Posted by: Jimmy on May 2nd, 2011The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
About once a decade or so the reigning superstars of the NBA fade away, giving way to the next generation of younger, more gifted, and more self-assured athletes. This change comes as surely as the rising of tides or the setting of the sun.
In the 90’s we watched as Bird, Magic, and Isaiah gave way to Jordan, Charles, Patrick and Karl. As the 2000’s began, those players found the spotlight shifting to Kobe, Duncan, Shaq, and Garnett.
As we witness in awe the spectacular moments of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, we are once again watching the curtain fall on this generation’s wave of NBA stars.
A decade ago, Shaq and Kobe teamed up to win a championship for L.A.. Tim Duncan helped the Spurs to the league’s best record with 61 wins. Garnett led an otherwise unspectacular Minnesota team to the West’s 8th seed. Dirk Nowitzki helped the Mavericks upset the veteran Utah Jazz, and Allen Iverson was breathing life into the long-sleeping 76ers (info courtesy Wikipedia.) The rise of the new NBA superstar was in full swing.
Now, ten years later, many of these players are still in the playoff mix, and they seem unaware that the same pattern is inevitably occurring, just as it did for Stockton, Malone, Robinson, Barkley, and even Jordan before them. Yet the signs are all around.
Iverson is enjoying the 2011 postseason in Turkey, Shaq just spent his team’s first round matchup in a suit, and Duncan returned home early for the start to his golf season. Kobe is hanging tough, still productive but nowhere near his dominance of half a decade ago, while Garnett leads the battle-weary Celtics into a clash with South Beach’s resident superstars, and Dirk – though sickeningly productive – can only hope to make the next few games close before bowing out once again earlier than he’d like. The sun is setting on these illustrious careers.
Meanwhile, the tide is already rising for NBA superstars like Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudamire, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, and others. With these players not only entering their prime but also teaming up, the door is quickly closing for veterans to take home their last pieces of hardware. Soon, the curtain will touch the stage and their chance will be gone.
My advice to these players is simple: Leave now. Retire while you still have something left in the tank. Go out on top, or as close to the top as you can. Why?
When a star player is reaching the end, finishing that last max contract, slowly fading from glory, what does his team do? Trade him? Cut him loose unceremoniously? Of course not! They keep him as long as they can, because they know that he is impossible to replace. And so the responsibility falls to the player to protect his legacy before it’s too late.
With change as inevitable as the setting sun, I hope to see more players willing to say, “enough” before it gets ugly. Before the inexperienced 8 seed knocks them out of the first round. Before they lose the glory they worked so hard to attain.
And if Kobe Bryant ends up being the first to say goodbye, I won’t complain Go Jazz.
*Article first published as The Changing of the Guard in the NBA on Technorati.
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