The Basketball Jones 40: What does that mean exactly? Well, it’s a little hard to define. It’s certainly not a list of the 40 best players in the league right now — in fact, a couple players on the TBJ 40 would be ones that teams would gladly pay just to go away (and some have). And it’s not a list of our 40 favorite players, either — the combined man-hours that some of us have spent rooting against a couple of these guys would certainly disqualify that as well. It’s not even the 40 funniest or most interesting players, as a couple players are dull as dishwater off the court, but do enough on the hardwood to make their inclusion undeniable.
No, the best way we can define the Basketball Jones 40 is as the 40 players that are most important to our site right now. The players we write about the most, the players we follow the closest, the players that TBJ could least afford to be without. And what goes into that is an entire series of factors, ranging from their on-court success to their off-court headline making to their general likability as athletes, celebrities and human beings.
So hit the jump for No. 8 on our list …
The only basketball player to win the prestigious Lou Marsh Trophy for Canadian Athlete of the Year, Steve Nash is obviously held in rarefied esteem here at the Jones. Of course, he would have been anyway regardless of nationality, a two-time MVP winner and the engine behind the most entertaining perennial contender of the last decade of the NBA, not to mention one of the most sheerly likable players in recent league memory. Currently wasting away on a now decidedly post-contention Suns team, it’s unclear what the future holds for Nash, but as long as he’s still making dazzling no-look passes and off-balance threes, he’ll draw eyeballs wherever he plays.
2011 Season: As of the All-Star break, Nash was still posting the highest PER of his career, despite being a 37-year-old with nothing tangible to play for, as nearly all of his previous best teammates were either let go before the season or traded before the deadline. A depressing final month with Vince Carter as his primary running mate brought down his season numbers some, but he still averaged about a 15 and 11, leading the league in assists while coming a combined 1.3% short of posting his fifth 50/40/90 year. It’s not a season that many Nash career retrospectives will fixate on, but its brilliance in the face of justifiable complacency is still undeniable and commendable. (16/20)
Career/Legacy: A two-time MVP, seven-time All-Star and surefire future Hall of Famer, only a late career start and the existence of John Stockton are keeping Nash from making an eventual run at the all-time assists record. The one knock on Nash is that he’s never won a championship or even reached the finals, but four conference championship appearances, at least a couple of which were lost on some weirdly fluky circumstances, does enough to keep it from being any kind of meaningful detriment. (10/10)
Drama/Controversy: Aside from being embroiled in a fair deal of on-court drama, especially through the Suns’ recurring rivalry with the Spurs over the course of the ’00s, Nash has mostly kept low-maintenance off the court—though we do suspect there was a fair bit of behind-the-scenes intrigue surrounding the controversy over Shaq possibly stealing the idea for Shaq Vs. from him than we’ll ever fully hear about. (5/10)
Go-To Move: Nash’s mind-expanding passing talents are what he’ll forever be best-known for, but his most-uncopiable on-court move is still his ridiculous three-point stroke, so often attempted on the fly, practically across his body, with the absolute minimum of squaring up. The threes he makes are ones that’d cause you to pause your DV-R’s if anybody else even attempted them; with Nash, whatevs, yo. (10/10)
Highlight Play: Pick one. (9/10)
Comedic Potential: Helping Nash’s tremendous popularity since his ascension to stardom has been his personability and impressive comedic timing in post-game interviews and a series of surprisingly humorous commercials. Check him out playing motivational celebrity or Vince from ShamWOW! while schilling for Vitamin Water for a sense of his funnyman skills. (8/10)
Nickname: Steve’s never really gotten a sobriquet worthy of his league presence, though “Nashty” has a certain effectiveness to it. Plus, apparently his Suns teammates used to call him “two-time” in honor of his number of MVP wins, which is sort of funny. (6/10)
Definitive Quote: “I have a tendency, especially when I’m playing with great players, to try and get them the ball.” (4/10)
Non-Hoops Ventures: Aside from his promotional work with Vitamin Water, Nash has stayed extremely active with charitable pursuits on both sides of the border, carried the torch at the Winter Olympics, filmed a doc for ESPN’s 30 for 30, and brought professional soccer to Vancouver. He was also namechecked in a #1 Nelly Furtado hit, which is something John Stockton can never say. (5/5)
Poignant NBA Relationship: Probably still with Dirk Nowitzki, his best-friend teammate in Dallas, from whom he was cruelly separated when Mark Cuban refused to go all-out to re-sign Nash after he became a free agent in 2004. Mark our words—the two will play again together before all is said and done. (4/5)
TOTAL SCORE: 77/100