July 17, 2005

Nash Makes Charity Appearance

July 17, 2005

By Chris Young
Toronto Star

So what does a newly crowned NBA MVP do in his spare time, anyway?

Play a little pickup. Flash some fresh bling. Pose for the cameras. In New York, in Toronto, doesn't matter.

Oh, it's not what you're thinking. This is Steve Nash we're talking about: whether Stevie Wonder or Captain Canada, whatever headline you choose he would seem to have everything in order (except, of course, for the usual NBAer's combination of size-XXL blarney and ego, and no one's complaining about the omission).

That was Nash at the Harbourfront CC court on the corner of Bathurst and Queens Quay yesterday, announcing a $100,000 donation of Nike sports gear, helping out with a clinic and promoting an upcoming Steve Nash Foundation charity game that's filling a spot left by the departed and not so dear Vince Carter. And that was Nash, too, caught on cellphone camera and sent around cyberspace hooping it up earlier this week on a New York City playground, just another gym rat moved outdoors for the summer.

As you might expect, it's becoming more difficult for Nash to maintain his preferred low-key Q rating, what with his Phoenix Suns' crowd-pleasing style and especially those MVP credentials following him around. But he tries. It's the Canadian way.

"I've always been an underdog, so I'll always wake up feeling like an underdog and feeling like I've got to go out there and prove myself again," he said yesterday. "When I hear (MVP), I kind of cringe a little bit."

If this past week is any indication, it's still possible for Nash to fly under the radar. Take that bling, please -- a brand-new ring on his wedding finger. Didn't mention it (are you surprised?) and few noticed it, but after his season ended in a western final loss to eventual NBA champion Spurs, among the first item of business was getting married to longtime partner Alejandra Amarilla, with whom he celebrated the arrival of twin girls last October. Never mind adjusting to life as an MVP, Cap'n -- what about adjusting to life as a first-time father twice over, that long NBA campaign and said honours, a June wedding in the heat of Arizona and all this other hoo-hah, with a couple dozen media showing up for basketball at this, the height of NHL-labour season?

"It all changes you, of course -- you get a window into the magnitude of being responsible for two helpless little people, and I'm having a blast -- but at the same time I try not to let it change me," he said.

"You have to try to be the same person and live your life the same way -- you still do things for yourself, but at the same time make your new role as important as well. I think it'd be bad for the children if you all of a sudden made a switch and became a totally different person, or ran your life in a different way.

"This summer has been (crazy). But it's been fun. It's been an ever-evolving role for me."

Now comes another new role for the 31-year-old. On July 29 at the Air Canada Centre, he'll serve as chairman of the boards to the likes of Allen Iverson, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudamire and Michael Finley, among those invited along -- but not Toronto native Jamaal Magloire, the only other Canadian in the NBA. Magloire has his own summer league here and has always made Toronto his home -- he would seem a natural, but it's not happening and that's a great pity.

As for that pickup game in New York's Hudson River Park early this week, it was among the more unlikely spots for an MVP to make an appearance. Nash had barely towelled down from it when the JPEGs were on their way to NYC's gossipy website Gawker, and the question burned -- was that really Steve Nash? It certainly was.

"I was going to shoot there one evening," he said. "They were playing, so I couldn't really shoot, and I was running end to end to be at the opposite end they were at. Finally one of them just said, `You wanna play?' I said sure. They were pretty cool about it."

So was Nash. For 20 minutes or so, he was just a guy in a grey sweatshirt and shorts, huffing and puffing with nothing on the line save his own sanity. "Life hasn't changed that much when I'm away from all this," he said. Looking at those pictures, you almost believe him.