Rambis and Nash

Too slow. Can’t jump. Not quick, long, or strong enough. NBA scouts thought Steve Nash ’96 and Kurt Rambis ’80 had a lot in common. Now they have one more thing: the Santa Clara University Athletics Hall of Fame. Rambis inducted Nash at the Red & White Celebration in May and explained how he proved those scouts right—and how Nash got them canned.

Rambis and Nash
Steve and Superman: a pair of Bronco basketball greats. Illustration by Sean McCabe

To a guy like Steve Nash playing ball at Santa Clara in the early ’90s, Kurt Rambis was a legend. Rambis was also a busy guy—what with family and winning four titles with the Lakers. So it was especially nice for Rambis and Nash to spend an evening together recently, with Rambis inducting Nash and his teammates from ’93 and ’96 into the SCU Hall of Fame.

Twenty-some years on, Nash’s story remains improbable: a 6-foot-3 guard from Canada who parlayed his one and only scholarship offer into an 18-year NBA career. Rambis and Nash took turns trying to make sense of the ride.

Rambis pointed to the identical scouting reports but conflicting results. “I proved all of those scouts right,” he said. “Steve got all those scouts fired.”

Nash thanked his parents, teammates, and coaches at SCU. Nash’s dad, a former professional soccer player, taught him to see the game differently: using angles and changes of pace to make up for his athletic limitations. Nash turned awkward into an art form.

Fatherhood taught Nash to appreciate his time at SCU even more. Santa Clara made him tough, he said. Having the stability of Coach Dick Davey, who continued the legacy of Carroll Williams, made that possible. Looking at his kids, he hopes they have coaches with the courage to be tough on them.

“I wasn’t trying to go to the city or Silicon Valley, which didn’t exist when I went here a million years ago. I wanted to play in the NBA. To go up against men who were fighting for their job, you had to be so resilient. Coach Davey, every day, was a test in resilience,” Nash said.

Lots has changed at SCU since Nash’s playing days—for the better, he says. But underneath the new buildings are the bones that provided structure, and that’s important to him.

“I feel so far away from the school sometimes, but my heart always feels so close to the school,” Nash said. “At the end of the day, we all just want to be the best version of ourselves, whether it’s a basketball player or a member of a community or parents or part of the fabric that is Santa Clara that permeates itself out into the world. That for me is what makes this school incredible, to see how far we’ve reached.

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