Photo Credit: Sports Out West
It was a tough pill to swallow around the end of last season. With the retirement of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and others, it had finally became official. All the NBA superstars I had grown up watching and admiring were out the door. With Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Ray Allen (just to name a few) already out the door, we were left to very few superstars from the past generation. Paul Pierce has announced this is his last year, and Vince Carter is not too far from going out the door as well. All the childhood heroes, the dream catchers, my all-time favorite players, are all…gone. Indeed, it was a very sad realization.
I remember when I had first gotten into the NBA. I was around 7 years old. What had caught my attention was when the Golden State Warriors beat the Dallas Mavericks in the 1st round of the 2008 playoffs. To clarify, it was a 8 seed over 1 seed upset, a very rare happening. From there, my soon-to-be NBA addiction took off. I remember getting my hands on my first NBA 2k. It was a little outdated, being NBA 2k06 and featuring Shaquille O’Neal on the cover in a Miami Heat uniform. I played it endlessly, stopping only to watch the real NBA or go out and play on a hoop of my own, pretending I was the NBA superstar. You heard it here first. I, along with millions of kids worldwide, would take that game winning shot in game 7 of the championship.
I began to know everyone’s name. I could go on forever about all the players I knew and what I knew about them. I was particularly obsessed with the Philadelphia 76ers organization. Heck, I’m even still a fan today. My favorite player (still to this day), was Allen Iverson. His ability to dominate the league while being so short gave an undersized boy like me hope. I never really got to see him in his prime with the 76ers, but I knew how good he was.
I couldn’t stop talking about The Truth, Paul Pierce. He always seemed to make the right decision on the floor. He was the true leader for the Celtics roster that had torn up the NBA for a season. The Boston Celtics were the first team I ever saw capture an NBA Championship. I didn’t exactly root for them, but when they won, I couldn’t help but be absolutely fascinated by everything I saw.
It must have been my dad brainwashing me, but I always despised Kobe Bryant. My parents are die-hard Jazz fans, and Kobe Bryant was not exactly a player people in Utah root for. Unfortunately for us, he was one of the most successful players of the generation. I was too young to really have sports opinions of my own, but I really wish I would have appreciated Kobe a little bit more, especially now that he is gone.
I could never go a single day without mentioning Carmelo Anthony. I wanted to look like him. I wanted to play like him. I wanted to be Melo. We went to countless Nuggets games every year, and I would never get tired of the PA announcer booming “MELO” as Anthony took down the court. I remember wanting to see him beat LeBron, Kobe, Duncan and the Spurs. Unfortunately he never could, but I never stopped wishing one day he would.
Like I said, I could go on forever. Tim Duncan, Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitski. Even Deron Williams was a sight to see when he played in Utah. Now, all of those memories and iconic players are out the door. Now, the NBA is so different. It’s not worse. In fact, I wouldn’t mind saying it has gotten even better. But still, it is different. Now many are talking about the Golden Age is returning, to bring back the excitement those superstars left behind.
You cannot replace Allen Iverson. You just can’t. No one will ever be Allen Iverson. Sure, players are better, some significantly. But there is only one AI. That is what I thought before I met D’Angelo Russell. His knack for being great and subtly cocky mentality makes him my favorite player in recent years. His ball control and “I’m the best” train of thought gives me hope he can one day become the superstar that The Answer was. Except, with the team around him, maybe one day he will find the promise land and deliver a championship to the Lakers.
I remember when I was watching Andrew Wiggins when he was at Kansas, and loving is game. He carried the winners feel and star potential. I still think to this day he can transform himself into a player who can score regardless of the circumstances. The more and more I watched him, I had grown into the thought that he could one day reach the level of Paul Pierce. And his teammate, Karl Anthony-Towns, has the ability to become the Kevin Garnett piece the Timberwolves need to win a title. The threesome of Wiggins, Lavine, and Towns set up the foundation of a future dynasty. As a message to the owner of Minnesota, please do not mess this up. I want nothing more than to see how much damage a team like this can do.
No one is Tim Duncan. Maybe a couple of players are better than him, but there is no one in the league right now that can be as good as him, right? Then you have not met Kristaps Porzingis. He seems to be on a mission to carry on what Tim Duncan left behind. a 7’3″ monster who can pull up accurately from 30 feet. It’s absolutely astonishing. He takes upon the name “rim protector” and uses it to crush his opponents. He keeps that face-up center mentality, rarely going to the post but rather using his teammates to get open shots and win the game.
There is so many young players I can go on and on about. We haven’t gotten to even bring up the Jazz’s core with Gordan Hayward, Dante Exum, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert. We haven’t gone east of America to look at Ben Simmons. We haven’t mentioned Joel Embiid, Brandon Ingram, Emmanuel Mudiay, or Devin Booker, just to name a few. It’s a tough job to replace the decade that just passed. We easily could have watched the best decade the NBA has ever seen pass through, and leaving behind young rookies and sophomores to replace them. But the future is bright, and there is no doubt the young superstars from around the league have the capability to bring the NBA back into a “Golden Age.” Indeed, the future is coming, so watch out.