Father Time is one bitter old man, as am I

April 25, 2008

by Justin Phillips

Well, I’m getting old.

Thanks to the NBA All-Star weekend, I realized how at 21 years of age, I’m a basketball senior citizen.

Confused? Well, it’s probably because you’re old like me. I’ll explain anyway.

When it comes to All-Star weekend festivities, it’s all about the build-up during the week leading into the Friday, Saturday and Sunday night stretch. This is the reason ESPN Classic spends entire days replaying old highlights and memorable moments of past All-Star games. It’s all about wetting the palate of the basketball junkie before serving them the main course.
And I’m all for it.

I like watching old games ranging from the mid to late ’90s all the way into the 2000s. The games where Michael Jordan, a skinny Shawn Kemp, a young Shaq and a young Allen Iverson all got the chance to showcase their abilities for the growing worldwide audience.

It seems like just yesterday when Jordan was playing in the All-Star game in Madison Square Garden, where he routinely torched the New York Knicks, and was saying how that game under the bright lights of the Big Apple was going to be his final All-Star game appearance before retiring for good. I remember when Allen Iverson exploded for 25 points and his first All-Star game MVP award against the premiere late ’90s NBA talent before they started to really show their age (Gary Payton, Shaq, Mutumbo). Iverson dominated the game in the fourth quarter and NBA Comminioner David Stern’s awkward, pun-filled post-game trophy presentation to Iverson was an uncomfortable piece of now YouTube heaven. I remember when Vince Carter put on one of the greatest individual athletic performances ever in the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., as he 360 reversed windmilled his way into slam dunk contest infamy.

Ah, those were the days. Are you still wondering why I feel old?

The Madison Square garden game I remember so vividly with Jordan bidding one of his many fair wells was in 1998.

Ten years ago.

The dunk contest where Carter’s aerial acrobatics sent basketball junkies across the world into euphoric comas was in 2000.
Eight years ago.

The Iverson MVP award, his first of two, was in 2001.

Seven years ago.

It’s incredible how times have changed. The MVP of this year’s All-Star game was Lebron James: 23-years-old and already a four-year veteran of the NBA. The winner of the dunk contest was Dwight Howard, a 22-year-old, three-year veteran of the NBA. Gerald Green, a 22-year-old 2005 draft member, was a close second in the dunk contest behind Howard. A rookie on the East’s squad in the game was a 23-year-old Brandon Roy from the Portland Trail Blazers. The MVP of the Rookie-Sophomore game was 21-year-old Daniel Gibson from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Feeling old yet?

I’m the same age as many of these first-year players and only one or two years behind some of the most dominant veteran players in the league now. It’s a very weird realization to stumble upon.

The league is only getting younger as more and more 19-to 21-year-olds are leaving college early while still having the ability to make immediate impacts on NBA rosters.

The metaphorical NBA-fan sun is setting for me. I’m over the hill. I’m going to be kicking the bucket soon. Before I know it, I’ll be missing the All-Star game all together because it just comes on too damn late. I’ll be the guy wearing the Iverson jersey when he was playing in Philadelphia because “he was better there.” I’ll be reminiscing to my kids about how cool the XFL was and how great Gatorade gum tasted when it first came out. I’ll argue vehemently with my kids about how Hulk Hogan’s American Gladiator show has nothing on the one of the early ’90s.

My seniority in the eyes of being a fan is snowball barreling down a mountain. It looks insignificant when it’s far away, but it’s painful when it gets right on top of you.

Justin Phillips is a junior journalism major from Alexandria who serves as sports editor of The Tech Talk. E-mail comments to jbp019@latech.edu.