RUD, Jeff




Author Tags: Kidlit & Young Adult, Sports

As a sports reporter for the Victoria Times Colonist for 20 years, Jeff Rud covered basketball for USA Today and CBC-TV's The Score. He profiled Victoria native Steve Nash's remarkable ascent to the NBA in Long Shot (Polestar, 1996), re-released after Nash became an NBA all-star as Long Shot: Steve Nash's Journey to the NBA Revised and Updated (Raincoast, 2002). Rud then revisited the Nash story to publish Steve Nash: The Making of an MVP (Penguin Puffin, 2007). After twenty-eight years as a journalist, Rud became director of strategy and communications in B.C.'s Office of the Representative for Children and Youth. He has taught high school basketball in his spare time.

The following is an article that appeared in BC BookWorld in the Spring of 2007:

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Novelist and ardent sports fan Mordecai Richler once described Wayne Gretzky as the dullest man he ever met.

No one could say the same thing about Steve Nash.

While literally looking up to 95% of the players in the National Basketball Association, Victoria’s Steve Nash—Canada’s other “great one”—has ascended to almost unimaginable heights as the thinking man’s basketballer.

In 2005-2006, at six-feet-three-inches, Nash became only the third guard in NBA history to win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award in two successive seasons, in the company of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. In 2006-2007, Nash was on track to win his third consecutive MVP award.

This third coming of Steve Nash--the man sometimes called Hair Canada due to his long hair in 2005-2006--resulted in two new books, Jeff Rud’s Steve Nash: The Making of an MVP (Penguin Puffin $12.99) and Steve Nash (Heritage $16.95), a photo-laden tribute by Paul Arsenault and Peter Assaff.

Previously, as a sports reporter for the Times Colonist in Victoria, Jeff Rud published Long Shot (Polestar, 1996; Raincoast 2002), the first book about Nash. Based primarily on Arsenault and Assaff's book, here follows the gist of Steve Nash’s remarkable rise to fortune, fame, respect, family life and philanthropy.

Born in Johannesburg on February 7, 1974, Steve Nash and his younger brother Martin Nash—a starting midfielder for the league champion Vancouver Whitecaps—were raised in the Gordon Head area of Victoria along with their sister Joann, captain of the UVic women’s soccer squad for three seasons. John and Jean Nash originally immigrated with Steve Nash to Regina because they didn’t want their children to be raised in a racist society fractured by apartheid.

Sports was in the genes. Before marrying John Nash, Steve Nash’s mother Jean had played netball at the national level in England. John Nash played professional soccer in South Africa. Idolizing Wayne Gretzky as a boy, Steve Nash initially excelled in hockey, lacrosse, rugby and soccer. John Nash recalls finding his ten-year-old son Steve in the backyard, exhausted after juggling a soccer ball more than 600 times with his feet.

At Mount Douglas High School Steve Nash led his soccer team to a provincial championship and was named the most valuable player. “I’ve always thought soccer was a good explanation of who he is as a basketballer,” says Martin Nash. “Soccer is not a sport where you can be an individual. The role he played in soccer, playmaker, basically the point guard, is the kind of role he played in every sport, from rugby to lacrosse to hockey.”

The man who first placed a basketball in Steve Nash’s hands, Steve Gallo, was a Hillcrest Elementary vice-principal who ran a Wednesday evening league for 12-and-13-year-olds. “Within a month at fundamental basketball practice, you knew he was something special,” Gallo says, “[because] he got his biggest thrill setting up the other kids.” Whichever side Steve Nash played on usually built up a big lead, so Gallo would have to call a time out. “I’d switch him to the other side until they caught up, which they always did.”

While still in elementary school, Steve Nash could be seen on the playground after school, alone, methodically sinking one hundred left-handed layups in a row. At 13, when Steve Nash began playing basketball in a league, he told his mother he planned to play professionally in the NBA. “I didn’t doubt him,” she says. Jeff Rud credits Nash's remarkable self-motivated practicing regime from an early age for his ascent to superiority. Nash proceeded to lead Arbutus Junior Secondary to the provincial junior high championship in 1990; then led St. Michael's University School to the senior high championship in 1992. For good measure, he also won his school’s chess championship.

A high school basketball coach prior to his success at St. Michael's inadvertently provided addition motivation for Nash when he told the youngster that his ambition to play college basketball in the United States was unrealistic. This was not cruel or irrational advice. Hampered by an obsession to improve on the basketball court, Nash's grades as a youngster were too low to be seriously earn consideration for a scholarship. His coach at St. Michael's--a former rugby player who had captained the University of Victoria men's basketball team--not only encouraged Nash to dispense with hot-dogging tricks and concentrate instead on fundamentals, he also forced Nash to improve his grades. This same coach then sent videotapes of Nash to approximately 50 American colleges, enticing them to offer Nash a scholarship. At the eleventh hour, only one college replied affirmatively.

Toronto Raptors’ commentator Jack Armstrong would later credit Nash with a “huge basketball I.Q., the type of genius-claim often made of Gretzky,” but Nash is clearly more sophisticated than Gretzky outside of sports, having earned a Sociology degree at Santa Clara University, the only college that offered him a chance to play. Initially Steve Nash was homesick in Southern California and found himself outclassed by the superior athletes on his team. Often goaded by his coach, Nash once considered quitting after he was hospitalized with the flu, but overcame his severe underdog status on the team to gradually earn more playing time.

After attending Santa Clara University and playing in the NCAA championships, Nash was selected 15th overall in the first round of the NBA's entry draft on June 26, 1996, becoming the second Canadian (after Leo Rautens, drafted 17th in 1983) to be selected during the first round. Others drafted before Nash that year were 18-year-old Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Ray Allen and Stephon Marbury.

As only one of twelve Canadian players to make it to the NBA level, the little-known white kid from the Great White North was booed by Phoenix Suns’ fans from his draft day onward. “I was … well, I wouldn’t say maligned in my first year there,” he says, “but I was booed at home in my second year. That was a pretty amazing place to be in your career, to be booed at home as a young player, someone who is just trying to figure out what they can be. In some ways, it was great for me because it motivated me and taught me a lot about pro sports: Keep fighting and don’t take things so seriously.”

Although his playing time was limited—just ten minutes per game in his rookie season—Nash used adversity as grist for his competitive mill, improving in his second season prior to being traded to the Dallas Stars where the fans didn’t like him either.

After two seasons with a struggling Dallas team, Steve Nash didn’t realize his leadership potential until he played for Canada at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Having earned a silver medal at the World University Games in 1991 when he was seventeen, Nash was primed to catch world attention when Canada met world champion Yugoslavia in its final game of the round-robin.

Having beaten Australia, Angola and Spain, but losing to Russia, Nash and his low profile teammates were not expected to outdo Yugoslavia, the odds-on favourite to meet the United States for the gold medal. Nash became a national hero, scoring a team-high 26 points, stunning the Yugoslavians for an 83-75 win, finishing at the top of Group B. Four days later, when Canada lost a heartbreaker to France in the semi-finals, Nash left the court in tears but he came home a winner.

Having amazed the basketball world with his tenacity and creativity, Nash was also inspirational behind the scenes. He had anonymously distributed three thousand dollars spending money for each of his teammates, via Olympic coach Jay Triano, and he had declined the Olympic organizers’ plan to have him fly first class. “If you have to buy a first class ticket,” he told Triano, “give it to one of the big guys.” Despite being a multi-millionaire, Nash chose to sit in a middle class economy seat for the duration of the 17-hour journey to Australia.

In 2002-2003, Nash established a new franchise record for free throws, sinking 49 consecutive attempts. After forming an important fraternal relationship with rising German-born star Dirk Nowitzki, Nash transformed the attack of the Phoeniz Sun and became an NBA All-Star. He led the league in assists and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player for 2004-2005 as his team reached the NBA finals.

Having led the once-lowly Suns to the third-largest turnaround in league history, he became just the second MVP in the history of the franchise (after Charles Barkley, 1992-93). He was also the first point guard to win the award since Magic Johnson in 1990.

The following year Nash shot better than 40% from three-point range, better than 50% from the field, and he led the league in free throw percentage, shooting more than 92%. He won his second MVP award by a comfortable margin.

Steve Nash was for real. He didn’t win his first MVP because he was a white guy or because his main rival, Kobe Bryant, had been accused of sodomy and rape. For five years in a row, the team that had Steve Nash on it—whether it was Dallas or Phoenix—led the NBA in scoring.

Married in 2005 to his Paraguayan-born wife Alejandra (“Ale” to her friends), who formerly worked as a personal trainer in New York, Steve Nash is now the father of twin daughters, Lourdes and Isabella (“Lola” and “Bella”).

Although he once posed for GQ magazine, Nash is the antithesis of glam and he finds comments about his shaggy appearance absurd. He wore his hair long last year simply because his wife liked it that way. “I really don’t care about the response to my hair,” he says. “This is just how my hair is. I don’t take care of it, or comb it, or put anything in it …. When people comment on it, it is funny to me that it draws such attention. It makes me realize how insignificant that sort of thing is.”

Nash reputedly reads Dostoevsky and remains unusually candid, humble and free-thinking for a professional athlete. At the 2002 NBA all-star game he took a lot of heat for wearing a t-shirt with the slogan, “No war. Shoot for peace.” He is on record for opposing the American invasion of Iraq because no evidence of nuclear weapons was ever found. New York Times writer Liz Robbins once asked Steve Nash why he was bothering to read Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. “Nash explained,” she wrote, “as he picked up the manifesto, ‘only because I was reading the autobiography of Che Guevara and I wanted to get a better perspective.’”

When the B.C. youth basketball program was in trouble, following the transfer of the Vancouver Grizzlies franchise to Nashville, the Steve Nash Foundation, managed by Steve Nash’s sister, came to the rescue. Now the Steve Nash Youth Basketball League supports 8,000 young players in B.C.

As the host of an annual charity basketball fundraising game, held first in Toronto, then in Vancouver, Steve Nash and his foundation have raised more than one million dollars for charitable projects. Recently he and his wife succeeded in supplying modern medical equipment to Paraguay’s oldest teaching hospital, the Hospital of the Poor, in Asuncion, where a new post-operative pediatric cardiology ward has been created.

“We all love kids,” he says, “and feel their human potential and human resource is invaluable to society.” If any other sports superstar said that, cynics along the lines of Mordecai Richler would suspect it’s pure balderdash. But so far, we can believe everything that Steve Nash says. Off the court and on it, he has become, without intending it, one of the best ambassadors that Canada has ever had.

{Alan Twigg / BCBW 2007] "Sports"

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Having switched to covering provincial politics and education, Jef Rud has retained his passion for sports by producing a basketball novel for middle-grade readers, In the Paint: South Side Sports (Orca 2005), as well as Canucks Legends (Raincoast 2006) that profiles 75 players, from the Canucks’ first captain Orland Kurtenbach onwards to Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund and the lamentable Todd Bertuzzi, with more than 300 photos and essays by journalists Archie McDonald, Tony Gallagher, Iain MacIntyre and Kevin Woodley.

BOOKS:

Long Shot: Steve Nash's Journey to the NBA Revised and Updated (Polestar, 1996, Raincoast, 2002).
Skywalking (Raincoast, 2000).
Hockey’s Young Superstars (Raincoast, 2005 $19.95).
In the Paint: South Side Sports (Orca, 2005).
High and Inside: South Side Sports (Orca, 2006).
Canucks Legends (Raincoast 2006). 1-55192-809-4 $50
Steve Nash: The Making of an MVP (Penguin Puffin, 2007). 0-14-305345-0 $12.99
Crossover (Orca, 2008). 978-1-55143-981-5 $9.95
Paralyzed (Orca, 2008). 978-1-55469-059-6 $9.95
Centreville (Orca 2016). $9.95 9781459810310

[BCBW 2016] "Sports" "Kidlit"

Skywalking: How Ten Young Basketball Stars Soared to the Pros (Polestar $9.95)
Article



During Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s first three seasons, only four NBA players scored more points—Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Mitch Richmond and Michael Jordan.

When the Grizzlies and Raptors met for the first time this season, it was a showdown between the two best young basketball talents north of the 49th parallel.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim won. The Grizzlies’ skinny Muslim forward outscored the muscular Vince Carter—hyped as the heir-apparent to Michael Jordan—and his Vancouver team whipped their cross-country rivals handily.

During the post-game interview Abdur-Rahim remained soft-spoken and humble, thanking God and remembering to say ‘Hi, Mum’. Jeff Rud’s Skywalking: How Ten Young Basketball Stars Soared to the Pros (Polestar $9.95) shows that Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s humility isn’t too good to be true.

“Shareef’s early years were spent in the Muslim mosque educational system,” Rud writes. His middle class family always prayed five times daily. As the eldest son, it was Shareef’s duty to call his family to Fajr, the early morning prayer conducted as early as 5:30 a.m. Loosely translated, his name means ‘noble servant of the most merciful one.’

His father William was a Georgia State all-star basketball and football player in high school who trained to become an Imam, a religious leader in the Atlanta Muslim community. William Abdur-Rahim made sure his son was buffered from ‘inner-city foolishness’ by the disciplines of Islam.

Simultaneously William’s ‘gawky’ son practised sports with religious devotion. He would run up hills with his father and work into the dark hours on his shooting. His father would sometimes put a mark on the house and ask Shareef to jump up and touch it 50 times before he went to bed.

Mature for his age, Shareef coped with his parents’ divorce and was twice named Georgia’s ‘Mr. Basketball’. Rival fans taunted him, assuming he was big, black and dumb, but he was unperturbed. “People say he has an old man’s spirit in a young man’s body,” says his mother, Aminah.

Recruited by most major colleges, he chose to attend University of California at Berkeley after seeing students engaged in Islamic prayer on the campus lawn. Dedicated to self-improvement, he quietly brought his work ethic to the NBA where one general manager claimed ‘he couldn’t guard a door’. Shareef would prove him wrong.

He has steadily improved in every area of his game in each season. Withstanding double coverage on a poor team, he became the NBA’s sixth highest scorer in his second season and its fourth highest scorer last year. “During the three seasons he has been in the league,” says Rud, “only four NBA players scored more points—Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Mitch Richmond and Michael Jordan.”

Despite the rigours of travel and practice, Abdur-Rahim prays five times daily, attends Mosque every Friday and observes Ramadan (as does Houston Rockets’ veteran Hakeem Olajuwon).

Ramadan is the month during which Muslims believe the Koran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed more than 1,400 years ago. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and involves abstaining from food, water, sex and smoking between sunrise and sunset.

“This is far more important than basketball,” he says about fasting during Ramadan, “This is a time when I’m more at peace with myself and trying to get more in touch with God.”

He doesn’t mind playing in a so-called ‘small market’ city. He doesn’t mind if potential sponsors might balk at his Muslim beliefs. “Remember how you came upon all your accomplishments,” he says, “and stay humble.”

The other young basketball stars profiled by Victoria sportswriter Jeff Rud are Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Vince Carter (Toronto Raptors), Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs), Kevin Garnett (Minnesota Timberwolves), Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers), Steve Nash (Dallas Mavericks), Michael Olowokandi (Los Angeles Clippers), Chamique Holdsclaw (Washington Mystics, WNBA) and Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting, WNBA). 1-896095-46-1

[BCBW SPRING 2000]


Hockey’s Young Superstars
info



On his first day of summer hockey school, six-year-old Dan Blackburn clutched the boards and pulled himself around the rink. By the end of the second day, although he could skate, he decided to be goalie so he wouldn’t have to skate so much. A mere twelve years later, during the 2001-2 season, he joined the New York Rangers, becoming one of the youngest goaltenders in the NHL. Hockey’s Young Superstars (Raincoast, $19.95) introduces the “25 Hottest Players on Ice” including Daniel and Henrik Sedin—neither of whom was deemed worthy of the starting line-up for Sweden national team. A sports writer for 22 years, author Jeff Rud has covered the NHL for both the Victoria Times Colonist and the National Post. 1-55192-637-7

[BCBW 2005]

Another Steve Nash biography
Press Release (2006)



Non-B.C. authors Paul Arseneault and Peter Assaff have also published a paperback biography simply entitled Steve Nash (Heritage House, 2006). Here some promotional copy about the book:

"Steve Nash is one of the true superstars of the NBA. The Phoenix Suns' all-world point guard is now mentioned in the same breath as fellow basketball icons Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and the Sixers' sensational veteran, Allen Iverson. A two-time NBA MVP and three-time NBA all-star, Nash is an unbeatable combination of fire and finesse who is indisputably the leader of the surging Phoenix Suns franchise.

"Steve Nash is a celebration of Nash’s rise to the very top of his profession. Along with former and current coaches and teammates, Arseneault and Assaff convey the amazing story of this talented athlete and his ascension to the highest level of one of the most popular sports on earth.

"Featuring outstanding photographs, this book covers his early days as a two-sport star in Victoria, his eye-opening performance at Santa Clara University, his glorious days as a Dallas Maverick, leading Canada’s team at the Sydney Olympics, and his extraordinary career in Phoenix."

- Heritage House, 2006

Crossover
Review



Crossover by Jeff Rud (Orca Sports $9.95) ages 12+

Now a political columnist in Victoria, former sports columnist Jeff Rud has written numerous sports-related books, including a biography of Steve Nash. In Rud’s aptly-titled Crossover, teenager Kyle Evans is a good basketball player but his coach is asking for one hundred percent commitment. Trouble is, Kyle’s also got a part in the school’s upcoming stage play. He’d only auditioned to placate his girlfriend, thinking he’d be lucky to get a bit part, but then he landed the plum role of the Artful Dodger. Now his drama teacher is demanding fulltime commitment, too.

Trouble increases when the play’s set is vandalized with homophobic graffiti and dog crap gets dumped in Lukas Connor’s locker. So what if the somewhat effeminate co-actor Lukas, who’d aced the role of Fagin, favours fitted sweaters over baggy t-shirts, hates sports and loves dancing and singing?

Still, Kyle’s left wondering if his old friend is really gay. And does it matter? 1-55143-981-5

—review by Louise Donnelly

[BCBW 2008] "Kidlit"