NBA: Canadian star guard Nash retires after 18 seasons

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Steve Nash, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, announced his retirement Saturday after having missed the entire season for the Los Angeles Lakers due to a nagging back injury.

"I'm retiring from basketball. Thanks for all the love through the years," the 41-year-old Canadian posted on his Twitter page, along with a link to an essay on the Players Tribune website explaining his decision.

Nash, the son of an English father and Welsh mother born in South Africa just 18 months before his family moved to Canada, became a US college star at Santa Clara and was selected 15th overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns traded Nash to Dallas in 1998 and he played six seasons for the Mavericks, taking NBA Most Valuable Player honours in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons and establishing himself as one of the top point guards and assist men in the league.

Phoenix signed him to a free agent deal in 2004 and he stayed with the Suns until joining the Lakers in 2012.

Nash, a five-time NBA season assists leader known for accuracy at the free throw line and as a 3-point shooter, announced last October he would not play this season after doctors advised him to sit out because of lingering back pain.

"The greatest gift has been to be completely immersed in my passion and striving for something I loved so much - visualizing a ladder, climbing up to my heroes," Nash said in his farewell essay.

"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."

Nash finished with averages of 14.3 points and 8.5 assists over 1,217 NBA games.

He summed up his decision to depart by saying, "It's bittersweet. I already miss the game deeply, but I'm also really excited to learn to do something else."