By Carol Crenna
Even if you’re not a basketball fan, you have to admire the perseverance that propelled Steve Nash to NBA stardom. His journey makes us proud, and continues to make points with fans as he runs back and forth from the court to community charity events. Here Steve talks to me about reaching for success in every aspect of life.
CAROL: You’ve come a long way. It’s been said that the odds of an American high school basketball player making it to the NBA are 7,600 to 1. For a Caucasian Canadian who didn’t play basketball the year that college scouts recruited, and who only stands 6 feet 1 inch (although official NBA records list you at 6 feet 3 inches), odds were not in your favour.
STEVE NASH: I used to tape NBA games, watch what the players did, and then go into the school yard and try to emulate them. After basketball practice, I went back to the gym at 11:00 p.m. and practiced until 1:00 a.m.
CAROL: You confidently told your mother in high school that you would play in the NBA?
STEVE NASH: Well, I was saying it pretty young.
CAROL: And Broncos Coach Dick Davey said that he’d never seen anyone as dedicated to self-improvement.
You had to try hard to get a basketball scholarship, then to get noticed by American scouts, and then to prove yourself to NBA coaches and teammates. You were traded from the Phoenix Suns, where you didn’t get much play, to the Dallas Mavericks. Is it true that you got booed by your own team’s fans?
STEVE NASH: I got booed in Dallas by the whole building during one game. It was the first NBA game that my brother, Martin, who was playing professional soccer in England at the time, had watched me play in. I was upset when they all booed. I looked up at Martin in the stands, and he was laughing at me. His laughter put the situation in perspective — it wasn’t really that big a deal. And from that moment, I thought, “Not many people get to face this adversity, with this many people wishing you ill-will at one time; I have a great opportunity to show them what I can do, and win them over.” It motivated me to work even harder.
CAROL: As we all know, as a Phoenix Suns’ point guard, you’ve won NBA’s Most Valuable Player twice, and are only rivaled by Wayne Gretzsky as Canada’s most celebrated sports hero. Your hero is Ghandi.
STEVE NASH: I admire Ghandi’s strength. He put himself to the test, constantly putting his own motives under suspicion. Considering how dishonest we often are with ourselves, that’s pretty remarkable. When our lives are so fast-paced, to slow down and be aware of where the truth lies from moment to moment is very difficult.
CAROL: How do you view success?
STEVE NASH: Happiness and balance. Basketball is a big part of my life, but that’s because it gives me something to focus on, challenge myself with, and grow from. I’m always learning about myself through playing it. I feel that I’m “successful” only because it gives me great fulfillment and happiness.
CAROL: The Steve Nash Foundation is focused on helping kids have access to nutrition, clean water, schooling and a safe environment, right?
STEVE NASH: It’s all about kids; whoever and where ever they are. It’s centred around underserved children, from birth to high school, and on healthcare. It focuses on reducing variables that prevent kids from having their basic human rights or living a life that will allow them to reach their goals.
CAROL: What is your legacy for your own children?
STEVE NASH: I want them to feel loved, supported and secure. Growing up with a stable base allows them to become engaged and active citizens who want to do their part and to follow their dreams. Sometimes it takes a lot of guts to feel secure. If I can help to create that feeling to be able to deal with life’s ups and downs, that would be my legacy. It does take time to develop that, and even though I travel all over the map, I definitely like to spend quality time with them.
CAROL: Are they interested in physical activities?
STEVE NASH: My twin girls (Isabella and Lourdes) aren’t interested in sports yet, but that will come; I don’t want to push them…
STEVE NASH: My father played semi-professional soccer in South Africa, and my mother played netball for the Victoria, BC, team. When I was a kid, I sat on the sidelines and watched my mother play sometimes; they put me in the game once or twice when they were short a player.
CAROL: Is it true that your very first word was “goal,” not “mama”?
STEVE NASH: Yes. My father takes credit. He would raise my arms above his head saying, “Goal!”
CAROL: Do you do typical father-stuff with your kids?
STEVE NASH: At this moment, my young son is roaming around on the floor in front of me; I like to take him when doing errands. I take my daughters to and from school; and we play, read books and do art.
CAROL: Why do you promote environmentalism?
STEVE NASH: We make a huge impact on our planet; it seems pressing that we change our ways. It should not just be about conserving in British Columbia (where I am from); it’s about the entire planet. We need all resources everywhere for everyone. We must take a leadership role; the fact that we have a lot of resources should motivate us to conserve them, and to be an example for others. It’s about being part of the global community.
CAROL: What do you do personally or the planet?
STEVE NASH: At home, my family does little things: we try not to waste water; we use environmentally-safe cleaners; and we conserve energy by turning off the lights. And we do big things: I have solar panels on the house in Arizona; I drive a hybrid; and living in New York City in the summer, I don’t drive. I’m not perfect, but I feel like I’ve come a long way. As a B.C. Hydro Team PowerSmart member, our film production company, Meathawk (which made the acclaimed Into the Wind Terry Fox documentary), produced videos encouraging people to go green.
CAROL: Do you teach your kids about planet protection?
STEVE NASH: My kids continue to teach me. The other day, I was walking with my seven-year-old daughter, and had been carrying a glass juice bottle for a long while. Since there wasn’t a recycling bin to be found, eventually, I threw it into the garbage. My daughter said, “Why did you throw that glass bottle in the garbage?” And I said, “You’re right. Daddy was lazy. I should have held on to it until we got home.”
CAROL: What do you eat for energy?
STEVE NASH: It’s a secret.
CAROL: It probably isn’t Wheaties. (Nash’s photo was once emblazoned on the brand’s cereal box.)
STEVE NASH: Of course it is! I’m a very healthy eater. Nutrition is important, and I believe that you are what you eat. I also think balance is a key. I don’t believe in overdoing it or creating unrealistic boundaries for yourself, but it’s a huge part of trying to become a better athlete.
CAROL: You eat a lot of raw food, right? Which is good, because I hear you don’t cook.
STEVE NASH: No I don’t cook. I try to eat as much raw, natural food as possible. I eat a lot of salads, and I eat out at healthy restaurants. Staying away from refined sugars, wheat and gluten has helped my ability to recover (from training), and my immune and nervous systems work better.
CAROL: Do you feel that having a personal trainer is vital?
STEVE NASH: I only started working with a personal trainer in the last few years, and now I realize the advantages of having one. If you can continue to be educated about yourself, that’s when you can really hit your stride ─ instead of just going to a gym and mindlessly working out.
CAROL: Why did you put your name to Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Clubs?
STEVE NASH: I got involved in the gyms because it made sense to me. The business opportunity came my way, offered by a very experienced fitness facility developer. I spent a lot of my life in gyms so I wanted to do business in areas that I’m passionate about.
CAROL: Is it true that you think your brother Martin is the best athlete in the family?
STEVE NASH: Martin rarely practiced and still played for Canada. It drove me crazy only because I wished that he had tried harder to find even greater success, but not because he was better at it than me. You have to be hard-working or you won’t get there, no matter how talented you are.
CAROL: What do you hope fans remember you for?
STEVE NASH: That I try to be myself. I’m always trying to learn and grow as a person, and I want the same for my fans. I want kids to always keep learning and being more aware. If that influence rubs off on them, I think they will have a lot of enjoyment in life.
Article content originally written by Carol Crenna for Canada Wide Media/BC Hydro PowerSmart Supplement (March 2012) and for a Vista Magazine article.