Bigger, stronger, faster: These physical attributes have been used to describe the evolution of today’s athlete. They also inadvertently push the older generation out, while the next generation makes their way through their respective leagues. As fans, we celebrate their greatness and harp on those we deem should be, but not always allowing for those of a certain age and fame to be revered for their past performances. Rather, depending on how we feel about a particular player, we degenerate a player’s lack of outstanding production by pitting them against the statistics they used to produce. Some of these players have to prove us wrong, right?
The NBA is engulfed in entertainment, and once a certain player can no longer entertain us, they begin to lose their luster. More confusing, is the notion of once a player is no longer a threat, only then can we appreciate their career. Remember when Shaquille O’Neal was bouncing around from the Cleveland Cavaliers to Boston Celtics in the later stages of his career? Even Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen continued past their glory-days.
This NBA season, there have been a few NBA players that have pushed against Father Time and are consistent contributors on the court. It has been fascinating to watch players like Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Isaiah Thomas, who were once afterthoughts, now become regular rotational players. Of course, it wouldn’t be the NBA without special circumstances providing an avenue for their return to the league.
Carmelo Is Here To Stay
Carmelo Anthony was considered “washed” by most accounts, even with his summer workouts with current players going viral. There needed to be a team in dire need of his services. The Portland Trail Blazers were already without Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, Rodney Hood, and Skal Labissiere. Since signing with the Blazers, Anthony has played and started all 24 games, averaging 31.0 minutes per game for a Blazers team riddled with injuries.
Many jokes have been made about Dwight Howard since the infamous practice interview with himself and Stan Van Gundy. Howard, in the public eye, went from the next Superman to just another former All-NBA player relegated to the bench. Now, Howard is an intricate piece to the Los Angeles Lakers length on defense, and his energy has been off the charts.
Isaiah Thomas Back at the Point
Remember Isaiah Thomas? He was heart and soul of the Boston Celtics just a few years ago until that hip-check that sent his career into a tail-spin. Thomas has been on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Denver Nuggets the past few seasons, but this year has come on strong for a Washington Wizards team that needed some punch at the point guard position.
Hold the Applause for Chris Paul
Chris Paul was supposed to have been traded from Oklahoma City as soon as he arrived. Lucky for us, some front offices do not behave as we would when it comes to player transactions. Paul has been written off before, just as the others, and has played tremendously this season.
Who Shares the Blame
Is it us or them? How hard is it for an NBA player to prepare to leave the game? We’ll see a player’s shooting percentages drop for six games and tab them as “not having it anymore”. For Anthony, Paul and Howard, we praised them when they were flying high above the competition. Although they are well into their 30’s and nearing the end, their contributions on the court are still valuable.
Many athletes are not allowed the preparation for their impending retirement, especially when there’s immediate competition not only on their team, but within the league. The ideal of an NBA player’s prime can be pushed aside by front offices, due to lofty expectations and the pressure to win every single game. In some instances, young players are glued to the bench in favor of veterans, while some teams prefer to push the young talent to the front of the media guide.
There’s no need to separate praise for our athletes. We don’t need to choose between the up and comer and the grissled veteran. We can cheer on both, because both generations will end at the same point, and it is up to us to keep their memories alive.
Photo Credit: Bruce Ely – Trail Blazers