Steve Nash, Kevin Durant, and the Title Window
Steve Nash retired today. For some reason, it reminded me of Kevin Durant.
Title windows in sports close amazingly quickly, and for many beloved athletes, it's a downer. I never rooted for another NBA player to win his first title more than I did Nash. He and Mike D’Antoni revolutionized basketball with the Phoenix Suns, a running team that bridged the gap between the physical star power of the early-2000’s Lakers and the analytic-driven small ball of today. In short - they were fun to watch.
They never won a title though, each year for a different reason.
In 2006, at arguably their prime, they lost Amar’e Stoudemire for the season to a knee injury. In 2007, Robert Horry elbowed Steve Nash into the scorers’ table, ending in a suspension of Stoudemire for an important Game 7.
In 2008, freshly minted general manager Steve Kerr swung for the fences, acquiring Shaq exclusively to play the dominant frontcourts of the Spurs and Lakers. The gamble failed.
In 2010, the more grizzled Suns made a surprising push all the way back to the Western Conference Finals. In a pivotal Game 5, Ron Freaking Artest of all people hit a game-winner, swinging the series back to the Lakers, who would eventually win the title.
They never got another crack at it. Nash went to the Lakers to salvage another opportunity, but it was too late. The window had closed.
So what of Kevin Durant? His window is still open, but the reasons for him winning a title seem as devastatingly similar as Nash's. In 2012, the Thunder made the Finals with a dynamic bench scorer named James Harden. Following the season, Harden was traded, and the Thunder have never been quite as strong. This year, with Russell Westbrook taking the leap from Robin to Batman 2.0, Durant has missed substantial time with a foot injury - a tough area of the body to injure for a basketball player.
Obviously, Durant is young. His window seems like it’ll be open for a long time. That’s what we though of Nash, though. Eventually, the window shuts, and people leave unhappy.
I’m sad to see Steve Nash retire, but it was time to let the dream go. For Kevin Durant, there are many years of opportunity left. I hope he gets the title all great players deserve.