Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Decade after Decade

Early in the morning of August 15, 1979, my parents had their third son born, and named him Gerard (Himself). I have to face the facts: I’m no longer part of the cool kids anymore. And one might wonder if I ever was, being the NBA nerd that I am. I sometimes still feel like I’m 18, and in many ways I still am. I’m messy, more often than not I don’t eat right, I’m not really good at saving money, and still laugh a bit too hard when one my brothers farts. I’m a big kid, but my passport tells me otherwise.

When I reminisce, I often find myself thinking in NBA seasons rather than actual years, and that’s when the question arose to me: since we’re nearing the end of the first decennium of the new millennium, how many players are there left who joined the League in the nineties? My love for the game started at the beginning of that decade, and a lot of players I idolized have been long gone. That’s how it goes, but who are left? Who are the last men standing on the court, sitting on the bench, or being angry at their creaky knees, bum ankles and aching backs; begging their team physicians in the trainer room to find a way to get them back on the floor?

Atlanta Hawks: Mike Bibby, Joe Smith

Boston Celtics: Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace

Charlotte Bobcats: Nazr Mohammed

Chicago Bulls: Lindsey Hunter, Jerome James, Brad Miller

Cleveland Cavaliers: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Shaquille O’Neal, Anthony Parker

Dallas Mavericks: Greg Bucker, Erick Dampier, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Tim Thomas

Denver Nuggets: Chauncey Billups

Detroit Pistons: Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace

Golden State Warriors: Devean George, Corey Maggette

Houston Rockets: Brent Barry, Tracy McGrady

Indiana Pacers: Jeff Foster

Los Angeles Clippers: Marcus Camby, Baron Davis, Ricky Davis

Los Angeles Lakers: Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom

Memphis Grizzlies: None

Miami Heat: Jermaine O’Neal

Milwaukee Bucks: Kurt Thomas

Minnesota Timberwolves: Chucky Atkins

New Jersey Nets: Rafer Alston, Tony Battie

New Orleans Hornets: Antonio Daniels, James Posey, Peja Stojakovic

New York Knicks: Al Harrington, Larry Hughes

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Ollie

Orlando Magic: Vince Carter, Anthony Johnson, Rashard Lewis

Philadelphia 76’ers: Elton Brand

Phoenix Suns: Grant Hill, Steve Nash

Portland Trail Blazers: Andre Miller

Sacramento Kings: Kenny Thomas

San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan, Michael Finley, Antonio McDyess, Theo Ratliff

Toronto Raptors: Rasho Nesterovic

Utah Jazz: Matt Harpring

Washington Wizards: Antawn Jamison

There’s something wrong with this list. And no, it’s not because Damon Jones or Bruce Bowen aren’t on it. I remember watching the 2001 All-Star Game, with Allen Iverson winning the MVP that Sunday, and Stephon Marbury showed that he truly belonged to be in the game, even though the Nets were losing a lot that season. Now, 8 ½ years later neither of them are on a roster.

Marbury can do whatever he wants. The man is 32, and doing things in front of a webcam that I don’t understand. All I know is that he won’t get back into the NBA because of his recent behaviour. I’m not judging; if he wants to smoke weed, fine by me. I’m Dutch, I don’t agree on America’s strict rules on this anyway, even though I have never smoked myself. But when you’re an NBA player (even one without a contract), it might not be a smart thing to talk so openly about this online. Then again, it’s obvious that he made a clear choice to put his basketball career to rest by being so brutally honest and I truly hope he’s happy. I’m not sure though.

With Iverson it’s not because he has lost his talent, but it’s that specific talent that has brought him this far, now has become a burden because not a single team can see him fit in. An undersized guard who is a true scorer, but regarded by some as too old, or a disruptive force by others. Being mocked by ABC during the Playoffs because Chauncey Billups played great for the Nuggets, while AI wasn’t playing at all, was a misplaced joke. Apparently many thought it was hilarious, but I thought ABC should’ve been ashamed by this. With a new season on the horizon, the fan in me hopes to see Iverson wearing an NBA jersey, and hopefully playing for a title. The realist in me says those chances are very slim. He might not ever win the title, yet I’m positive he still has some good years in him. The question is: will he have the opportunity to do what he has done throughout his career; to prove everybody wrong?