When some people meet their hero, they ask for an autograph or a picture, others ask for their shoes.
While it’s safe to say that NBA legend Steve Nash has left a number of young Vancouver Island basketball players in awe over the years, the Victoria native is the first to admit he is not averse to being starstruck himself.
Despite a multitude of career accolades, including a Basketball Hall of Fame induction, Nash couldn’t help being overcome by a moment of “hero worship” when meeting one of his idols during his rookie season.
In a conversation with TNT’s Ernie Johnson earlier this week, Nash remembered one of his earliest encounters with the famed Michael Jordan, which led to a request for the icon’s footwear.
Following a game against Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the fall of 1996, the point guard recalled seeing one of his teammates return to the bus with an extra pair of shoes. That pair belonged to Jordan and Nash’s teammate, Chucky Brown, had simply asked for them.
“You can do that?” Nash recounted in regards to asking a player for his shoes.
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Just over a week later, Nash’s Phoenix Suns were squaring off against the Bulls once again.
A 22-year old Nash ended up having to guard MJ – a player widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time – for one possession. Jordan was able to score with ease and during the next stoppage in play, he shared some words with the young Canadian.
“You were at a slight disadvantage,” Jordan told Nash, as the point guard recalled in his story.
Nash was in awe.
“‘Holy sh–, MJ just scored on me,’ he’s letting me have it in a fun way. This is unbelievable,” he told Johnson on TNT. “And all I could think of was, Chucky Brown got his shoes…so I turn, I laugh and I go, ‘Can I have your shoes after the game?’”
Nash pointed to a recent Instagram picture that he posted, which captured the moment.
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“It just takes you back to what kind of mindset I was in as rookie with Michael Jordan and how that was all secondary to this hero-worship in a way,” said Nash.
According to the Canadian, Jordan gave up the red and white sneakers he was wearing that night, much to the chagrin of his teammates who might have begrudged MJ at the time.
For Nash, however, he said if he could go back he wouldn’t change a thing.
“When you idolize someone like that to the level that so many of us did with MJ, that superseded any sort of self-awareness that maybe I shouldn’t be asking an opponent for his shoes,” Nash said.
“It was just one of those moments that I look back on — like many — and think I was just young and dumb. But at the same time, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Nash joined Jordan in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 7, 2018.