Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that “Man tends to become what he thinks most about.” Or in my case, what I was forced to think about. My dad, a very successful college coach had decided to leave his profession to take over his father-in-law’s farm in western Kansas.
Wilt Chamberlain changed the way the game of basketball was played.
Now understand, it was not the type of farm you would see in a Better Homes and Garden Magazine. The farm was 40 miles from the nearest town, and I was forced to attend a one room country school. As a seventh grader, my total existence during the summer was on a tractor plowing a field.
I would get up at 5:00 a.m., milk two cows, eat breakfast, gas up the tractor, eat my sack lunch in the field, gas up the tractor again, plow until sundown and then milk those same two cows, eat supper and go to bed. Exciting, huh!!
So, to survive those long hot summer days I was forced to make up ballgames on the tractor. I would act like I was in Yankee Stadium one day, the Rose Bowl the next day and sing the National Anthem before every one of my imaginary broadcasts. I would even do the commercials!
My Dad, after suffering through four years of drought, couldn’t make any money so we moved 40 miles into a small town and he resumed his coaching in the local high school. In my junior year we had the first undefeated football team in the school’s history and as an end result my dad promised he would take me 400 miles to see Wilt Chamberlain make his debut at the University of Kansas. Freshman were not eligible to play in college at the time and so Wilt’s first appearance would be against Northwestern at Home in Allen Field House as a sophomore.
The game was an epiphany for me! Wilt “the Stilt” appeared in a sold-out field house, bigger than life. At 7-1, he was all arms and legs. He exploded for 52 points in a performance that convinced me I wanted to be a sportscaster.
Why do I tell this story? All year long in the Suns Game Notes, it’s been noted that only three players in NBA History have captured three straight NBA-MVP Trophy – Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird.
Steve Nash has a chance to be only the fourth to do so. I think it’s a mistake to try to compare the previous three greats with Nash. For instance, Wilt one season averaged 50.4 points a game, in one contest scoring 100 points and in another game grabbing 55 rebounds. He with tremendous grace and power changed the face of the game.
But, so has Steve! He is changing how the point guard position is being played. Statistics don’t completely tell the story, even though the reigning back-to-back MVP is averaging a career-high in points and assists, and on pace to be the first since Magic Johnson to average 19 points and 11 assists.
Joe Gilmartin, one of the best basketball minds I’ve ever been around, says Steve does things that only Boston Celtics Great, Bob Cousy was able to do. If you watch some old black and white TV games, you can see some similarities. Their creativity is matchless.
Steve does something nobody else does; he will dribble into the middle of an opponent’s defense, continues the dribble until he finds the open man, and then sets his teammate up for a wide-open shot. I could go on, but my point is this; Nash, like Russell, Wilt and Bird changed the way the game is played.
That’s enough in my books to make him an MVP 3-peat!