For one of the few times in his year and a half with the Los Angeles Lakers, Steve Nash did not look his age. On his 40th birthday, the Canadian proved he still had some juice left in the tank, and one could not help but root for the two-time MVP and future Hall-of-Fame inductee.
“At this point I don’t take anything for granted,” Nash said after the game. “It’s a mental and emotional grind for me to get ready to play every day.”
On Friday, Nash was ready. He led the Lakers to victory with a game-high 19 points to go along with five assists and four rebounds. Nash was in great spirits and was performing some magic on the court. The birthday boy was not solely responsible for the victory, but his energy and spirit visibly spread to everyone dressed in purple jerseys—and even to Nick Young, who was dressed in a suit.
“After 18 years, it’s very sweet because I thought it was gone. I didn’t know that I could get on top of my health issues,” Nash talked about the challenge of coming back. “To play two games where I can just move the way I want to move, more or less…this amount of freedom of movement has just made all the work—the two-a-days basically for 10 months now—worth it.”
Nash smiled, “I had a blast just being a part of the team and contributing.”
The Lakers had six scorers in double figures, swiped 14 steals and held the 76ers to only 34 points in the second half, but Friday’s win was all about the 40-year-old kid who loves basketball.
When told he looked like a kid out there, Nash responded, “I know I haven’t looked like a kid much over the last year and a half.”
Nash repeated that he was still in the process of getting back and wanted to taper expectations. However, the eyes ignored the ears, and one could not help but focus on the 28 minutes and seven seconds Nash played on Friday.
He drew applause from his bench and earned gasps from the hostile fans as he performed behind the back dribbles and drove at the basket. On his 40th birthday, Nash didn’t look like a washed up point guard unable to get up and down the court. Instead, he looked like the guy in Phoenix—the guy the Lakers traded for two summers ago.
The road back has not been easy, but Nash summed up why he continues to fight with four simple words: “I love the game.”