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OPINION: A Grizzly tale of missed opportunity

I hope, for the sake of basketball fans in British Columbia, that this will be the last time we'll have to watch events unfold in the life of NBA superstar and native son Steve Nash while we cry ourselves to sleep, drunk on Vitamin Water and vodka.

I hope, for the sake of basketball fans in British Columbia, that this will be the last time we'll have to watch events unfold in the life of NBA superstar and native son Steve Nash while we cry ourselves to sleep, drunk on Vitamin Water and vodka.

Metaphorically drunk, I mean - we (read: I) haven't really enjoyed vodka since college. We have, however, watched from afar as one man with deep roots in Victoria and Vancouver has brought the qualities of creativity, selflessness, humour, and bleeding on himself to a very unexpected place for those things: a basketball court.

On Wednesday a signand-trade deal between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers became official, sending Nash, a free agent this summer, to Hollywood on a three-year contract that will likely take him to the end of his storied career. Sadly, this pretty much confirms we'll never get to see Nash up close playing for a Vancouver NBA team.

"But Vancouver doesn't have an NBA team!" you're yelling right now at my little photo pasted beside this column in your North Shore News. To that I say three things:

1) It's a photo; I can't hear you.

2) I love what you've done with your kitchen - is that a breakfast nook?

3) You're right; there is no Vancouver NBA team now.

But there was. And if it still existed, Steve Nash could very well be on it right now.

In fact, if Steve Nash had been on it back when it still existed, it probably would still be here today.

Just thinking about it makes me sad all over again. Ugh, do you have any vodka?

In 1995, the Vancouver Grizzlies took a man named Bryant with their team's first ever draft choice. Kobe Bryant? No.

When Bryant "Big Country" Reeves entered the NBA, he was tall, fit and pretty good at basketball. When he left the NBA six years later, he was still tall. He was also very rich, and the Grizzlies were no longer in Vancouver.

Anyhoo. . . .

In 1996, the Grizzlies took Shareef Abdur-Rahim third overall.

Twelve picks later, the Phoenix Suns drafted Steve Nash, a scrawny kid out of small Santa Clara University known for his sharp shooting, excellent passing and unreal defence.

(Not unreal as in fantastic, like the kids say these days; literally unreal, as in imaginary.)

Vancouver can't be faulted for not going for the hometown kid then - Abdur-Rahim, a tall, talented forward from the University of California, made the all-rookie team and turned into the best player in the Grizzlies' short history.

Nash, meanwhile, saw limited action in his first two years with the Suns, buried on the bench behind their star point guards.

But here's where, for Vancouverites, the story gets weepier than a homemade umbrella.

Nash was available. His talents weren't really on display because of his situation in Phoenix, but some big basketball brains knew there was something

special about him. Not necessarily two-time-MVP, top-10-all-time-pointguard, make-you-screamat-your-television-in-utterastonishment special. That would come later. But at least offensively gifted, potential-all-star, make-yougiggle-like-a-monkey-onmorphine-at-the-audacity-ofhis-playmaking-skills special.

The woeful Dallas Mavericks saw that something special.

Following the 1998 draft they traded three players - Bubba Wells, Martin Müürsepp and draft pick Pat Garrity - plus a future draft pick that the Suns turned into Shawn Marion, for Nash. (Müürsepp and Wells, by the way, have more umlauts between them than NBA games played following the trade.)

Why didn't the Vancouver Grizzlies have some umlauted Estonian to trade for Steve Nash?! Argh! Vodka!

Looking back now, Vancouver could have traded their entire roster for Nash and still come out ahead.

Three years later, the Grizzlies moved to Memphis and Nash made his first allstar game.

Three years after that Nash went back to Phoenix and took the reins of what would become the most entertaining team of the decade, turning the Suns from a 29-win-team in 2003 to a 62-win-team in 2004.

Meanwhile Vancouver continued to not have a team at all.

The fun with the Suns finally ended after a couple of recent terrible seasons, and this summer Nash dabbled in free agency, likely for the last time. The Toronto Raptors courted him fiercely, pitching the Canada angle, and almost got him. No offence Toronto Raptors, but if your, um, not very good team was almost able to land Nash based solely on your proximity to Tim Horton's, a Vancouverbased franchise would no doubt have been an odds-on favourite to bring him home.

In the end Nash, citing the desire to be close to his Phoenix-based kids as his No. 1 priority, chose Los Angeles. So I guess I'm an - ew- Lakers fan now. Can you make that vodka a triple?

Vancouver, meanwhile, may one day get an NBA team back. Commissioner David Stern has long said that he regrets losing Vancouver, and reports have surfaced on several occasions saying the league may one day come back to B.C.

As a basketball fan, those rumours always get me fired up, at least until one thought always fires me back down - we may get another team, but we will never get another Steve Nash.

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