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Steve Nash doesn’t really buy your “Championship or bust” attitude

Aug 1, 2013, 1:42 PM EDT

Steve Nash AP

There is no more ridiculous or annoying argument in sports than “count the ringzzzzz.” Yes Kobe Bryant fans, I’m looking at you.

Basketball remains a team sport — Bill Russell was a great player but he has 11 rings because he was on a great team. We’ve mythologized Michael Jordan into a superhuman player (and he was no doubt one of the all-time greats) but forget the first year he ditched the Bulls to play baseball they won 55 games without him. He lifted that team up, but he didn’t win six rings alone. Karl Malone and John Stockton deserve more credit than some give them just because of the ring thing. This list goes on and on and on.

Steve Nash doesn’t have any rings and very likely will leave the game without one, so you can say of course he thinks the argument is overblown — but he’s right, the argument has become overblown. Here is Nash talking about it with the brilliant Zach Lowe of Grantland (you should read the entire Q&A, it’s fantastic).

“We’re in an age in North America where it’s championship or bust. I don’t think it was like that when I first came into the league.”


“I don’t know. I never felt it was like that. But now, with all these media outlets online, there’s gotta be a “take,” there’s gotta be a story, and there’s gotta be a winner and a loser. It has to be black-and-white. Even if someone doesn’t even necessarily believe it wholeheartedly, they have to pick a side and go with it. I want there to be one winner, and I want that team to be upheld as the most important thing. But there are other things. There are other factors. I don’t end everything right there. And I agree with you on the Spurs. You could say they choked. You could also say a million things happened. Maybe you could say Miami choked by not winning in five games. It’s myopic to go with these narratives….

“I don’t know where that came from. When I came into the league, it was different than it is now. I mean, I get it. I’m OK with it. I just don’t subscribe to it. I want to win. I’ve had some opportunities, and we had some bad luck. I don’t even look at it so much as bad luck. Things just happen. You could say it’s bad luck, but you could also say that if I made every shot, we would have won. Nothing is black-and-white, except for winning and losing, and maybe that’s why people gravitate to that so much. I find it much more interesting to look at the details.”

In a world of uncertainty and shifting sands, we tend to gravitate toward what we believe to be certain. Nash is right, winning and losing is black and white and there is an appeal to that. But life is lived in shades of grey — things are usually more complicated than we tend to believe. It takes a great team to win a title, but then that team needs some luck, too. Not just the Heat, but also the 90s Bulls and the 80s Lakers and all the rest.

Unfortunately, I don’t see nuance becoming a sports narrative again, if it ever really was.

  1. dolphindubs - Aug 1, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    The “look at the ringzzz” arguments is stupid. People say Lebron isnt as good as Jordan because he “doesnt have the rings”. Well…Jordan doesnt have 11, does the mean he isnt as good as Russell?

  2. dirtydavis - Aug 1, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    Sounds like loser talk to me

    • teambringitstrong - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:07 PM

      Exactly!!! To quote Herm Edwards, ‘you play to win the game’. If the count the rings argument is ridiculous b/c your favorite player has less rings than someone else’s favorite player then what’s the point of playing?

      • brutl - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:21 PM

        The thing is, in a team sport, the greatest players cannot win the game alone. Even if you score every point there are still 4 other guys you have to depend on to stop their man.
        That’s why judging a player’s greatness by the rings is ridiculous, and you know it!

      • dirtydavis - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:41 PM

        @ Brutl…

        Bob Pettit had no help and still won a ring with the Hawks

      • adamsjohn714 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        davis… that is a lie. That Hawks roster had more than 1 player on it.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 1, 2013 at 6:07 PM

        Bob Pettit had no help? What about Hall of Famers Cliff Hagan, Ed Macauley or Slater Martin? Or former #1 overall picks Chuck Share and Frank Selvy?

      • jimeejohnson - Aug 1, 2013 at 7:34 PM

        Dang DirtyDavis: I thumbed you up, thinking you finally knew what you were talking about.

    • longtallsam - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      Sounds realistic and logical to me! Sure, great players usually find a way to win, even if it means moving, like Labon or KG or many others have done. Nash is still an all-time great point guard, even without a ring.

      Of course, we know now…he doesn’t have a ring because D’Antoni was such a terrible coach! Right, Lakers fans? :)

    • zxrated - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:51 PM

      The absolute “attitude” Nash is talking about is on point. Yes you play to win the games but what happened to good sportsmanship? When I look at Nash, Barkley, Miller, Malone, Stockton, Marino, Jim Kelly, Fran Tarkenton, ETC… I don’t see loser’s. Their professional lives were nothing resembling that label.

      Everyone can’t be “THE” winner. A loser is one who gives up in pursuit of the prize. None of the aforementioned gave up. As a matter of fact, many of their detractors/pundits would love nothing more than to have been as fierce as they were at competing on such a high level.

    • stephenlin - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:22 PM

      look at these armchair athletes calling steve nash, one of the greatest point guards and dedicated competitors of our generation, a “loser” and a “beta.” if you want evidence of nash’s approach to the game, look at how he, a physically and athletically outmatched guard, competed and lead his teams over the past decade. look at those spurs-suns bouts, where he played gashed and broken, and tell me he doesn’t understand the value of winning. i love hearing players like nash reflect on the process and the game. he’s elaborating on an element of competition that is more textured than the “championship or bust” narrative, and if you want to just write that off, you have no respect for the game.

      • djveal - Aug 1, 2013 at 6:13 PM

        If I didnt win anything I would be defensive too. LOL. Nash peeked becasue of Danphony and Danphony peeked because of Nash. If that marraigae never happened Nash wouldnt have won any MVPs and he wouldnt have ben over hyped like he was. Nash is overrated. Kep praying for the second coming of LArry Bird cus he wasnt it.

      • jimeejohnson - Aug 1, 2013 at 7:36 PM

        Capitalization police gives you a “get out of trouble free card” for your insightful post.

  3. 91devinhester23 - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    yeah id say that too in his position

  4. antistratfordian - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    No wonder he’s ringless. This beta attitude may fly in Canada, but he plays for the Lakers not the Raptors… it’s high time Nash started getting serious about being a winner.

    • antistratfordian - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      Step 1: Get off the soccer field and get your butt back in the gym!

      • Kurt Helin - Aug 4, 2013 at 11:31 AM

        Yes, if there’s one thing we know about soccer players it’s that they are not in shape… come on now people.

    • zxrated - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      LeBron echoed those same sentiments after winning his first ring. He’s now the best player on the planet with two on his finger and projected to get more going forward.

      BTW, I’m a Laker fan who loves the 16X history. I like Nash stay grounded in reality on topic.

    • antistratfordian - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      Cool story, zxrated. You’re allowed to talk that talk after you’ve already won. Doing it beforehand is bad form for a sportsman.

      Could you imagine the haranguing LeBron would’ve received from the world if he said the same thing in Cleveland?

      • zxrated - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        I’ll use this career parallel as example; Bynum and Howard.

        Bynum has two rings and is an elite center in the league when healthy. Bynum was never the focal point of those championships but he did contribute, and proved his individual worth with his all-star season in 2012.

        Howard has no rings. He was the focal point of the Magic teams that contended in the east often.

        In this absolute attitude era more NBA GM’s see Howard a the vehicle to help win it all. As a Laker fan who saw both Howard and Bynum in action (Laker fan sigh) I agree with the sentiments of those GM’s. Not that I want D12 back!

      • smoothaswilkes - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:38 PM

        Easy troll.Try reading the entire Grantland article and get some context. If you think Steve Nash is a beta and doesn’t want to win a ring, you are ridiculous and completely wrong.

        The only reason Kobe has 5 is Shaq and Gasol. Without those two, as well as the rest of the team, Kobe has zero. If the bench mob in 2009 and 2010 doesn’t hold and extend leads, those teams are bounced in the 2nd round. And those 3-peat teams needs a steady diet of veterans like Robert Horry hit buzz beaters to keep the TEAM running through the playoffs.

        Basketball is a team game, which is why there are 5 players on the court for each TEAM at one time. If the NBA was a one-on-one league like in your driveway, then the rings argument makes more sense.

        I’m a proud Lakers fan and I approve this message and Steve Nash.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:41 PM

        That was verbose. This isn’t complicated. Nash is about 40 years old and has never even been to the finals. There really is no excuse for that, but we see his attitude here and now we absolutely know why.

      • jimeejohnson - Aug 1, 2013 at 7:37 PM

        zxrated: best comments ever.

    • godwinaka - Aug 1, 2013 at 8:42 PM

      only an Idiot would not equate a 2 time NBA MVP with wining. Yes he has no championship but that is not everything. Also I do not think him being Canadian has anything to do with his perception. I am assuming that since 34 people (and counting) disagree with you his opinion is supported by people other than canadians.
      Steve is one of the best at the position regardless of rings. I do not think he will lose sleep over your opinion.

  5. timb12 - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    Nash plays to win. He’s just saying it shouldn’t have so much weight in evaluating a players career and it shouldn’t.

    • antistratfordian - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      The difference between winning and losing in Nash’s soul is not as great as it should be.

      He’s very introspective… he’s likely to be one of these “it’s just a game that i play for a living, it’s not like lives are on the line, so it’s not that important” types of athletes.

      • mckaymatt - Aug 2, 2013 at 8:31 AM

        What does that say about your soul?

        And considering Nash has played injured in the playoffs (Spurs) and play’s basketball gritty and tough compared to players who flop and dive, I’d say he plays like his life is on the line. Considering his best years were playing with D’Antoni as coach I think he did fine.

        It’s hard to win championships. Especially in the NBA where a great team can ring over multiples it makes it difficult for all the great players to win. Jerry West is considered a winner but dude lost in the finals a lot more than he won. So please do everyone a favor and shut up.

  6. money2long - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    that’s why you separate players into classes and then count the rings
    role players
    all stars

    a bum (darko) may have more rings than barkley. but he is in a lower class, had less responsibility and only has the ring(s) likely due to the hard work of someone else on his team.

    it’s easier to make the ring case with players of the same class, i.e., when comparing two superstars.

  7. brutl - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    All a great basketball player has to do is play great for an extended period. That’s it.
    Counting the rings is a good mindset for golf, not so much for basketball.

  8. androidgumby - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    It’s pretty easy for some of you guys to sit on your butts and call a great player like Steve Nash a loser. You exhibit the same brazen ignorance that many of the players Steve Nash has played against his entire career in the NBA. The league can benefit from having more guys like him playing the game.

  9. asimonetti88 - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    I can see the point and to a certain extent he’s right. In football or baseball, some of the greatest players left the game without rings because it is truly such a team sport. Think Dan Marino or Barry Bonds.

    But in basketball, one player can impact the game so much more than in any other sports. The greatest players tend to find ways to win at least one. Are there tons of great players who left without winning one? Sure- Malone, Barkley, Ewing, Stockton, Dominique Wilkins, Maravich, Elgin Baylor. But it’s hard to argue that the greatest players, not the great ones but the greatest ones, if they don’t have at least one.

  10. kb2408 - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    In the NBA the team with the best player usually wins the title, so it’s clear that rings should factor into the equation when it comes to comparing one great player to another. Unfortunately for many great players, they all can’t win a ring.

    • kb2408 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:42 PM

      I said “usually”. We all know that there are exceptions. For instance, Wilt was much better than Russell but he won less rings.

  11. mogogo1 - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    Nash is very much a realist who says what he thinks. Remember his comments last year about how he didn’t know if they’d be able to turn things around and make the playoffs?

    For this coming season, if the only two choices are championship or bust, then everyone already knows the answer. I know it’s expected that Nash should say all the right things to pretend that he thinks they’re contenders, but does anybody really believe that?

    • adamsjohn714 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      mitch k. thinks they’re contenders. He also thinks wesley johnson, nick young, and chris kaman are good players. so…. grain of salt.

  12. adamsjohn714 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    If you’re producing at an above average level on the court, and Nash still is, then you’re a winning player. You’re helping your team win. It just so happens that other players are also on the court either helping the other team win and/or teammates helping your team lose. Kevin Love (when healthy) is a winning player, and his team has been awful for his entire career because management (with the exception of last year) spent all their money collecting terrible players around him.

  13. flickflint - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    Stopped reading after the first paragraph. How are Championship Rings unimportant

    • truprof - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:38 PM

      Rings are not the only criteria in evaluating the career accomplishments of a player. The “only rings count” argument falls flat immediately when you compare the career of Robert Horry (7 rings) to the career of Charles Barkley or Karl Malone (0 rings each). Or, the career of Steve Kerr (3 rings) vs. the career of John Stockton (0 rings) or Steve Nash (0 rings). It can never be argued that Horry or Kerr had better careers than Barkley, Malone, Stockton or Nash. Horry and Kerr will never be considered for the Hall of Fame. Barkley, Malone and Stockton will definitely be in the Hall of Fame and were voted among the 50 greatest players in NBA history. If you want to argue that only rings count, then by all means, argue ’til you drop.

      • adamsjohn714 - Aug 1, 2013 at 10:08 PM

        kerr has 5 rings and has the highest career 3pt % in NBA history. But your point still stands.

  14. azarkhan - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    Nash is correct, the whole “you’re a loser if you haven’t won a championship” is a ridiculous thing to say when you’re talking about a team sport. The people who say it the most have probably never won a thing in their lives.

  15. somekat - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    I may have seen Nash’s point, if most of the time that his team was sent home from the playoffs wasn’t because the other teams offense did whatever it wanted because Nash couldn’t stop the opposing PG. But, that is the case

    Learn to play d, not just look pretty, and maybe you wouldn’t be considered the loser that he certainly is

    • longtallsam - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:11 PM

      You are full of it, somekat! I bet you would trade your career for Nash’s in a heartbeat!

      • mckaymatt - Aug 2, 2013 at 8:36 AM

        Dirk never learned to play defense and his team won a title. I agree that most people don’t take into account defense when evauluating players because it’s easier to look at a box score but your point still doesn’t hold true.

  16. felisberto - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    Stevens Nashville is a scrub player, he was only MVP because of his race.

    • truprof - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:40 PM

      And you are only allowed to post here until Mommy says it’s time for a nap.

      • jimeejohnson - Aug 1, 2013 at 7:39 PM

        Best retort to the stupidest comment ever.

  17. felisberto - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    Steve Nash is a scrub player, he was only MVP because of his race.

    • jimeejohnson - Aug 1, 2013 at 7:45 PM

      That’s analogous to saying black people were slaves because of their race. Pretty stupid, right? At least you didn’t thumbs up your own stupid comments. Nobody’s all bad.

  18. ChandlerMc - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    Several recent studies have shown that most conservatives only have the capacity to see issues in black and white. Liberals tend to be more nuanced and thoughtful when contemplating an issue. Conservatives like the simplicity while liberals tend to dig a little deeper. Black and white vs shades of gray. Think about it.

  19. panchopolarbear - Aug 2, 2013 at 3:55 AM

    Nash is right though.

  20. rodericksilva - Aug 3, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    There is a reason Russell has 11 and Wilt doesn’t. Even NBA Logo Jerry West will tell you Russell was a team player and Wilt wasn’t.

    Rings count for something.

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