During the last week I have received a few emails from readers with various suggestions about different issues they would like me to write about. One of them is the never ending debate of "Who's better?", so I have decided to compare players, both former and current, making a case for both players, taking into account their stats, accomplishments and overall legacy, how they will be remembered. I have elected to start the Legacy Matchup series with two of my most beloved players of all time: Steve Nash and Jason Kidd.
While both players will certainly be Hall of Famers and were very successful pass-first point guards, the passing ability is the only similar trait in their playing styles, as both players contributed to their teams in very different ways.
Whenever you bring up the name Steve Nash in a basketball conversation two things come to mind: extraordinary passing and uncanny efficiency.
An outstanding shooter throughout his entire career, he made 49% of his regular season career field goals, as well as putting up a 42'8% in 3s and being a 90'4% free-throw for his career, leading the league twice and ranking him amongst the best all-time when it comes to career free-throw percentage. Moreover, he was part of the exclusive 50-40-90 club, which requires players to shoot at least 50% from the field, 40% from 3, and 90% from the foul line for a season, while also making some minimum requirements on makes, such as a minimum of 300 made field goals and 125 made free throws. With only six players in NBA history having accomplished this feat, Steve Nash was part of this club four times during his career, two more than second place Larry Bird, while just missing out on the 2006/2007 season, where he made 89'9% of his free throws. On the opposite side, the current Milwaukee Bucks head coach shot a dreadful 40% from the field and 35% on 3s for his career
In addition, not only was he more efficient, but Nash was the better scorer. Steve's 14'3 career PPG average tops Jason's 12'6, while also posting up better scoring seasons all around. Nash scored more than 15 points per game in nine different seasons, while Kidd only managed to do so in five seasons. Even though they were both considered pass first point guards, putting pressure on the defense helps create opportunities for all five players on the floor.
While Jason Kidd has a higher career assist per game average, compiled more total assists and led the league five times (same as Nash) the Canadian surpassed Kidd's best season of 10'8 apg on four different seasons. However, it is hard to decide who was indeed the better passer.
When it comes to legacy, Nash comes out on top when comparing individual accolades. The former University of Santa Clara poing guard is a two time MVP recipient, while the closest Kidd came to the award was a second place in 2002. Nash was an eight time All Star selection, while Kidd had ten All Star appearances. Nash was a 3x All NBA First Team, 2x All NBA Second Team and 2x All NBA Third Team, while Kidd made the All NBA First Team 5 times and the Second Team once, so we can assess they both had similar individual impact on the league, but Nash was considered the best player in the league for two straight years.
Career Stats: 14'3 ppg, 8'5 apg, 3 rpg, 0'7 spg; 49 FG%, 42'8 3FG%, 90'4 FT% in 1217 games
The Bay Area born and raised point guard is without question one of the most versatile, better all around point guards of all time. Dubbed "Mr Triple Double" the former California Golden Bears point guard could do it all on the court, which translated into ranking third in the all time career triple-double category with 107 regular season triple doubles, behind only Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson; and also third in the postseason triple-double category behind Magic Johnson and LeBron James. Steve Nash did not come close to being able to fill up the stat sheet the way Kidd did, a guy capable of averaging a triple-double in various Playoff series and even an entire postseason.
Despite being known for his remarkable passing ability and court vision Kidd was an outstanding rebounder at the point guard position, at 6'3 rebounds per game for his career. His worst rebounding season saw him grab 4'1 rebounds per night, Nash's best rebounding season saw him grab 4'2. At 6'3 rpg he more than doubles Steve's career average of 3'0 rpg. During the 2006-7 and 2007-8 seasons the Nets guard averaged 8'2 and 8'1 rebounds per game. That's right, more than 8 rebounds per game on two straight seasons. His 8 725 total career rebounds make him the point guard with the most total rebounds in NBA history.
Alongside his rebounding dominance for a guard, Kidd is widely known to have been considerably better than Nash on the defensive end. While the Canadian point guard was often torched by opposing point guards, Kidd was a 4x NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, while earning a spot on the Second Team five times. His 1'9 steals per game rank him amongst the NBA's elite defense. Just for the sake of historic perspective, Gary Payton, perhaps the best defensive point guard of all time, had a career average of 1'8 spg. Nash, on the other hand, averaged 0'7 steals for his career, with a career best 1'0 spg on three different seasons. Kidd never had a season below 1'5 spg, and had at least 2 steals per game on eleven different seasons, retiring second in the all time steals list behind only John Stockton.
Although he earned multiple All-NBA selections, his individual accolades do fall behind his rival in this legacy matchup, as he never received an MVP award. Collectively, however, Kidd does have an edge, since he led the Nets to two straight NBA Finals appearances as the team's best player, while also contributing in an important role as the starting point guard for the 2011 championship winning Dallas Mavericks. Steve Nash on the other hand, despite playing in a more competitive Western Conference, is one of the best players of all time to have never played in the NBA's biggest stage, The Finals. As a member of USA Basketball he brought home two Olympic gold medals, and went undefeated in FIBA Basketball at 46-0.
His consistency is also an importante factor to consider. While Nash had a tremendous career, he did not truly make an impact until his fifth season. Kidd was a second overall pick and contributed from day one, sharing Rookie of the Year honors with Grant Hill and becoming an All Star by his sophomore year.
Career Stats: 12'6 ppg, 6'3 rpg, 8'7 apg, 1'9 spg; 40 FG%, 34'9 3FG%, 78'5 FT% in 1391 games
Taking all the previous arguments into consideration, at NBA Freaks we do believe Jason Kidd has the better legacy and is the overall better player, as he was able to make up for his atrocious shooting percentage with top notch defense, rebounding and passing. His status as a two way player, being able to impact games on both sides of the floor, and as a champion make him the winner of our first Legacy Matchup.
Who do you think had the better career? Who was the better player? Follow us on Twitter @NBAFreaksBlog and join the discussion at #NBAFreaksBlog and #KiddvsNash