Even as a fan of the lowly Raptors, I could never fully lend my support to another franchise or latch onto a superstar from another market. But rather than forgo a vested interest in the NBA Playoffs for the majority of my adult life, I have had a back-up team most of these years, a squad I would root for once my Raptors were done with their annual chase for 9th place in the East.
For quite a while, that team for me was the Phoenix Suns, and a lot of it had to do with Steve Nash. Along with inspiring a patriotic streak in all NBA fans north of the border, Nash was the centerpiece for one of the most exciting and aesthetically pleasing brands of basketball in recent memory—characterized by high octane speed, effortless precision passing, and barrage after barrage of 3-point shots. It was basketball heaven (so long as they had the ball in their possession).
Which made it all the more difficult this past summer when Nash spurned my very own Raptors to sign a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, my most hated of teams. After all, it seemed like just yesterday that Raja Bell was clotheslining the smugness right out of Kobe Bryant (a top 10 NBA moment of the 2000s from my vantage point). I was torn between wanting Nash to finally win a ring and following my natural inclination to vehemently oppose any and all things Lakers.
Imagine then how difficult it must have been for those for whom the Phoenix Suns are team number one. To see their franchise player put on the purple and gold must have stung, even if there was some resignation in knowing that Nash was unlikely to re-sign with the Suns this past offseason.
All of which should have made Nash’ return to Phoenix last night something of an internal tussle for Suns fans. Except that you couldn’t help but kind of feel sorry for Nash as his Lakers limped into Arizona with a disastrous 20-25 record (somewhat shockingly, the 2011-12 Suns had a better record through 45 games). So it might have been a little easier for fans in Phoenix to show their unbridled appreciation for Nash during a well-deserved first quarter video tribute. And the blow of losing their sure-fire Hall of Famer was probably further lessened a bit when the Suns (rocking their retro jerseys) overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to plunge the Lakers deeper into misery.*
Just like in the good old days.
* – Could they be getting desperate enough to where they would take an oft-injured, 7-foot jump shooter off Toronto’s hands?