It’s the 21st century. This is no age for short shorts and finger-rolls. This is the age of gravity-defying slam dunks and perfectly-constructed athletic Frankensteins of basketball. With each passing decade the talent in the league has become more physically imposing than the last. It’s 2012, and the youth – mixed like a heady cocktail of speed, skill, and athleticism – are pushing away the past and surging in the talented new future.
But the past isn’t ready to concede defeat quite so easily.
They may combine to a 111 years together, but the Three Wise Ol’ Men of the league – Jason Kidd, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett – continue to make a mark in the league. They’re using experience, they’re using their wisdom, they’re bringing in old-school tricks of the trade, and – in terms of pure, natural talent – they haven’t grown too rusty, either.
The first wise man – Kidd – was born in San Francisco, California, and drafted into the league by the Mavericks in 1994. He has since enjoyed a career as one of the finest point guards of his generation, and 18 years later, finds himself the proud owner of an NBA Championship and 10 All Star Appearances. A season after winning a championship with the Mavs validated his Hall-of-Fame NBA career, Kidd joined the New York Knicks and at 39, helped them raise their average to becoming the oldest team in NBA history! But Kidd has led the charge of old men in New York who have formed a working system around superstar Carmelo Anthony to become the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.
A lot of credit goes to Anthony for his MVP-caliber season and to Tyson Chandler for his dominance on the defensive end, but it has been Kidd’s reassuring presence as a leader which has changed the culture around the franchise and made them play like winners. Kidd continues to have a high assist-to-turnover rate to become an efficient, ‘full productivity, no waste’ player. He has improved his long-range shooting and his leadership has made the Knicks as a whole the league’s best long-range shooting team.
The second wise man – Garnett – was born in Greenville, South Carolina, and drafted into the NBA by the Timberwolves in 1995. Like Kidd, Garnett is also the owner of an NBA championship, which he got in 2008 with the Celtics. He has won an MVP award, a Defensive Player of the Year award, and been an All Star 14 times. Garnett’s versatility was ahead of its time in the mid-90s as he was a unique big man capable of playing the inside-outside game. As he has matured, he has developed into one of the NBA’s most loved leaders and continues to be the most passionate player on court in every game he plays.
Even in 2012, Garnett is one of the most feared foes for big men in the league. A monster on the defensive end, he continues to be a major difference maker for the Celtics. Garnett came off a dominating post-season where he nearly carried his team to within one game of the NBA Finals. The Celtics have been underwhelming so far this season, but KG will be expected to up the ante in the playoffs one more time.
And finally, our third wise man is Tim Duncan. Born in Christiansted of the US Virgin Islands, Duncan has not only dominated this era but has elevated himself to become one of the greatest players of all time. The perfect power-forward, Duncan has spent his entire career with the Spurs since 1997 and brought them four championship rings. His efforts also earned him 2 MVP and 3 Finals MVP Awards and 13 All Star Appearances. Without adding any superstar young blood to their core, the Spurs continue to be one of the league’s top teams, year in and year out, and a lot of credit for San Antonio’s dominance goes to the man in the middle who refuses to age, even at age 36.
In 2012-13, Duncan has seen a resurgence of sorts, getting his finest individual statistics of the past three years and showing a spring in his step as if his knees had been dipped in the Fountain of Youth. A consummate winner, Duncan hasn’t been a champion since 2007, and seems to be on a mission this year to help his team end back up on top again. Along with the core of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and others, this team will be a threat once the playoffs roll around once again.
Yes, we should be excited about the future, about the prospective stars who will rule the league over the next decade, about the potential talent in store which will do things that may come close to defying the loss of physics. But don’t look ahead to far, because the past isn’t done yet! The passion and the love for the game between Kidd, Garnett, and Duncan are exemplary for the rest of league. And for as long as they’re playing, they will continue to give it their all.