Steve Nash ended his 19-year NBA playing career Saturday, announcing his retirement in a letter published by The Players’ Tribune website. 

“I heard someone once say there comes a day when they tell us all that we can’t play anymore,” Nash, 41, wrote in his letter. “We’re not good enough. Surplus to requirements. Too slow, maybe. When you’re a teenager with outsized dreams and a growing obsession, and someone tells you this ain’t gonna last forever, it’s scary. I never forgot it.” 

Nash, who has twice won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award, ranks third all-time in NBA-history with 10,335 assists during his 21-year career. He added that he was most thankful for being given the opportunity “to be completely immersed in my passion and striving for something I loved so much—visualizing a ladder, climbing up to my heroes. The obsession became my best friend. I talked to her, cherished her, fought with her and got knocked on my ass by her.”

“And that is what I’m most thankful for in my career. In my entire life, in some ways. Obviously, I value my kids and my family more than the game, but in some ways having this friend — this ever-present pursuit — has made me who I am, taught me and tested me, and given me a mission that feels irreplaceable. I am so thankful. I’ve learned so many invaluable lessons about myself and about life. And of course I still have so much to learn. Another incredible gift,” he wrote.

Nash started his career in 1996 after being drafted 15th overall by the Phoenix Suns. He was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 1998 but returned to the Suns as a free agent in 2004, where he played until signing with the Lakers in 2012.

Nash finished his career as the most accurate free-throw shooter in NBA history at 90.4 percent. From 2001-02 through 2008-09, Nash led the number-one ranked offenses in the league playing with the Suns and the Mavericks. 

He won back-to-back MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 while with the Suns and was an eight-time All-Star selection. For his career, Nash averaged 14.3 points per game and 8.5 assists per game, shooting 49 percent from the field.

Nash signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012, but his career in Los Angeles was marred by injuries. After breaking his left leg in the 2012-13 season, Nash missed 24 games. In the 2013-14 season, Nash was sidelined for all but 15 games due to back, neck and knee injuries. He did not make an appearance this season. 

Though Nash felt some backlash from critics for his limited time playing in Los Angeles due to the injuries, he still felt welcomed by the Lakers and their fans. 

“Last spring, when I returned to the court, I was given a standing ovation at Staples Center. It was a dark time in my career and that gesture will be one of my best memories. There’s been a lot of negativity online, but in my nearly three years in L.A., I’ve never met anyone who didn’t show me anything but love and support for my efforts. There’s a lot of class in Lakerland, and the organization and staff have given me unwavering support,” Nash wrote.

Nash said he would miss playing basketball, the sport, he admitted, he might never play again. He said he was excited for the next phase in his life, adding that he hoped to inspire kids who are currently searching for their passion. 

“At the heart of this letter, I’m speaking to kids everywhere who have no idea what the future holds or how to take charge of their place in it,” Nash said. “When I think of my career, I can’t help but think of the kid with his ball, falling in love. That’s still what I identify with and did so throughout my entire story.”

—Elan Kane