For the sake of the kids

Steve Nash and former Olympic rower Marnie McBean share a laugh during a news conference to promote...

Steve Nash and former Olympic rower Marnie McBean share a laugh during a news conference to promote Nash's charity basketball game at the ACC tomorrow night. (Toronto Sun/Mark O'Neill)

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

The first player Steve Nash invited to his charity basketball game won't be in attendance tomorrow.

And that, indeed, is a shame.

You see, this town and this country is big enough and small enough for both Nash and Jamaal Magloire to share the stage, but only one of the two Canadians playing in the National Basketball Association seems to understand that. In this case, the little man from Victoria sees the big picture: The big man from Toronto comes off as being quite small.

"The invite still stands," said Nash, yesterday at the Olympic Spirit Centre, promoting what is dear to him -- his charitable foundation, this country, kids, basketball, tomorrow's game, all of it good.

"(Jamaal) can show up at halftime if that's all he can make and we'll put him out there.

"I root for him. I love Jamaal and I want him to be a better and better player and a bigger influence in this country."

Steve Nash is a national treasure and quite possibly the most popular athlete in Canada today. He understands that comes with a certain responsibility and seems to cherish the opportunity to share it. He waxes poetically about his experiences with various national teams and in particular, with the 2000 Olympic team in Sydney. He calls that -- not his MVP season in the NBA -- his most memorable basketball experience.

And what he says often translates beyond the small hoops world with which we call home.

Jamaal Magloire is an Eastern Commerce kid who should own this town but doesn't quite know how. He played major college basketball, was a first-round pick, an all-star in the NBA, and still his profile here is only lukewarm. He wants to be popular, would love to play for the Raptors, represents himself well in the community, but there has never been a smooth and easy connection.

People don't love the guy because they feel like they don't know the guy. He opted out of playing for the national team on more than one occasion. He never supplied reasonable answers as to why. He never thought he had to.

And when the Nash game was announced some months ago, replacing the diminished Vince Carter event that used to precede Caribana, Magloire quietly grumbled that this should have been his event. Typically, as has happened before with Magloire, he came off looking like the bad guy, even if he isn't a bad guy.

The best thing Magloire could do now for his own image in this country is to show up tomorrow, say hello, wave to the fans, sign an autograph or two, maybe even bring his shorts and sneakers. The best thing he could do is work with Nash instead of apart from him, trying to get a basketball facility built so kids could play for free.

"I was just upset," Nash admitted when asked about Magloire's not-so-private complaints about him. "I was asked to do the event and thought it would be an extremely positive thing to do for Toronto."

It is a positive thing -- but with Magloire aboard it would translate into more of a Toronto event than it is now. It would be the Canadians in the NBA -- both of them -- working together rather than apart.

And the truth is, basketball in this country needs both of them. They need big men and small men for role models, black men and white men: In this case, good people to believe in.

What Nash wants, through this game, is to establish an all-kids, all-access basketball centre in Toronto. "I just want kids to be active," he said. "The more active they are, the more healthy."

Jamaal Magloire couldn't possibly argue with that as he prepares his band for Caribana instead of playing for a cause at the Air Canada Centre.

It's time he tossed his ego aside and jumped aboard the Steve Nash bandwagon.

There is a plenty of room for two basketball stars in Canada. Even more if they can find a way to work together.


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