Friday, July 6, 2012

Steve Nash & Ray Allen: A Tale of Two Legacies

Steve Nash and Ray Allen joined the NBA in the same 1996 draft that introduced us to Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Derek Fisher, Stephon Marbury, Jermaine O'Neal, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antoine Waker, Peja Stojakovic, and more. Without a doubt, the 1996 NBA Draft is the greatest class of rookies ever witnessed in my lifetime.

Steve Nash was drafted by Phoenix, where he spent the first two years of his professional career, until he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. In 2004, he was traded back to the Suns, building a strong legacy and fan base. Nash never won a ring.

Ray Allen was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves, though quickly traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Stephon Marbury. He spent seven seasons in Milwaukee before being sent to the Seattle Supersonics. Four years later, he joined long-time Celtic Paul Pierce and newly-acquired Kevin Garnett to form "The Big 3" in Boston, going on to win a championship in 2008.

Flash forward to the present. Steve Nash and Ray Allen will be wearing new jerseys for the 2012-2013 NBA season. Steve Nash joined the Los Angeles Lakers; Ray Allen joined the NBA Champion Miami Heat. Both Steve Nash and Ray Allen were free agents: free to sign with any team they wanted. The difference, however, was that Boston was pushing to keep Ray Allen on their team; Phoenix was letting Nash go as they prepared to sign younger talent (Eric Gordon) to fill the spot his void on the team would leave behind.

As far as legacies are concerned, both Steve Nash and Ray Allen will probably be best-remembered for their stints with the franchises they are leaving behind: the Suns and the Celtics, respectively. The difference, however, is that Steve Nash never won a ring with the Suns. Sadly, he never had the teammates (or coach) to really make a push to win a title. Ray Allen, on the other hand, was blessed with a fantastic team and arguably the league's best coach (granting the fact that Phil Jackson retired, of course). Ray Allen helped bring the Celtics their first championship in two decades - against the dreaded Lakers, no less. To be fair, neither Steve Nash nor Ray Allen are turning their backs on their former teams' hometowns. However, in the case of Ray Allen, he has effectively terminated the era of "The Big 3". Despite Kevin Garnett deciding to stay with the Celtics, Ray Allen's move to Miami is like a band breaking up.

Neither Steve Nash nor Ray Allen are traitors to their former teams or their hometowns. They just want to win. Winning his first ring would mean the world to Nash. (His new teammate, Kobe Bryant, would receive mutual gain from this of course, earning his sixth ring to tie the predecessor of the throne, Michael Jordan.) Best of all, he will be a welcome addition to a team that has been yearning for a true point guard for years.

For Ray Allen, it's not so cut and dry. He'll be joining the Miami Heat as an off-the-bench shooter. He'll see his minutes decline from the previous season to the next - possibly even to a drastic extent. If he were to win a ring with Miami, it certainly wouldn't hold the same weight as Nash winning with the Lakers - or even as Allen winning in 2008 with the Celtics. Nash has yet to build his profile as a champion. For Ray Allen, joining the reigning Miami Heat may dilute his championship legacy in the city of Boston.