End Of An Era

Never has one year experienced more detrimental retirements in NBA history. 2016 saw the career doors close for four future Hall of Famers. Kobe Bryant. Tim Duncan. Kevin Garnett. Ray Allen. These pioneers revolutionized the next generation of basketball legends. Each unique in their own right, the foursome gobbled up nearly every single potential accolade along the way. Their combined accomplishments are as follows:

NBA Championships: 13;                  Finals MVP’s: 5

Regular Season MVP’s: 4

All Star Nominations: 53;               All Star Game MVP’s: 6

All NBA Selections: 41

First Team: 25;      Second Team: 9;     Third Team: 7

All NBA Defense: 38

First Team: 25;      Second Team: 13

From Ray Ray in He Got Game to KG’s “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!!!” it’s hard to imagine many memorable NBA moments in the recent years that don’t include these four superstars. I’d enjoy sharing my most memorable experiences with each of these four basketball gods.

Kobe Bryant:

1996-97-e-x2000-kobe-bryant-rcMy most memorable Kobe Bryant moment came at a Boston Frenzy game in the early 2000s. I knew who Kobe was, obviously, but there was no hoopmixtape or ballislife to compose an expansive enough collection of highlights to regularly review Kobe’s play. ESPN coverage was spotty and unreliable, so if Kobe wasn’t on the Sunday ABC matinee, playing against the Celtics, or going off in a playoff game, there was no legitimate exposure to Bryant.

The Boston Frenzy were a peculiar exhibition team who’s roster was made up of players like Helicopta, Moses Malone Jr., and most significant of all- Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant. Kobe’s dad was around 50 at the time, making him more of a coach than a player. His personality and title superseded his ability as a player, and is actually just a backdrop in this story.

At halftime of the Frenzy game, they played a Joe/Kobe montage of clips on the jumbotron. It was the most impressive thing I had ever seen to date. At home I had a slow Mac color desktop computer- sky blue. This dinosaur could barely get videos to load, especially since helpful sites like Youtube didn’t even exist yet. I watched Kobe thundering home dunk, after step-back, after fadeaway, after dunk, after alley- alternating with pixilated reeling footage of Joe going coast to coast with a jam on the San Diego Clippers. It was more exciting than the actual game, and was one of the first realizations I had showing the importance of seeing actual gameplay and not just statistics in the newspaper.

Ray Allen:

One of my earliest Celtics game memories came when Ray Allen was not yet on the team. I attended a Celtics vs. Supersonics game, eager to witness the likes of my favorite player in the league: Rashard Lewis. Lewis and Ray, the original splash brothers, slaughtered the likes of Ricky Davis, Delonte West, and the rest of the degenerate Celtics.

I went to the game with my brothers and some family friends, one of which was donning a Ray Allen University of Connecticut jersey. To this date I regret not trading my retro Boston Celtics warm-up pullover for the jersey.

rayrayrayallen.jpgIf I remember correctly, Ray Ray and Rashard combined for around 60 points. Ray was remarkable. There was a stretch in the game where two plays in a row, Ricky Davis taunted Ray after finishing some contact layups. Ray followed with back-to-back threes from 27 feet out. With downtown snipers in the league now like Steph and Lillard, we have become desensitized to shooting this far beyond three-point land. At that point, it was the first time I had seen anything like it. Stricken with awe, I dreamed of a deal in which we got both super swishers in exchange for everyone on the Celtics roster.

That Christmas, my wish list was topped with a remote control hovercraft, a Rashard Lewis Supersonics jersey, and a Ray Allen UConn jersey. Santa came through in the clutch with my RC hovercraft and Supersonics jersey, but Ray Ray’s UConn jersey must’ve fallen out of his bag. The knock off version has sat in my Shopping Cart on AliExpress for over a year, but the magic behind the item cannot be replicated to that feeling of Christmas ’05.

Tim Duncan:

I have despised Tim Duncan for a long time. Paired with Tony Parker, the two were my most hated duo as a budding basketball fan. Although I denied it, it was understood how special they were on all levels. It was clear how admirable these champions operated on a night in, night out basis. Unfortunately, their need to be so incessantly boring drove me mad.

Duncan.jpgDuncan would score 30 and it would look like he’d only scored six. The man performed like an unrightfully decommissioned robot seeking vengeance on his opponents. He was so by the book it was irking.

Despite the Spurs perennial presence as a contender, Duncan’s normality paired with San Antonio’s style made them an unwatchable TV team. The paradox of a team so great being so eye-gouging to watch was unparalleled across all of sports.

The best reminiscence of Duncan I can muster is being elated when my brother selected him first overall in my first year participating in the family fantasy basketball league. I was allowed in that year as a tandum with my oldest uncle Mike, who was only participating in the league because they needed bodies. Dogging on my brother for the ugly selection, uncle Mike and I took Shawn Marion and (coincidentally) Ray Allen on the wrap around.   My team was stacked. I stole Steve Nash in the third round, who I later flipped for Kobe Bryant. Additionally, I scammed my other uncle in a deal where I landed Allen Iverson in exchange for Mehemet Okur and Damon Stoudemire. I sat atop the standings all year long.

In an incredibly controversial late season trade, I completed a blockbuster deal sending Shawn Marion to my brother Dylan in exchange for the scorned Tim Duncan. This deal still sits atop my list of my most regretted fantasy sport moves of all time. Karma struck when my team fell out of first place in the final week to none other than Dylan’s squad. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. And so my resentment of The Big Fundamental grew and grew. Now that he is off of the screen and off of the board in fantasy, I have grown to respect and honor the greatest power forward to ever play the game of basketball.

Kevin Garnett:

kggggggg

KG is in my pantheon of most fantastic players of all time. He was so dynamic in both the ways he performed physically, but also mentally. His drive and demeanor was, and still is beyond absurd. The man is a menacing savage who’s basketball tirades resulted in demolishing his competition’s hopes and dreams. One cannot play opposite Garnett without getting put on a poster, locked down and denied, or being demoralized to the point of watery eyes. No player in NBA history has made others lose their cool so easily.

I will never forget his high-octane pregame warm-up routine.   To this day it can be seen reenacted by every single one of my created players in 2k.

My favorite KG moment is one that came off the court. His interview with the late and wonderful Craig Sager after All Star weekend in 2009 was one of the most spectacular media interactions of all time. Walking out of the locker room, Kevin was met by Sager in a cotton candy pink jacket, rosy pants, blood shoes, and marine blue polka dot tie. KG informs Sager how imperative it is that he burns his entire ensemble, going on for a minute or so with a straight face on how serious Sager needs to be about the purging of his suit. Somehow, KG was able to embody a lighthearted demeanor with his friendly jab, which was properly returned with Sager’s giddy and respectful manor. It was later confirmed that Sager followed through and burned the outfit.

The NBA will mourn the loss of these legends, but we are being transitioned into good hands. A new era begins.  To properly validate my appreciation of this quadron, now is a good time to leak my all-time greatest list.  These four made out pretty well (6, 10, 12, 33).  My criteria for determining order is era-to-era transcendence of ability/talent, the ability to motivate a team to its greatest potential (includes winning mindset/killer instinct), and variety/importance of skill set.  I do not care what a player meant for the game at that point in history.

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. LeBron James
  3. Larry Bird
  4. Magic Johnson
  5. Shaquille O’neal
  6. Tim Duncan
  7. Bill Russell
  8. Kareem Abdul Jabbar
  9. Hakeem Olajuwon
  10. Kobe Bryant
  11. Wilt Chamberlain
  12. Kevin Garnett
  13. Scottie Pippen
  14. Moses Malone
  15. David Robinson
  16. Julius Erving
  17. Charles Barkley
  18. Karl Malone
  19. Kevin Durant
  20. Jerry West
  21. Dirk Nowitzki
  22. Allen Iverson
  23. Dwyane Wade
  24. Oscar Robertson
  25. George Gervin
  26. Chris Paul
  27. Gary Payton
  28. Stephen Curry
  29. Dominique Wilkins
  30. Clyde Drexler
  31. Patrick Ewing
  32. Jason Kidd
  33. Ray Allen
  34. Isiah Thomas
  35. Kevin McHale
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