The fabled draft class of 1996 that produced superstars and Hall of Famers such Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant may quite literally be on its last legs now that Bryant is likely sidelined for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Similarly, the toll of 10+ seasons is beginning to show on some of the stars of the 2003 class as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony endured their first prolong stints on the injured list this season. Chris Bosh, who along with James and Anthony have virtually been iron men when compared to their draft mate Dwyane Wade, also saw time due to injury very early in the season.
As the league slowly begins its slow transfer of power from the two greatest draft classes of the last twenty years some of the NBAs elder statesmen are showing that they still have what it takes to compete.
Moreover, the group of 35 and over stars listed below are showing that they’re not ready just yet for the Legends portion of all-star weekend, and that they’re worthy of some all-star votes themselves:
Vince Carter (F)
Dirk Nowitzki (F)
Tim Duncan (C)*
Jamal Crawford (G)
Manu Ginobili (G)
Steve Blake (G)
Elton Brand (F)
Kobe Bryant (F)**
Caron Butler (F)
Rasual Butler (F)
Kevin Garnett (F/C)
Kenyon Martin (C)
Andre Miller (G)
Jermaine O’Neal may eventually work his way to this list by season’s end if he signs with one of the western conference superpowers as many have speculated. The top half of this roster is faring pretty well and one is hard pressed to think that a team sporting Nowitzki and Duncan as its starting forwards couldn’t give one of the top teams a run for their money. They have a deep reservoir of heady guards, but this squad’s downfall might be its lack of quality big men behind Duncan and Nowitzki.
Still, looking at this list does a lot to make an old man like myself feel as if I can still go out there and push myself to see what I got.
* Duncan made the 2015 squad as a reserve.
** Bryant was voted among the 2015 Western Conference starters by fans.
I couldn’t resist reviving the Layup Line now that this year’s NBA Playoffs have begun. So here goes:
If Shaq wins a championship, what’s his legacy? Will he be remembered as the greatest center of all-time? Will he be remembered as the best mercenary? Underachiever? What does Shaq mean to the history of the NBA? While ABC & ESPN spend every other second reminding us that Kobe is great, no one has stepped to the line to take a closer look at Shaq’s legacy. Few seem to recall that Shaq is the lone superstar (?) of his era that has delivered on the championship aspirations signaled by their arrival into the NBA. Think of his peers: Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Chris Webber; Jimmy Jackson; Penny Hardaway; Christian Laetner; Alonzo Mourning; Dikembe Mutombo. Some of these players have had Hall of Fame careers of their own, and Mourning did in fact win a championship with Shaq and the Heat, so it’s not to say that they were a lost generation, but since Shaq is their marquee player, they don’t have a defined brand like the Jordan, Kobe and now Lebron eras.
Speaking of Kobe: has there ever been another player who’s greatness has been so over-touted? I’m not saying Kobe’s overrated, he’s not, but the NBA and its media auxiliaries ABC & ESPN have displayed a bizarre obsession over the past two years with reminding readers that he’s great. What are they afraid of? That someone out there might still be arguing that Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady is better than Kobe, or that the Lakers should have accepted the Clippers Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles trade offer?
Kevin Garnett is the best complimentary player of his generation. He’s Scottie Pippen with a better scowl, less of a handle, but more favorable media treatment and way more money
The Spurs are a split between the late 80s Celtics when Bird, Parish and McHale were at the tale end of their careers, and the early 2000s version of the Utah Jazz where Stockton and Malone always seemed to have enough to get them to a conference finals, but not enough legs to get any further. All that to say…
The Spurs should trade Tim Duncan to the Orlando Magic and start rebuilding. This can not be a straight up trade, but let’s say a scenario where San Antonio sends Duncan to Orlando, then agrees to a sign and trade with Chris Bosh and some spare parts, then suddenly they’re a step closer toward at least the middle of the pack in the West. Duncan gets to be David Robinson to Dwight Howard’s Tim Duncan, win another title or two and retire closer to home.