Nash, soccer star Henry among players in charity soccer match

Updated: June 24, 2008, 10:32 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash will be doing some drafting of his own on the eve of the NBA draft, calling in some big names from his two favorite sports for a first of its kind charity game.

Baron Davis, Jason Kidd and international soccer star Thierry Henry have committed to join Nash and longtime U.S. national team captain Claudio Reyna for a charity soccer match on June 25 at 5:30 p.m. at Nike Field on Chrystie Street in Chinatown. The match is open to the public.

Nash spends a good bit of his summers playing soccer in New York and has grown close with Reyna, who moved to Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls after playing in four World Cups and a long career in Europe that included stints in Germany, Scotland and England. Nash and Reyna are co-hosting the event and a subsequent private auction in SoHo to benefit their respective foundations, billing it as "The Showdown In Chinatown."

Henry and Nash are also close, but the Barcelona striker didn't expect to be available to make a trip to the States this week. That changed when France crashed out early at Euro 2008, placing last in the so-called Group of Death behind the Netherlands, Italy and Romania and managing just one goal -- from Henry -- in three games.

Other soccer luminaries scheduled to participate include Liverpool legends Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman in a reunion of their successful partnership for the storied English club in the 1990s; hot-shot American striker Jozy Altidore; who at 18 just signed a deal to leave the Red Bulls for Villareal in Spain's Primera Liga; Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel; and U.S. national team defender Gregg Berhalter, who plays in Germany for 1860 Munich.

Yet the most unique aspect of the game -- which will be played on artificial turf with eight players per side -- might be the participation of Davis and Kidd, who rank with Nash among the league's top point guards but don't have Nash's soccer background. Other NBA veterans expected to trade in their sneakers for boots include Nash's Suns teammate Raja Bell, whose wife Cindy played collegiate soccer while both were at Florida International, and two foreign-born players who did have a soccer upbringing like Nash: Phoenix's Leandro Barbosa and Chicago's Joakim Noah.

The Suns have to come to accept that Nash, 34, will play a lot of soccer in the offseason as a way to keep his body in top condition while also taking a break from competitive basketball. He still schedules regular shooting sessions in the summertime, but the bulk of Nash's regimen features gym work and rec-league soccer.

"I can't wait," Nash said. "Football and my foundation are two of my big passions and the chance to bring together guys like Thierry and Baron and Jason and Claudio ... it's going to be a lot of fun. And the best part is that it's free to anyone who wants to come watch us."

Asked about Nash's soccer habit, Suns president Steve Kerr said: "I have no problem with it. It keeps him in shape and keeps his mind fresh."

Nash has also described soccer as a helpful outlet to recover from playoff disappointment, which this summer finds the Suns -- much like Henry and Les Bleus -- still stinging from a first-round exit to San Antonio that eventually led to coach Mike D'Antoni's relocation to the New York Knicks, ending a successful four-year run under D'Antoni that propelled Nash to back-to-back MVP awards.

And Nash -- whose father, John, played soccer professionally in England and South Africa and whose younger brother Martin plays for the Canadian national team as well as the Vancouver Whitecaps one rung below MLS -- has made no secret of the fact that he plans to take his involvement in the sport past the hobby stage when his NBA career is over.

Just since October, Nash has revealed his dream of getting involved at an ownership level with his beloved Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League and has been working directly with Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber to bring an MLS expansion franchise to Vancouver in his native British Columbia in partnership with with former Yahoo! president Jeff Mallett. Nash also recently joined Mallett as an investor the fledgling Women's Professional Soccer league, saying he wanted to be part of something that would give his twin daughters role models in his other favorite sport besides basketball.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics