Vancouver nets Nash’s charity basketball bash

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Steve Nash is equal parts amazing and confusing. His accomplishments in the National Basketball Association continue to astound, while his off-court actions confound. At a point in his career where he has achieved greatness and has certainly earned the right to take the off-season to relax and rest his battle-tested 33-year-old bones, Nash seems busier than ever.

He and his wife have young twin daughters and are thinking about adding to the brood; they choose to spend the summer months living amid the hustle and bustle of Manhattan; he makes himself available to the Phoenix Suns to aid in their free-agent recruiting; and he’s helping the next generation of point guards by sharing his wisdom at a series of basketball camps sponsored by Nike.

As if that’s not enough for a guy who could easily choose to hang the Gone Fishin’ sign on his door for the summer and get out of the spotlight, Nash is also putting the finishing touches on plans for his annual charity basketball game, which benefits the Steve Nash Foundation—funding local, national, and international child-focused organizations—and returns to GM Place next Saturday (July 21).

Just as he has choices when he brings the ball up-court while running the Suns’ offence, the pride of Victoria had options when it came to picking a host city for his third annual Steve Nash Foundation Charity Classic. (What city on the planet wouldn’t welcome the guy with open arms?) After leaving a sold-out crowd at the Garage wanting more a year ago, the Nash bash is on its way back to town, and the host says that when it came right down to it, it really wasn’t a tough call to make.

“It was an overwhelming success, we had so much support from the community, everyone seemed to enjoy it so much, and, you know, it being ”˜home’, I’m a little bit partial,” Nash tells the Georgia Straight by phone from New York. “Who knows what we’ll do in the future? But we thought it was such a great event, had so much support, and made so many great relationships that it was the right thing to do to come back for another year.”

The centrepiece for the weekend is the basketball game featuring Nash and a bunch of his NBA buddies. But in an effort to reach as many people as possible and generate as much support as possible for the foundation, the star of the show is packing an awful lot into a four-day visit. In addition to the game, the two-time NBA most valuable player will open a brand-new downtown fitness centre that bears his name, attend a big-money gala at a private residence in West Vancouver, take part in a downtown block party on game-day afternoon, and host a question-and-answer session with selected fans prior to tip-off.

And then he’ll do what he does best: hoop it up with some of the most talented athletes on the planet.

“It’s extremely humbling that so many people wanted to come and support the event and my foundation. I don’t want to say I was surprised [with last year’s sellout crowd], because I’ve just been so lucky with the support and encouragement the people of British Columbia have afforded me throughout my career,” he says. “But it is asking a lot for people to come out in the middle of a sunny summer to watch a basketball game. Last year was great for our first time in Vancouver, and this year we’ve got a much-improved lineup, and, hopefully, that experience gets even better for the fans.”

While unable to confirm the player roster until closer to the event, Nash says that’s one area he wanted to improve from last year. He has leaned on Phoenix teammates Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa this time around and convinced them to join him here. He’s also promising at least one player who played in this year’s NBA finals, and a few names called early in last month’s NBA draft.

Finalizing the roster is just one of many things left to do to pull off an event like this. And although Nash has plenty of help from family, friends, and those who run his foundation, the man in the middle of it all plays an active role in organizing the big night.

“I’m not in on everything that goes on; I just wouldn’t have time in my day and it would be a pretty haphazard event. I’m more as far as the broad strokes and the big ideas. I contribute and I do a lot of ”˜yes and no-ing,’ ” he says with a laugh. “I try to make sure the event conceptually fits with what I envisioned and that it’s produced and executed to how I feel will be the best for the foundation, myself, and for the community.”

With the Charity Classic quickly approaching, Nash is excited about the opportunity to reconnect with his fans in this part of the world. But far more than that, he’s excited about the many lives his charitable foundation can touch. He knows he’s making a difference in the world—particularly among underprivileged youth—although he admits that with the hectic life he leads, he’s not always able to see all of the good work firsthand.

“It’s hard to tell because I’m so detached from so much of it. The thing is that I’m not able to be at those places on a daily basis to see the impact it [the foundation] makes, so part of me just has faith that all of the effort we’ve put in is paying off. We’ve been able to do, on paper, some incredible things, and we trust that it [the funding] is going to get used,” he says. “We’re trying to take as much ownership as possible, but we have to put it in the hands of other people. I don’t really know the impact I make every day, but at the same time I have faith and confidence that there is an impact, that it is the right thing to do continually and every day, and that we can take the foundation to new places and allow the foundation to help more and more people.”

Nash has made a name for himself dishing out assists and making those around him better at what they do. It’s worked for him on the basketball court, and it’s spilling over into other areas of his life too. The Steve Nash Foundation Charity Classic is a lot of work for a lot of people—including Nash himself—but it’s all for a very good cause.

As for a time when Steve Nash can rest this off-season? That’s what training camp is for.

Jeff Paterson is a sportscaster and talk-show host on Vancouver’s all-sports radio, Team 1040. E-mail him at jeff.paterson@team1040.ca .