Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Catching up to Steve, at Nashspeed

The recent SLAM post on Steve Nash and Musselman's reminder about great point guards caused me to recall an unforgettable performance. I happened to be at the playoff game in 2005 when Steve Nash put on a dazzling display, willing his Phoenix Suns to an overtime thriller against the Mavericks in Dallas. He was one rebound shy of a triple-double and dropped 39 points on his old team. He also dished out a dozen dimes and drilled five 3-pointers (see official box score).

What was, and is, most impressive about the former league M.V.P. is his mental and physical conditioning. He consistently plays at an exciting pace, from a fan's perspective and a teammate's point of view. His capacity to perform at Nashspeed, both on the court and in his mind, is what makes him special. He can anticipate action as good as anyone -- and better than most -- and possesses uncanny instincts, characteristics that allow him to create and finish plays with impeccable timing and draw-dropping reactions.

It is important to note that he was not born with Nashspeed; rather, he became a student of the game. Nash understands that in his role of team leader and point guard, it is crucial to be able to relate to other people:

At Santa Clara University, Nash studied sociology, which - at first - was a way to avoid classes he thought he would dislike. However, Nash says he grew to enjoy his studies because the subject fueled his interests in psychology and people. "I thought sociology was very educational, if not practical in a career sense."
Further, to be able to play fast, his mind has to tick with extraordinary kick. His mental imagery abilities are most likely higher than other players', as previous studies have shown. Nash understands that his mental work was as significant as his physical practice:
Nash spent many hours perfecting his talent. He videotaped college and NBA basketball games so he could "watch the players' moves over and over, and then try to do them myself." Nash thinks the visualization techniques and mental agility so useful in sports will soon be more recognized as crucial skills for all aspects of life.
Nash's conditioning gives him an advantage, but more importantly, supplies him with steadfast confidence. In the past, he has not had to worry about staying in shape because he works on his fitness levels year-round. His love for soccer helps him maintain his form and his understanding of how to develop has helped him get to the top. Perhaps even more impressive is his ability to communicate and speak about his mindset. The 2007 Charlie Rose interview demonstrates Nash's excellence, as an athlete and an analyst.


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