- Akshay Manwani / @akshaymanwani
Everywhere else in life, human beings improve with age. But in professional sport, age is the athlete’s bane. As the years go by, the athleticism diminishes, the reflexes slow down, the knees begin to wobble and the body simply refuses to cooperate with the ambition to go on.
Yet, some NBA players, as the current season has shown, have defied this common logic. The 33-year-old Kobe Bryant is leading the league in scoring while Steve Nash, five years Bryant’s elder, continues to dish assists at the rate of knots. 34-year-old Paul Pierce is in consideration for making his 10th NBA All-Star appearance while Derek Fisher has shown he has enough left in him to produce buzzer beaters at 37.
Here then, is a quick look at some of the older guys in the league who continue to inspire fans around the world with their age defying heroics:
Kurt Thomas (DOB: Oct 4, 1972):
When Thomas was drafted 10th by the Miami Heat in 1995 he was viewed as a player who could bring in a double-double every night. This because coming into the league, Thomas was only the third player in NCAA history to lead the nation in both scoring (28.9 ppg) and rebounding (14.6 rpg), joining Hank Gathers and Xavier McDaniel. But breaking his ankle four times over a period of two years, between 1996 and 1998, Thomas faltered at fulfilling that promise. Even then, the fact that Thomas has stuck on to become only the 96th player in NBA history to play 1,000 games is commendable. Thomas, now in his 17th season in the league, is giving the Portland Trail Blazers some valuable minutes (16.8) while averaging 4.0 RPG and 3.9 PPG.
Grant Hill (DOB: Oct 5, 1972):
Hill played his first NBA game way back in 1994. Back then, Roger Federer was only a 13-year old. Kobe Bryant was still to make his debut in the NBA. Yugoslavia was one nation and the Spice Girls were yet to become a rage on the international pop music charts. Once seen as a natural heir apparent to Michael Jordan, ankle and groin injuries played their part in restricting Hill from making the most out of his youth. Yet, Hill has labored on. Now playing for the Phoenix Suns, Hill has missed only 15 regular season games in the last four seasons while averaging double digit PPG in all three seasons prior to the current one.
Jason Kidd (DOB: Mar 23, 1973):
Second highest on the NBA’s all-time leaders’ list in assists and third highest on the all-time leaders’ list in steals, Kidd has played at a consistently high level in his 17 previous seasons in the league. Having played a crucial role in the Dallas Mavericks’ first ever NBA title last season, Kidd, however, seems to be struggling just a little bit this season as his shooting percentages (FG - 28.2 and 3-pt – 25.8) have dropped from his career average of 40.1 and 34.7 respectively. Yet, dishing out 5.1 APG and effecting 1.6 SPG, Kidd proves that at age 38, he can still show up some of the younger guys in the league.
Steve Nash (DOB: Feb 7, 1974):
Currently the fifth oldest player in the league, Nash seems to be the only constant in Phoenix. Having made his NBA debut way back in 1996, Nash has played for the Suns in his second stint at the franchise ever since the 2004-05 campaign. At age 38, he leads the league in assists and is ranked sixth on the all-time leaders’ list for assists. The only blemish in an otherwise outstanding career has been Nash’s inability to win an NBA title. However, recent reports in the media suggest that should Nash make a request to be traded to a title contender to fill that one missing achievement on his résumé, the Suns’ management wouldn’t deny the future Hall-of-Famer his wish.
Marcus Camby (DOB: Mar 22, 1974):
One of the most underrated veterans in the league currently, Camby is pulling down rebounds at 10.0 RPG, including 3.0 RPG on the offensive glass, at age 38. His presence in the Portland squad has made the franchise a top-10 rebounding team this season. With injured center Greg Oden unlikely to play another game for Portland, Camby has done yeoman service for the franchise in the last two seasons and deserves a place in the West Conference reserves for the 2012 All-Star game.
Ray Allen (DOB: Jul 20, 1975):
At age 36, Allen is still running the courts in the league like a man possessed with the body of an 18-year-old. Having become the league’s leading all-time 3-point scorer last season, Allen is only getting better so far as his shooting is concerned. A career 45.3 and 40.1 percent shooter from the field and 3-point land respectively, Allen is averaging an awesome 49.5 and 54.3 percent in those categories respectively in the 19 games that he has played for Boston this season. Given those numbers, any thoughts harboured by Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge to trade the 10-time All-Star, would be at his own risk.
All stats and regular season standings are after games played on February 7, 2012 (IST)