The effect is austere, even by Canadian standards. Nash is entirely in character. At the press conference to announce his return to Phoenix as a free agent in 2004, he wore a pair of golf shoes, the only non-sneakers he owned.
"Sorry if I kept you," he begins (he is three minutes late), "but I've got two babies at home I have to deal with." He laughs. "Just try getting anywhere on time."
That this on-court assassin is a nice guy off the floor is common knowledge. Still, the sudden sense of him as a stay-at-home dad puts me on my heels. He has jogged here from Tribeca, the Manhattan neighborhood where he spends summers with his wife Alejandra and their three-year-olds Bella and Lola. Sightings of Nash pushing the twins' double stroller are as common as delays at the Holland Tunnel.
He has taught himself Spanish and speaks it fluently at home; Alejandra, who's from Paraguay, came to New York as a teen and had no idea who Nash was when they met in 2001. Before and after they hooked up, the tabloids had their sights on Nash's romantic life, connecting him to Elizabeth Hurley and singer Nelly Furtado (he met Furtado once; she included him in a lyric). He dismissed the gossip curtly, and you have no trouble believing him. Nash loathes celebrity, calling it something "to distract the bored from their nothingness."
In person Nash is fine-boned, even delicate, and seems shorter than his listed six-three. At rest his feet tap, his fingers drum lightly, and his eyes, deep-set opals, sweep the room.
Though he opted not to join the Canadian national team for their qualifying tourney for the 2008 Olympics (he is still a folk hero for leading his country to the quarter-final round in 2000), Nash has had a busy summer. In July he opened a $5 million, 38,500-square-foot gym in Vancouver in partnership with Leonard Schlemm, a co-founder of 24 Hour Fitness. He staged his third annual Steve Nash Charity Classic in Vancouver, a two-day event that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for children's health and after-school programs, and through the foundation his sister helps run, he contributed to a pediatric wing for a hospital in his wife's native Paraguay.
He is intellectually curious and broadly read, and he's unafraid to speak his piece. He was the first NBA star to oppose the Iraq invasion, wearing a shirt to the 2003 All-Star Game that read NO WAR – SHOOT FOR PEACE. "We were heading off to fight, and Bush hadn't made his case. I thought that was something worth pointing out," he says now. "I took a lot of shit for it but got 10 times more feedback from people who were glad someone said it."
Above all, Nash feels strongly about addressing global warming; in fact, his interest in opening the Vancouver gym rested largely on it becoming LEED-certified. (The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification reflects the most rigorous eco review in North America.) "We can't wait for science to bail us out," he says of climate change. "We have to do the little things every day."
When he's not playing soccer with pros in Central Park or flying to the U.K. to cheer on his favorite club, Tottenham Hotspur, he travels the world broadly, alone or with friends, to ground himself in cultures. But ask him about his accomplishments on the court, and he's less forthcoming.
"All I've done is rush the ball up and try to make it fun for the guys I play with," he says. "Any credit goes to them and Coach [Mike] D'Antoni, who believed in this style of play and never wavered."
I try again. The beauty of the game had dimmed since the heyday of 'Showtime' in the '80s, when Magic ran the fast break. Then Nash signed with Phoenix as a free agent in '04, and suddenly the Suns were posting 60, 70 points by halftime and taking back cuts from Picasso's playbook. (Phoenix is 177–69 since Nash signed and has led the league in scoring each of the past three years.)
"Oh, well, if you're asking how I see things, um, actually, the truth is, I don't know. It's mostly instinctive." This, of course, is nonsense: Nash knows exactly what he's doing, having worked so hard to make the risky look routine.