Steve Nash carved out a successful 19 year basketball career in the NBA and was a two-time MVP with the Pheonix Suns, but the Canadian native has another footballing love: soccer. A huge fan of Tottenham Hotspur, Nash is now part owner of MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps and La Liga’s Mallorca. But watching Spurs play is a singular obsession of his, something he calls, in an interview with Grant Wahl in Sports Illustrated, “a lifelong habit.
Nash was known on the basketball court for his vision: he was the kind of player who blessed with quickness and athletic ability, was able to drive to the hole and also had the court vision to make incredible passes to teammates. But Nash, who attended matches at White Hart Lane as a kid, said that he very nearly tried to make a go of it in soccer before turning to basketball, and even considered living in London as a youth and trying out for Tottenham’s academy.
GW: What was your background playing soccer growing up?
I just played club soccer from a young age. I was a good youth player and had some opportunities, but by the time my dad was asking if I wanted to live with my aunt in London and see if I could make it at Spurs, that was about the time that Michael Jordan and Spike Lee were making commercials and putting shoes out on the market. It was a pretty exciting time to be in seventh and eighth grade and be playing basketball with your friends. So I kind of turned him down and got more and more into basketball. A couple years after I’d stopped playing club soccer, I still asked to go out for the junior national team, but by that point I was too entrenched in basketball to really go back.
GW: So there was an actual moment when you considered trying out with Spurs?
Nash: My dad had asked. Since I had an aunt in the area and was close to her, and my dad having grown up there and played conference football in the UK and professionally in South Africa, I could take a chance at that age to see where I stood and have a go at it. But it just wasn’t the right time. If he’d asked me a year earlier, maybe I would have taken the chance as an 11-year-old. But by the time 12 or 13 came around, I just kind of fell in love with basketball and found a whole group of friends that loved the game as well that I could share it with.
You get the sense that Nash would’ve been extremely successful in whatever sport he put his mind to. And while the NBA was his career, soccer was his first love and the sport that he’s now returned to in his “retirement years.”
“I haven’t played basketball since I retired. I love the game and still am working with the Warriors [as a consultant] and find a great deal of reward and enjoyment out of that. But I’m playing no basketball and playing soccer semi-regularly. If you add up my love of Spurs and Mallorca and the Whitecaps, I probably watch more soccer than I do basketball these days as well.”
Nash is in the UK to help promote the NBA Crossover event which examines the overlap between sports, music, and culture. But while here he made the time to return to Spurs where he trained with the club, an experience that he described as like “ten Christmases at once.”
In some ways I’m out here and I’m like a little kid at Christmas, I’m with these guys who I live and die with every weekend. On the other hand, it feels so familiar to be out there in training, the banter, the boys smiling and laughing, it feels like home.
"I'm fortunate to get opportunities like this. They are a dream come true and I know there are millions of Spurs fans out there who would love to be in this position, but every time I do get a chance to do it, it’s like ten Christmases at once.”
Nash will be in attendance at White Hart Lane when Tottenham host EPL Champions Leicester City. He also just became my favorite former NBA player.