Steve Nash has been ruled out this season by the Los Angeles Lakers, and his basketball career is likely over.
Because of a recurring nerve damage in his back, the 40-year-old point guard may have to call it quits. Nash’s career spanned 19 seasons in the NBA. He was named MVP twice and made the All-Star game eight times. He ranks third all-time in assists (10,335) behind only John Stockton (15,806) and Jason Kidd (12,091).
The only box unchecked on Nash’s basketball resume is a championship. He never got to play in the NBA Finals, one of only six NBA MVPs who do not have a championship ring. The other five are Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant.
Canada’s best-known basketball export will go down in history as one of the best point guards to play the game of basketball. However, to say Nash was the best to play the position would be a slap in the face to the legends who played before him.
OneManFastBreak ranks the 10 best point guards in basketball history:
10-STEVE NASH — Nash is the only two-time MVP winner not to reach The Finals. He captured his first regular season MVP in 2005, leading the Suns to the NBA’s best record, but the San Antonio Spurs bounced Nash and a loaded Suns squad that also featured Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, and Joe Johnson in the Western Conference finals. Then in 2006 Nash won his second MVP award but was eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks led by his buddy Dirk Nowitzki, who removed himself from the ringless fraternity in 2011. Voters made a huge mistake by giving Nash the MVP in 2006. Nash didn’t deserve to win it over Kobe Bryant, who had one of the best statistical seasons and delivered the signature moment of the year when he scored 81 points against Toronto. Nash is hoping for one last hurrah with the Lakers, but time is not on his side.
9-GARY PAYTON — The brash player known around the basketball world as “The Glove” was one of the best two-way players who’ll ever find. At 6-4, Payton is a big guard who used his size and quickness to pester opponents. Payton was the head of the snake of Seattle’s vaunted fullcourt-pressing, halfcourt-trapping defense that powered the Sonics to the 1996 NBA Finals. Payton’s career took off when head coach George Karl unleashed him in his frenetic system. Payton was also a notorious trash talker. When The Glove smelled blood in the water, he pounced like a piranha. He is the only point guard in league history to win Defensive Player of the Year. He was named to the NBA’s first-team all-defense team nine times and ranks fourth all-time in steals with 2,445. He reached the NBA Finals twice, winning it all with the Miami Heat in 2006.
8-JASON KIDD — Ever since bursting onto the scene as a high school phenom from Oakland, Calif., Jason Kidd has been a winner all of his career. He won a state title in high school, he took Cal to the Sweet 16, he took the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals and he led the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA title in 2011. He is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist, leading Team USA in 2000 in Sydney and in 2008 in Beijing. Kidd owns a total of five gold medals in international competition and a mind-boggling 56-0 international record in Olympics, Olympic qualifying and exhibition games. He ranks second on the all-time NBA list in steals (2,684) and assists (12,091), and third in 3-point field goals made (1,988). His 107 triple-doubles ranks only behind Hall-of-Famers Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.
7-TONY PARKER — Once San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gave the keys to Parker to run his team, the Spurs busted out of their conservative shell and became more dynamic. They went from driving a Cadillac to driving a Ferrari, with Parker holding the steering wheel. Parker’s greatest contribution to the game is a shot he may not have created but he has certainly perfected: the floater. Some call it “the runner” or “the teardrop” or “the push shot.” It’s a devastating weapon against big men, and it is used today by nearly all the guards at all levels. Despite all of his accomplishments, including winning the 2007 NBA Finals MVP and owning three NBA titles, Parker is rarely mentioned when basketball experts talk about the best point guards in the NBA. But Parker is OK with that. “For me I’ve been in San Antonio for so long I don’t really pay attention to top-five point guards,” Parker said. “They always forget about me anyways. It doesn’t matter to me anymore, seriously. I just play for the city of San Antonio, for the Spurs and all our fans, Coach Pop, my teammates. That’s what keeps me going.”
6-BOB COUSY — You can’t write the history of basketball without mentioning Bob Cousy. “The Houdini of the Hardwood” was a pure basketball showman. He was the foundation of a Boston Celtics dynasty in the 1950s and ’60s. He is a six-time NBA champion and was named league MVP in 1957. He is one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history. The Cooz was way ahead of his time. In an era when guards walked the ball down the court and dumped the ball into the big men, Cousy pushed the tempo and threw behind-the-back passes. He revolutionized the point guard position. He also possessed one of the best handles. When coach Red Auerbach needed to close the game, he turned to Cousy to dribble out the clock.
5-DENNIS JOHNSON — DJ wasn’t blessed with a ton of athletic ability, but he made himself into an outstanding two-way player. During his 13-year playing career with the Seattle SuperSonics, the Phoenix Suns, and the Boston Celtics, Johnson established himself as one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. He hounded Magic Johnson into a rough series in the 1984 NBA Finals in which the Celtics won. He had quick hands and a strong base, making it hard for opposing guards to score on him. He was named to five All-Star teams and nine straight all-defensive teams. He was a member of three NBA championship squads (two in Boston and one in Seattle), and his postseason heroics earned him a reputation as a money player. He was the Finals MVP in 1979 for the Sonics, and co-authored one of the signature moments in playoff history when he finished the game-winning layup off a steal by Larry Bird in the 1987 series against the Detroit Pistons. Remember the great call by Celtics announcer Johnny Most: “And there’s a steal by Bird! Underneath to DJ, lays it in!” Bird calls Dennis Johnson the best player he’s ever played with.
4-JOHN STOCKTON — If we’re strictly basing everything on statistics, then Stockton should be considered the No. 1 player on this list. He is the NBA’s all-time leader in assists (15,806) and steals (3,265). Both records could stand for a long, long time. Stockton played his entire pro career with the Utah Jazz. He led the Jazz to 19 playoff appearances and took them to the NBA Finals twice, losing both times to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Stockton benefitted greatly from having one of the greatest scoring power forwards in the game in Karl Malone, but that shouldn’t diminish what Stockton meant to the Jazz. He may not say a whole lot on the court, but he was a tenacious competitor who pushed the envelop on some of those nasty screens. What is it dirty? Probably. Stockton played to win, even if he had to bend the rules a bit. Gary Payton calls Stockton tougher to defend than Michael Jordan.
3-OSCAR ROBERTSON — “The Big O” is the player against whom all others labeled “all-around” are judged, and he may remain the standard forever. Statistically, one need look no further than the numbers Robertson put up in 1961-62, just his second year in the league: 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game-an average of a triple-double for an entire season. Not even Magic Johnson or Larry Bird could match those numbers. During his 14-year NBA career with the Cincinnati Royals and the Milwaukee Bucks, Robertson amassed 26,710 points. He won his only NBA title as a member of the Bucks in 1971. His average of 25.7 points per game ranks as the sixth-highest mark ever among retired players, and he averaged 30 points or more in six seasons. Robertson was the NBA’s all-time leader in assists (9,887) when he retired. He also averaged 7.5 rebounds for his career and led his team in rebounding once, a rare feat for a guard. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, The Big O was the first dominant guard. Celtics coach Red Auerbach said: “He is so great he scares me.”
2-ISIAH THOMAS — Zeke was the unquestioned leader of the “Motor City Bad Boys.” Don’t let that million-dollar smile fool ya. Thomas was a stone-cold killer who didn’t back down from a fight. He and Joe Dumars was arguably the two toughest players on a squad with a bunch of rough riders. Thomas never got the credit he richly deserved because his Pistons were not part of the glamour teams. The Pistons won two NBA titles with a grit-and-grind approach that didn’t resonate with basketball fans. They ended the Celtics and Lakers dynasties, and was the major roadblock for the Bulls. Thomas had two unforgettable playoff moments. The first was the great shootout with Bernard King in the 1984 playoffs in which Zeke scored 16 points in 94 seconds to force overtime. The second was his epic gutsy performance in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals against the Lakers in which he scored 25 points in the third quarter despite a badly sprained ankle. It defined Thomas’ career.
1-MAGIC JOHNSON — Forget positions for a moment. Based on impact alone, Magic is arguably one of the best players to ever play the game. He changed the game. He was a power forward with major-league handles and unbelievable vision. No one in the history of basketball has ever seen a player like Magic. At 6-9 and 215 pounds, he was a matchup nightmare. He averaged 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists for his career. He blew past forwards and posted up smaller guards. And you’ll never find a better passer on a 3-on-2 or 2-0n-1 fastbreak. Also, he was a tremendous leader on and off the court. When he led, players followed. He earned three NBA MVPs and led the L.A. Lakers to five championships. The signature moment of the career came in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the hated Boston Celtics. With the Lakers down by one point, Magic drove the lane and threw up a baby skyhook over two defenders to give the Lakers the lead. After the game, Larry Bird said: “Magic is just a great player.”
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.