We've been spoiled. These times are kind to the NBA's aging stars, and those stars—with their top-of-the-line treatments and preventative measures—are in turn kind to us patrons of the basketball world. The ticking of a clock seems so much less harsh, and though injuries and decline and eventual retirement spare no one, the process has become so much less startling in an era of astounding medical procedure and rapidly advancing technology.
We've been spoiled. Kevin Garnett has had a season for the ages and lifted an entire franchise with a string of profanities and an indomitable will. That a player could be so dependable through so many trials would be unbelievable if it weren't so damn apparent.
The same is true of Tim Duncan's stubborn pushback against father time; San Antonio may be more dependent on Tony Parker than ever, but its rotation is only manageable because of Duncan's persistent brilliance. His regression is certain, but that we need remind ourselves of his diminishing production so often should in itself be indicative of how much of his transcendent game remains.
We've been spoiled. We could trace these same sentiments through the current states of Steve Nash or Kobe Bryant, or any number of gracefully aging and phenomenally successful athletes. They are many, these days, through no matter of coincidence. This is merely a time and place for extension, and the means available have stretched the careers and viability of so many. It's a gift; some still insist on lamenting each incremental step through the twilight, but doing so ignores the fact that rejuvenation, and the hope it instills, is bottled and dispensed along with the most common modern medicines.
We've been spoiled. But that doesn't change the fact that all of this will come to an end, even if it does so by a willing hand hanging up a jersey for the last time—or at least, in Garnett's case, considering the thought. I guess in a way, that makes us even more spoiled; stars of our time generally don't burn out in an explosion of injury, limitation and life-altering pains, but can choose more readily the appropriate time to call it quits.
No player is immortal, and none can play forever. But more are able to choose a definitive endpoint for their basketball careers on their own terms, and though the privilege of watching such mastery through maturity is a gift unto itself, it's one that pales in comparison to that bit of natural grace.