Here Today; Gone Tomorrow: Youth and Your Favorite Players
For many a millenial and I, the early 2000’s were when we developed our fandom for the NBA. Our days were spent looking at Eastbay catalogs with the latest Question or Dada Sprees sneakers or black Kevin Garnett jerseys in them at lunch, then pretended to be Kobe or Paul Pierce on the court at recess. Once the final bell rang, we’d stay on the blacktop or went home and played NBA Live or Street.
Well, that time has passed. Nowadays, we’re in our early to mid 20’s and becoming full blown adults. Hell, I still try and lead the Wizards to a title on my Gamecube, and even I’ve gotten a job and enrolled in school. I look on my Facebook feed and see kids I debated T-Mac versus Kobe with at the Mill showing their girlfriend’s hand clad with engagement ring, or talking about their new job in Richmond. It ain’t 2002 anymore.
Well, mostly not. As an NBA fan who grew into his fandom in the early 2000’s, there’s still a decent amount of names from then still in action. Are there guys who were prevalent then who’ve put on suits and taken TV or coaching gigs? Of course. Jerry Stackhouse, my then-favorite player and Shaquille O’Neal are on TV talking, not playing hoops. Jason Kidd, coverman of perhaps my favorite video game of all-time, NBA Live 2003, is drawing X’s and O’s up for the Bucks now. Tracy McGrady left the league after one last run with the Spurs, and frankly, Allen Iverson is most likely at a casino right now ranting about practice.
But for every player I vividly remember from then who’s retired, there’s another one still lacing up their shoes for another year. And in some cases, they’ve barely missed a beat over the past dozen years. Dirk Nowitzki is 35, yet still put up almost 22 points and six boards a night on a 49 win Dallas team. Tim Duncan, who was the MVP of my first season as a fan and has been a Spur longer then I’ve been a NoVA resident, had almost a double-double a night last year and was 1st Team All-NBA a season removed from that. Kevin Garnett’s NBA career is a year away from being legally able to drink, and he’s still pinned at Brooklyn’s starting power forward. Vinsanity might only come out on rare occasions, but as shown by this shot and the deal Memphis gave him, Vince Carter is still alive and kicking. Paul Pierce is playing for the Wizards. Do you know how crazy that’d seem to 11 year old me?
You know what else would seem utterly insane to 11 year old me, other then iPhones and finding girls attractive? Liking Kobe. I used to loathe the Black Mamba, but a funny thing happened; I realized that in a small way, the moment that Kobe walks off the court for the final time will be the death of all of the lunchroom debates my classmates and I had about him and other players. I’m probably being a little bombastic here, but when Kobe retires, a small shard of my childhood goes away. So, am I a Kobe stan who thinks he’s going to put up 25 points a night on a playoff Lakers team? Sweet Swaggy P in the morning no. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn’t go gently into that good night.
2014 is an exciting time on and off the court. The NBA has a bumper crop of stars currently a week away from tipping off, like the superhuman LeBron James, the sweet shooting Stephen Curry, the wondrous Kevin Durant (#KD2DC), and the Wizards’ own quick minded and quick footed John Wall. Finally being an adult unveils new freedoms like the nightlife and being a productive member of society*.
But there will still be Anthony Davis or Damian Lillard on the court five years from now. Tim Duncan and Ray Allen won’t. So, make sure to give props to the old guys while you can still see them play. The next time the Nets are in town or the Lakers are on TV, go and enjoy the Big Ticket or Kobe. Because as long as those guys are still active, so is that hoop crazy pre-pubescent still inside you.
*I’m still an undergrad, live with at home, and work slinging shakes at a local establishment. I’m very pleased with myself and the happiest I’ve even been, but I have my doubts that I’m one to talk about becoming an adult, per se.