(Reuters) - Two-time NBA most valuable player Steve Nash, one of the best point guards ever to play professional basketball, is retiring after a 19-year career, the Canadian said on Saturday.
The future Hall of Famer, a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, made the announcement in a letter published on The Players' Tribune website.
"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," the 41-year-old Nash said.
An eight-time All-Star, Nash finished his career with 10,335 assists, the third most in NBA history.
His retirement was in many ways a mere formality as the point guard, beset by back problems, had been unable to play this season with the Lakers.
After a standout career with the Phoenix Suns, where he won MVP honors in 2005 and 2006, Nash had struggled in Los Angeles due to injuries, playing in only 65 games.
"When I signed with the Lakers, I had big dreams of lifting the fans up and lighting this city on fire," said Nash, who signed a three-year, $28 million deal with the franchise in 2012.
"I turned down more lucrative offers to come to L.A. because I wanted to be in the 'fire,' and play for high risk and high reward in my last NBA chapter. In my second game here, I broke my leg and nothing was the same."
A standout at Santa Clara University in California after attending high school in British Columbia, Nash was a first round draft choice of the Suns in 1996. He played two seasons with Phoenix and six with the Dallas Mavericks before returning to the Suns for the 2004-5 season.
Only John Stockton and Jason Kidd had more assists than Nash, who for nine consecutive seasons was the point guard for the number one offense in the league.
Nash averaged 14.3 points and 8.5 assists for his career. He also was the most accurate free throw shooter in NBA history, making 90.4 percent of his attempts.
"I will likely never play basketball again," he wrote. "It’s bittersweet. I already miss the game deeply, but I’m also really excited to learn to do something else."
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina)