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Double dribbler

Steve Nash, a two-time MVP in the NBA, has always had dual passions: basketball and soccer


May 16, 2007

Steve Nash just doesn't look the part of an NBA Most Valuable Player. Though he's 6-foot-3, he doesn't seem tall. At 195 pounds, he's slight but not skinny. Before he cut it last summer, his long, floppy brown hair made him look like a candidate to play the role of Liam Gallagher in an Oasis cover band, rather than one of the planet's best basketball players.

Truth is, he looks like an “every man.” He's the guy you go have a beer with, not the one you see on TV in the beer commercial. Of course, being one of only nine players in the history of the sport to win consecutive MVP awards (in 2005 and 2006) tends to reaffirm what your mother used to tell you about judging books by their covers.

But when he has the ball, Nash is many things. Playmaker. Distributor. Entertainer. General. The one who runs the show.

We've all seen it before. Nash gets a pass from a teammate, and begins his forward march toward the goal, darting in and out of a maze of defenders, displaying deft ball handling ability and unshakable control before delivering a no-look pass to a teammate, who finishes.

That sounds like any of the thousands of fast breaks Nash has run to near perfection in his 11-year NBA career. But it is an equally accurate description of Steve Nash on the soccer pitch.

While most of the world recognizes Nash as the little Canadian point guard, a five-time All-Star whose Phoenix Suns squad is now in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, few know about his passion for soccer.

The Nash family grew up with soccer in their blood. Steve's father was born and raised in North London, and played professionally in South Africa. Nash's brother, Martin, plays professionally in Canada, and has more than 30 international appearances for Canada's national team.

The Nashes are avid fans of Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League. In high school, Steve played soccer and basketball, winning British Columbia high school player of the year in both sports during his senior year.

Online:To see how adept Steve Nash is with a soccer ball, go to and click on the “Kick It” video.
Nash, who lives in Manhattan with his wife and children in the offseason, has been known to saunter down to one of the many sandlot soccer fields in New York City and play a random pickup game with the locals. Last summer, he worked out with the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer during the team's training sessions. And in February, he even expressed interest in investing in Tottenham, or being part of an ownership consortium if the team goes up for sale.

Earlier this season, Nash took some time to talk about “the beautiful game.”

Question: What role did soccer play in your life and how did that background help you as you started playing basketball?

Nash: It was great for me to play a great sport and learn a lot about athletics. Soccer taught me a lot of coordination and footwork, skills and vision. And I had a very passionate father who loved it, so you know it was a lot of fun for us. It really helped my basketball career. A lot of the skills are the same on the soccer field and the basketball court, so when I was allowed to actually use my hands, it almost felt unfair for me.

Q: A lot of your teammates are soccer fans, too. Do you guys ever get to just kick it around at all?

N: Yeah, we're always messing around in practice, so I think I'm converting everyone into soccer players.

Q: Will Canada ever qualify for another World Cup?

N: I don't know. We'll see. Hopefully, the new MLS team in Toronto will help improve the national team situation.

Q: (San Antonio Spurs guard) Tony Parker is pretty good friends with (French star) Thierry Henry. Do you have any soccer friends, too?

N: Yeah, I know Thierry well also. I speak to him every month or so. I'm pretty close with Alessandro Del Piero. Massimo Ambrosini is a good friend. Owen Hargreaves at Bayern Munich is a good friend, and actually Steve McManaman, who is retired now, is a very good friend as well.

Q: Who are some of your favorite players to watch?

N: Well, you know Thierry is fantastic. (Zinedine) Zidane was one of my favorites. I love the Brazilian players, too. Del Piero has had an unbelievable career, maybe the best player ever at Juventus.

Q: You guys were over in Italy before the season and you had a chance to take in the AC Milan-Siena match. What was that like just to be there with your teammates?

N: It was great. I was really happy to be able to share that with my teammates. I get to go all the time, but for some of them, it was something new.

Q: OK, who is the best soccer player in the NBA?

N: Other than myself?

Q: Oh, so you are the best then?

N: (Laughing) Yes. No doubt.

Q: OK, who's second best?

N: I have no idea. I don't know who is really good. Probably a foreigner though.

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