Between Allen Iverson And Steve Nash, The Answer is Nash

And It Is Not Even Close

nashIversonWith the latest injury and announcement that 40-year-old future hall of famer Steve Nash will miss the entire upcoming NBA season, many in the media have begun to understandably eulogize Nash’s career.  Indeed, we have likely see the last of him as far as playing in the NBA. One comparison I hear making the rounds is who was better between he and another great guard destined for the hall of fame, Allen Iverson.

Most I have listened to on ESPN, led by an admittedly biased Stephen A. Smith, (Smith credits A.I. for helping him in his career in sports print/TV journalism) either slightly or heavily point to Iverson as being the better or the two, and or the one they pick for their team. I believe Stephen A. stated that A.I. was on another level compared to Nash.

Hogwash. Iverson was great but players like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and Russell Westbrook must get sick hearing talk about Iverson sometimes, because when they shoot a lot, they’re selfish ball stoppers. When A.I. shoots a lot, despite how many times he misses, he is demonstrating heart. Because A.I. was very tough, fearless, and lets face it, short by NBA standards, he sometimes got a pass on being a volume shooter, and dare I say selfish player, that others would not.

With Nash and Iverson you can make the debatable argument that if either is the best player on your team you will not win a championship. Assuming that is the case, I am far more confident that Nash could have an easier time adjusting his game, and being the second best player on a team than Iverson.

We know Nash was an all-time great passer.  Currently he is number three on the all time assist list.  Yes, he did more to make his teammates better, but he was also a great two, three, and foul shooter, as demonstrated by being part of the exclusive 50-40-90 club  (pointed out by Smith’s sparring partner on ESPN’s First Take, Skip Bayless, who does give a slight edge to Nash.)

Here is a question to ask yourself in the comparison. Hoopsmanifesto
lists the top ten NBA players of all-time as being:

10 – Kobe Bryant

9 – Shaquille O’Neal

8 – LeBron James

7 – Tim Duncan

6 – Wilt Chamberlain

5 – Larry Bird

4 – Magic Johnson

3 – Kareem Abdul- Jabbar

2 – Bill Russell

1 – Michael Jordan

If we could ask them, who on this list do you think would prefer to play with A.I. and who would want to play with Nash? With the possible exception of Magic, my bet is that everyone would rather play with Nash.  Let’s add some more names, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Kevin Love, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Julius Erving, Reggie Miller, etc, etc… who would most to all of these guys rather play with between A.I. and Nash?  That is the player I want on my team.

And yes, I have to talk about practice… Who is the better practice player? The more coachable player? More likely to make teammates better? To lead by example and be a better mentor? The answer to all of these is Nash. Better raw skills? I will give that slight edge to A.I. but that does not make him the better nor more desirable player.

A.I. did play with tremendous heart, but because of height, I think he gets talked about and elevated over others I would take before him in a team game…To name some:  Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, John Stockton, and Gary Payton come to mind as others I would take over A.I..  (Isaiah Thomas is already acknowledged by most as being better than Iverson)

Jason Kidd: Right Coach, Wrong Time

jasonkidd

Arguably a top ten point guard of all-time, Jason Kidd has the pedigree to potentially, someday, make a great coach.  I say potentially for history is littered with former great players who were not good, let alone great coaches.

But, is Kidd qualified, let alone the most qualified, to take over as coach of the Brooklyn Nets today?

In a word: No.  In three words:  Not even close.

In sports, there is this idea that an ex-player might not be qualified to coach but if he played and starred for a specific team, that somehow overrides any other lack of qualification and warrants consideration.

My favorite baseball player growing up was Don Mattingly.  When Joe Torre decided he wanted to decline the New York Yankees offer and step away, Mattingly was under consideration to be the next Yankee manager.  Unlike Kidd, Mattingly did serve as batting and bench coach but was still considered inexperienced for he lacked managerial experience at any level.  As much as a part of me wanted Mattingly to be the guy, Joe Girardi was the better choice.

Did any other team express interest in Mattingly at the time?  No.  This lack of opportunity suggests that it was premature for the Yankees to be considering Mattingly in the first place.  As I suspect it is for the Nets to have interviewed and consider Kidd.

Mark Jackson, another great point guard without any coaching experience has found success as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors.  But this came after years away from the game and serving as a TV analyst alongside an established former head coach, Jeff Van Gundy.

shaw

Derek Fisher, Brian Shaw and Phil Jackson.

Personally, I prefer and respect those who pay their dues and serve as an assistant, such as a hot coaching candidate like Brian Shaw.

However, while not coaching experience, at least as an analyst, Jackson was able to study the game on a regular basis.  Distant from his playing days and player mindset, he got to know all of the players and managerial personal.  Further, he could discuss them, and analyze game situation after situation with Van Gundy.

The advantage here is as a point guard you may do this through the lens of your own teams strengths and weaknesses but as an analyst you’re putting yourself in the mindset of everyone you cover without bias.  You are looking at the game from every angle seeing what works and what doesn’t.  And while Kidd’s experience and greatness as a player is a strong step in that direction, an analyst like Jackson or an assistant like Shaw are simply further down the road.

According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “Kidd — with no coaching experience at age 40 — only would be considered if he could assemble “an All-Star cast” of veteran assistants to support him, the source said.”

The thing that I find irritating about this is, um, why not just hire one of the all-star assistants to be the head coach and Kidd to be the assistant?

If the dark side of the force decided to field a basketball team, who be the coach and who be the assistant between Darth Vader and the Evil Emperor?  Between Mr. Miyagi and Danielson?

The idea of Kidd being a coach to an all-star assistant gets the whole mentor/ apprentice thing backwards.

You can say it worked for the Boston Celtics with Doc Rivers and Thom Thibodeau.  Setting aside that Doc was also an analyst first:  Let’s be honest, as much as we like Doc, (and we do like him), his team was loaded with talent.  And while they’re both top coaches, time is proving Thibodeau to be the better one…

A better example would be Larry Bird when he coached the Indiana Pacers with no coaching or analyst experience.  Bird was good.  But his all-star assistant, Rick Carlisle proved to be the better.

There is no reason why the next Thibodeau or Carlisle (arguably Brian Shaw or someone like him) should have to groom Kidd because they weren’t as good of players as Kidd or Bird.

Jasonkidd2No disrespect meant to Kidd (or Bird) who I think has potential to make a great coach.  If he really wants it, let him work as hard at earning that opportunity as he did improving his outside shot.  And not just have it handed to him because he played for the Nets and led them to two NBA finals.