Kobe Bryant #24 and Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers share a similar story line at this late stage of their respective careers
"It’s just a reality: I’m not going to retire because, you know, I want the money. It's honest."
Steve Nash looked directly into the camera and let out a frustrated half-laugh that could pass as a sigh before continuing, "Yes, I do have to take that last little bit, so I’m sorry if that is frustrating to some, but if they were in my shoes, they would do exactly the same thing. I wouldn’t believe for a minute that they wouldn't."
In the latest episode of his web documentary series titled "The Finish Line," Nash responded to fans yelling at him to retire. Widely regarded as one of the gentlemen of the NBA, the Canadian point guard responded with the maturity of a grown man explaining a serious truth of the world to his angry and confused son. Gone was the smile. He was not embarrassed.
With dignity, he explained to the world that he would continue to do his work and expected to be paid for it.
For a moment, divorce the Lakers from this situation. Nash excelled at his profession to such a degree that he was able to land at contract that would pay him $9.7 million at age 41. He’s getting one final paycheck on his way out. Can anyone truly fault him for wanting to collect on the final contract that he earned?
The Lakers signed off on paying him this money when they traded for him. Beyond losing Dwight Howard for nothing, the Lakers biggest gamble for a championship was taking on Nash’s contract. The dealer and 21, and the Lakers lost their bet. However, that is not Nash’s fault or problem. He is a professional with an executed contract—his final contract.
For anyone who believes Kobe Bryant’s situation is not the same, consider that Nash and Bryant have both been professionals for the same amount of time. Both were drafted in 1996. Bryant was selected as the no. 13 overall pick with Nash two picks behind at No. 15.
Now, consider that both guys suffered career changing injuries during the 2012-13 season. Nash broke his leg, and Bryant tore his Achilles. Nash's nerve root began to act up, and his back, hamstring, leg and neck all became a concern. Bryant's Achilles appeared functional, but he fractured his knee only six games after returning.
Whether or not they are able to maintain their bodies for another year and beyond remains to be seen, but one cannot ignore that both bodies appear to be breaking down. In 2013-14, Nash actually took part in four more games than Bryant, and Nash would be far more likely of the two to get back on the court this season--if either was afforded the opportunity to do so, of course.
Bryant collected $30 million in salary for the 2013-14 season, but few seem to complain about his current contract. Instead, the critics faulted management for overpaying for the final two years of his career, but even those voices were not screaming at the same volume as the ones that regularly scream at the Canadian to retire before, during and after every game.
Nash is not retiring.
And yes, he is refusing to retire in order to earn money he was promised when he put his name to paper. As much as that business portion of basketball may rub people the wrong way, one has to consider the source is one of the all-time greats trying to play out his last days as a professional basketball player.
Nash is not a bad boy acting out; he is a grown man telling the truth.