Signs of Age

Steve Nash before Thursday's game against the Spurs. This is perhaps Nash's last time playing for the Phoenix Suns as his contract is up at the end of the season. (Getty)

I’m old.

Not extremely old, but I’m getting there. Here I am, a 20-year-old college student almost two years into a journalism degree and compensating for lack of athletic ability with writing skills.

You know how I know I’m old? I am most likely losing my childhood idol tonight.

I knew I would eventually reach the point where my favorite athletes began retiring and championship-chasing toward the end of their career. Now I know the players going into their respective halls of fame. Soon enough I’ll remember vivid details of watching those players do what they did best. I’ll know exactly why they are entering the hall rather than just pretending I do from reading books and watching YouTube highlight reels.

Steve Nash is one of those players. I cannot say that I have been a Nash fan since he entered the league. I was all of four years old and some change when he entered the league. I only became an avid Phoenix Suns fan when I saw Stephon Marbury donning the then new orange alternate uniforms in an early-2000s issue of SLAM Magazine. Being from Cincinnati, there was not a team too close for me to really attach to. I had my pick.

It was around that time when sports truly began to mean something to me. I was exploring the world of video games and remembering which players played on which team, who had what skills, etc.

I remember Amar’e Stoudemire’s rookie season with the Suns. I would get upset because, while Stoudemire enjoyed a season in which he won the Rookie of the Year award in 2002-’03, video-game Amar’e was awful. Shame on me for thinking video games could be realistic.

While Stoudemire was my first love with Phoenix, Nash quickly stole the spotlight. I could not get enough of watching Nash play. His charisma, vision and quickness was is something to behold. It captivated me.

I tried to craft my game to be like his. Up until last year, I even grew my hair to look like his (sorry, Mom).

That’s something almost every boy and young man goes through, that idolatry of a particular athlete. Nash was that athlete for me.

So Wednesday night when I was watching the Suns play the Jazz I kept thinking tomorrow could be the last time I watch Steve Nash play basketball in a Suns uniform.

Although it will most likely benefit the Suns basketball-wise to move on from the Nash era, focus on rebuilding and enjoy the lottery pick they were granted with Wednesday’s loss, I wanted them to win. I wanted the Suns in the playoffs. It is against all common sense to say that Phoenix would be better served to lose in the first round to the Spurs than to get an earlier pick to sure up their future, but I didn’t care.

I didn’t want the Nash era to end.

Today, as I proudly wore my Suns cap around campus after last night’s loss, I thought. All I could think today was tonight I will probably be watching my favorite athlete of all time play his final game with my favorite team…and it means nothing.

The Spurs clinched the top seed in the West. The Suns are eliminated from the playoffs. What does this game mean?

As much as I want to watch Steve Nash end his Suns career dazzling the crowd as only he can, fighting for the team’s life, I know that this game against the Spurs is meaningless.

It’s difficult for a fan to deal with. I didn’t have a problem with Albert Pujols leaving the Cardinals because the last memory I had of him with my team was exactly what I mentioned: him fighting for his team’s life. (Luckily, the memory ended up being a World Series victory, something I will never forget.)

So I have tried to find meaning for this game. Yes, the final score and end result will mean nothing at the end of the day. But I want to remember a win. I want to remember Nash being Nash. I want to remember this game and remember it as one of my favorite memories of my favorite athlete: Steve Nash’s last game as a Phoenix Sun.

Of course, it is not a sure thing that he will leave Phoenix next season. All signs point to yes, but there is a chance he will stay. I’m not holding out hope. The Suns could possibly have room to sign a maximum contract player or two and keep Nash. But, once again, I won’t hold out hope.

I’ll take tonight’s game against the Spurs to remember why Nash became my favorite player and such an important part of my life. He is a role model to me. I’ll forever remember the great memories I built watching him play every time I look at that picture of him on my wall.

I just wish I weren’t so old.

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