Turns out Steve Nash cared more about pursuing a title than landing one last huge contract.
All the accolades he has accumulated over his career, two MVP awards, seven All-Star appearances, five assist titles and three selections to the All-NBA First Team have lead to a Hall-of-Fame career, but his addition to the Lakers can fill a long standing void: a championship.
Only two picks separated Nash and Bryant in the 1996 NBA Draft and throughout the course of their careers, the two engaged in a personal battle.
Following the acquisition, the two are each other’s best allies in claiming another title.
Once Bryant provided his blessing, the Suns sent him to Los Angeles in exchange for four total draft picks, first rounders in 2013 and 2015 along with second rounders in 2013 and 2014.
Phoenix didn’t hesitate in finding a replacement point guard, agreeing to terms on a four-year $34 million deal with Goran Dragic, a player that backed up Nash for two and a half seasons and adding forward Michael Beasley as a free agent.
While the Suns added younger talent, replacing league leader in total assists over the past three seasons will be difficult.
Nash guided the Suns to a .500 record while leading the team in 3-point shooting percentage, assists and ranking third in scoring average.
Only Rajon Rondo had a higher assist total than Nash’s 10.7 per game last season.
The Lakers were able to acquire Nash without sending any salaried players back because of the trade exception acquired in the Lamar Odom trade with Dallas.
Nash is expected to sign a three-year deal worth $27 million upon his arrival in Los Angeles.
If he accepted Toronto’s offer, he could have made $36 million over the same time period.
Other teams, such as New York and Miami expressed interest, but his presence with the Lakers once again makes the franchise a favorite in the Western Conference.
The 38-year-old All-Star brings the average age of the Lakers starting lineup to 32.2 years, while Oklahoma City, the defending Western Conference champion has an average age of 24.4.
Los Angeles is hoping its experience will lead it to a 17th title, tying the franchise with Boston for the most championships in league history.
While Nash is hoping to provide the impact at point guard Los Angeles has been seeking for years, most recently trading for Ramon Sessions, the Lakers added one of their fiercest rivals from the past.
Phoenix eliminated the Lakers in 2006 and 2007. Following the loss in 2007 to the Suns, Bryant demanded a change to the lineup and the team responded by acquiring Pau Gasol and surging to the NBA Finals.
Although it lost to the Celtics, the team responded by winning the next two championships and solidified Bryant as one of the greatest shooting guards ever to play the game.
While Bryant has continued his stellar play, falling just a tenth of a point shy of his third career scoring title, the team has suffered quick post season exits each of the past two years.
For much of his career, Bryant has served as the primary ball handler and controlled the Lakers offense.
As the team has abandoned the triangle offense employed by the previous coaching regime, the necessity of a point guard has increased for Los Angeles.
With Nash in the mix, Bryant will have to relinquish control of the team and allow one of the greatest distributors to revamp the offensive attack.
Even if Nash is the last major piece added to the Lakers, his presence on the team has one again ascended the Lakers into the elite class of the league.
By earning $3 million less per season, Nash has the fortune of once again playing for a legitimate contender for an NBA championship.