured and things like that, but everyone will remember how great he was. Very few people will remember how it ended. That seven-seconds-or-less stuff was just out of this world.”