Steve Nash has taken kindly to his retirement from the NBA, by investing in the family business—soccer.
As any Charles Schwab employee will tell you, the key to a successful retirement is planning. Back in 2004, at the height of his basketball-playing prowess and soon to receive the first of consecutive Most Valuable Player awards, forward-thinking point guard Steve Nash began a foundation to provide grants for child-focused nonprofits, medical services in areas of poverty, community reengagement for victims of sexual abuse, and environmental education through sustainable practices.
This egress from basketball guided him back to his family’s favorite sport—soccer. Steve’s father John played professionally in England and South Africa, and his younger brother Martin played for the Canadian National team and the Vancouver Whitecaps (of which Nash is now part owner). A lifelong Tottenham Hotspur fanatic, Nash fused his philanthropic mission with his NBA connections and a nagging need to run around the pitch. By dreaming up the “Showdown,” a charity soccer game featuring basketball and soccer all-stars, in Manhattan’s Chinatown, the Steve Nash Foundation has galvanized this charming nook of the New York City which doesn’t often have world class athletes running around on its fields.
The antecedent to the original game in 2008 began with a discussion between Nash and his summer rec-league soccer partner, Italian NBA journalist Simone Sandri, who thought it would be special if they pooled their vast and collective resources to do something unique and positive for the community. “We saw it as a cool show for the neighborhood, which could additionally raise money and bring awareness to our non-profit work” says Nash. Thierry Henry, Jason Kidd, and Baron Davis were among the many to show up at Sara D. Roosevelt Park that magical June evening. This year’s talent included Alessandro Del Piero, Matthew Dellavedova, Luol Deng, Giuseppe Rossi, Chris Mullin, and NYCFC defender and New York’s hometown soccer prodigy Chris Wingert.
As in the previous Showdowns, 2015 offered an exuberant, fast-paced, 8-on-8 competitive match, or as the 41-year-old Nash puts it, “Soccer’s version of 3-on-3 half-court streetball.”
The electricity from kids hanging from fences and on trees to get a glimpse of the action has made it soccer’s version of Rucker Park. Nash muses, “That first year was similar to watching your baby being born. So organic and a true highlight of my life.” This once-word-of-mouth unofficial kick-off to summer has evolved to a robust fundraiser with extensive media coverage and generous sponsorship, but the nascent spontaneity and kids climbing fences still remains an essential part of the game.
Nash further asserts that his game is strikingly similar on the hardwood and the soccer pitch. “It is the same brain, same wiring—just on a different surface.”
The future first-ballot Basketball Hall of Fame inductee honed his “pass first” style of play by emulating his childhood heroes: Hall of Fame Detroit Piston Isiah Thomas and Tottenham Hotspurs Midfielder Glenn Hoddle. “Both were incredible passers with amazing vision who could score. They did it all. Isiah, in particular, was such a competitor and he was my size so I really studied him.”
When cajolingly about which sport the notoriously offensive-leaning player is a better defender in, the easy-going and even-humored Nash simply smiles.
Most of us hope for a worry-free retirement, yet Nash has now taken it upon himself to worry about others as his full time occupation. Since hanging up his basketball jersey in October, Nash has spent the past 10 months deeply involved with the eponymous foundation and specifically using the time to regroup and assess how he wants it’s future to look. “We’ve been exploring early childhood education and universal pre-k as many children arrive at kindergarten already behind.” One of the foundation’s initiatives, Educare, which began in Phoenix is now in almost half the states. Educare is used as a means to develop best practices to infants, toddlers, children and families that can’t readily access those resources.
Basketball is still a substantial part of Nash’s life. In fact, when we sat down for this interview he had just gotten back from shooting hoops. This past spring, Nash, along with NBA icon Dikembe Mutombo, visited Cuba as part of NBA Cares Global Health and Wellness programs and is currently mentoring second year Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, whom Nash refers to as “a great pupil who’s willing to learn and is tough.”
Although still too young to take from his IRA, Steve Nash is eagerly willing and wonderfully able to dig deep into his heart, mind and wallet to remain global in thinking and world class in giving.