Hair Canada turns down Raptors, heads to L.A.

Soon to be teammates Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. - Photobucket.
Soon to be teammates Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.
— image credit: Photobucket.

So Hair Canada Steve Nash is now off to Lalaland to join the Lakers after a brief flirtation with the Toronto Raptors. My first thought is anger followed by more anger.

Ever since the Vancouver Grizzlies left for Memphis, Toronto has become my and many other Western Canadian's favourite NBA team. It hasn't been easy. When Vancouver had a team, the Raptors were a bitter rival. They always seemed to be a little bit better. They had Damon Stoudamire, Vince Carter, and Tracy McGrady, while we had "Big Country" Reeves, Lawrence Moten, and Cherokee Parks.

When the Grizzlies moved to Memphis, followed by the Seattle Supersonics moving on, I was forced to find another favourite team which, out of patriotism, grudgingly, became Toronto.

It hasn't been easy. All the great players have left T.O. for the U.S. leaving behind a bottom dwelling team of mostly motley misfits. Would Nash have brought a title to the Raptors, probably not, but they would have instantly had more credibility and been a lot more exciting.

Steve Nash is, of course, the greatest Canadian basketball player of all time. A two-time former NBA MVP, Nash has given hope to thousands of Canadian youngsters after succeeding in a sport filled with incredibly athletic giants.

Nash to the Raptors seemed like a great fit. Finishing his career in Canada would a crowning achievement indeed. And as the newly named general manager of Basketball Canada, what a great place to transition from player to executive as he turns around our national program.

I got the chance to watch Nash grow up and grow into the amazing basketball player he is today. I was fortunate to be living in Victoria and going to university at the time. I also coached a junior boys team at Oak Bay Secondary that competed regularly against Nash's Arbutus Aztecs team. Of course, we never came close but it was fun trying to stop him.

Later that spring, I played in spring league with Nash. Even as a ninth grader, he was the star of our team.

He was thrilling to watch, but I never expected him to make the show. I even bet someone I knew a pizza that he wouldn't. Not that I wasn't confident in him, but no one from Canada ever makes the NBA and certainly not a skinny, (relatively) short, white kid.

Of course, Nash bucked the odds again and again. His high school coach sent out video tapes (remember those) of his highlights to college coaches. The coach at Santa Clara was the only one to bite and the rest, they say, is history.

Back then not many Canadians played college ball in the United States and most came back early disillusioned over lack of playing time or other politics. But Nash, of course, excelled and led Santa Clara to a couple of NCAA tournaments.

He was eventually drafted 15th in the 1996 draft and went on to a fine NBA career capped by two MVP awards.

In addition to being a class act on the court, Nash is also classy off the court. In 2001 he formed the Steve Nash Foundation to foster health in kids by funding projects for children. He has also sponsored the Steve Nash Youth Basketball League which is found throughout B.C. including Castlegar.

I can tell you one thing he did a few years ago that I still remember. Back several years ago I coached the Kootenay Summer Games basketball team. One of our players, Molly from Grand Forks, would later be diagnosed with bone cancer in her knee. I placed a call to Nash, and a couple of days later he was visiting her in her hospital room in Vancouver.

There was no media coverage of this event, just someone doing the right thing to help someone else out. I can tell you, Molly really enjoyed the visit and he helped build up the spirit of a 15 year-old going through cancer treatment. Like I said, classy through and through.

With his career in the twilight years, Nash is now headed to Los Angeles. Last year, at 38 he had another superb season in Phoenix ending with 12.5 points per game and 10.7 assists per outing.

Does he have enough left in the tank to help lead L.A. back to the promised land and help Kobe win another ring? Don't count out the floppy haired kid from Canada. After all, it seems a natural transition from playing with me to playing with Kobe.


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