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February 12, 2014
BROOKLYN No one plays forever.
Last June Jason Kidd decided that 19 seasons in the NBA were enough.
"I think it is the right time," Kidd said after announcing his retirement. “It has been a heckuva ride.’’
Kidd didn’t stay away from the game very long. Ten days after ending his playing career he became the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, a franchise he had transformed as a player with his hustle and leadership.
Derek Jeter didn’t have to transform the Yankees. He had to uphold one of the greatest traditions in sports - pinstripes.
For 19 seasons, Jeter represented everything good about professional sports. On Wednesday he announced on Facebook that this, his 20th season would be his last.
"I could not be more sure,’’ Jeter wrote on Facebook. “I know it in my heart. The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.’’
Kidd, 40, and Jeter, who will be 40 this June, are contemporaries. They share more than an era. Both had the complete respect of teammates and opponents.
“He’s one of the best to play as a Yankee,’’ Kidd said Wednesday before the Nets pulled away from the Charlotte Bobcats for a 105-89 win in Barclays Center.
“He’s everyone’s role model,’ added Kidd. “As kids grow up playing baseball and want to be a shortstop, every one wants to be Derek Jeter. For this to be his last year, everybody will miss him but he had a great run and hopefully he can end it on a positive note.’’
The Nets (24-26) were led by another star for the ages. Paul Pierce had 25 points in 22 minutes on 9-of-11 shooting including 5-of-5 from behind the arc.
This is Pierce’s 16th NBA season, the first 15 were with the Boston Celtics.
He becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season and he would leave quite a legacy should he help the Nets win their first-ever NBA title. Pierce, 36, won a title with the Celtics in 2008 when he also was voted the NBA Finals MVP.
“I don’t have the same step I had, 10, 12 years ago,’’ said Pierce. “A lot of times I’m just trying to take advantage of different cuts, playing off screens. Just use my basketball IQ out there.
“There’s a lot of guys that are probably faster, jump higher, but I feel like I have one of the great basketball minds in the game.’’
The Nets improved to 14-5 since the start of 2014, the best winning percentage in the NBA. They play the Bulls in Chicago Thursday night before the All-Star Break.
Then, as Kidd said before the game, it’s a race for the playoffs. There’s one race no athlete wins.
“As you get older,” Kidd said in June, “Father Time is undefeated.”