Video: Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki wonder what could have been
Steve Nash's season may be finished, but his documentary series with Grantland rolls on. In this latest installment, Nash has the chance to sit down to dinner with former teammate Dirk Nowitzki on a Mavs swing through Los Angeles. It's a ritual of sorts; Nash and Nowitzki are old friends from their earliest days together in Dallas, when Nash was an in-over-his-head point guard prospect and Nowitzki a lottery pick in a new land. Their dinners are an extension of a friendship forged through countless games of one-on-one, a beautiful pick-and-roll partnership and the bunkering of two young players facing waves of criticism.
Thanks to Nash we have the privilege of sitting at the table for one such meeting. You can tell that the conversation might be a bit stiffer than usual, as tends to happen whenever the red light of a camera blinks on. But even while somewhat guarded Nash and Nowitzki still manage to touch on a host of fascinating issues with frankness -- namely what could have been had Nash re-signed with the Mavs in 2004. It's a question that's been asked of both Nash and Nowitzki many times, though rarely have they explored the hypothetical with such candor.
The conversation naturally turns to Nash's ongoing battle with injury, which kept him sidelined for 99 games over the past two seasons. Reminiscing with Dirk made for a welcome diversion, but it's that conflict -- between pride and pan, joy and inevitability -- that underlines the entire series. During his exit interviews with Los Angeles media this week, Nash reflected on that theme and the thinking behind this documentary project:
The story I wanted to tell is one that, I think, seemingly we all go through. That's why I wanted to tell it -- because it's a kind of universal story that we sweep under the rug. You come to the end of the day whether you're a writer who's run out of words or you're an athlete who can't keep up anymore -- and whether it's high school, college, the pros -- there comes a time when you have to hang it up. Or you face retirement and in the case of a professional athlete I think its heightened because you've done something in particular for 18 years that you've become accustomed to doing, that you've built your life around and even your identity around. To feel for a moment like that's disappeared is a frightening place. But to also move on to see the future and to have to move on to that is something that I think everybody goes through at some stage.
I have friends who don't play basketball who didn't play sports call me up and say 'I've been feeling that way lately just in life. Like I'm 40 now and what the heck's going on?' It's a transition. That was the goal. It might look now -- in some respects, because it's been well received I think -- that people say 'Wow, that was a smart move,' but in some ways -- especially with the money comment -- I just felt it was an opportunity to be really honest. And backlash be damned it felt right at this stage of my career to be open and to hell with being judged. That is the truth. Sometimes there's music and threads that might go on too long but that's a delicate balance, too. It felt right to open myself up because I've never really wanted to do that.