10 Changes That Make NBA Fans Feel Old

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIJune 28, 2012

10 Changes That Make NBA Fans Feel Old

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    There are facts of life that everyone must confront. Time passes, the world changes and nature evolves. Even in the NBA, things change. The players with whom fans grew familiar eventually grow older and pass from the league.

    Some of these changes are hard to believe. For example, it's hard for many NBA fans to believe that it's been several years since Vince Carter has been a star. Also, some fans may catch themselves saying they remember when Alonzo Mourning turned the Miami Heat into a powerhouse.

    Such remarks can make fans feel old. Those fans who have such realizations shouldn't feel bad because many fans catch themselves in such instances of nostalgia.

    Following is a list of things that make NBA fans feel like they've aged.

Kobe Bryant Being a 16-Year Veteran

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    It may seem like only yesterday that Kobe Bryant was wearing a mini-afro and growing into his game. The mental picture of Kobe and Michael Jordan bent over side-by-side during an All-Star game still remains.

    Suddenly, more than a dozen years have passed and Kobe is a weathered veteran who needs to ice as often as MJ himself had to when he was advancing in basketball years. Bryant endures injuries year after year and pushes himself through it all.

    The whole drama makes him seem...old. But fans, rest assured, he still scores 27.9 points per game.

The Grizzlies Being Good

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    Memory bring fans back to the days when the Grizzlies were led by Bryant Reeves and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. But those were days when the Grizzlies couldn't muster 30 wins in a season.

    Eventually, they moved to Memphis, experienced three years of success and then went back into the cellar.

    It would take a few brazen moves, like the trade for Zach Randolph and the signing of Tony Allen, to make the Grizzlies a strong team. Now, the Grizzlies have two players, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay, who are among the top five at their position, and are pushing ahead in hopes of an NBA title.

    Meanwhile, some are recalling the days when they were the doormat of the West.

    Indeed, others still remember when they weren't in the league.

The Six-Division Format

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    In 2004, the Charlotte Bobcats became the NBA's 30th team. With their entrance came a realignment of divisions. Teams would be split into six divisions instead of four. This led to new division rivalries, such as the Toronto Raptors against the New Jersey Nets and the Portland Trail Blazers against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    The realignment did allow for more meetings between division rivals, since there would be five teams in a division instead of seven or eight.

The Hornets in the Western Conference

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    The Hornets had been in the Eastern Conference for their first 15 years of existence. They had made nine playoff appearances in the East.

    Then, in 2004, with the realignment, the Hornets were pushed into the West. The change meant that they'd have to face tougher opponents on a regular basis.

    They've found less success since then, making the playoffs in only three of eight years.

    Fans recall that it was only a short time ago that the Hornets were division rivals with teams like the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers.

Kevin Garnett Nears Retirement

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    Kevin Garnett has long been a symbol of brashness and attitude. He'd go wild after scoring or get nasty after an assortment of close plays.

    Combining that with his energetic play, Garnett became one of the players who fans least expected to watch grow old.

    But his long body has taken numerous blows and he's endured his share of injuries. Now, Father Time is tugging on his arms, urging him toward retirement.

    Watching him retire—or even recede into a smaller role—seems strange.

Ray Allen Slows Down

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    Only 14 years ago did basketball fans set their eyes on the Spike Lee film, "He Got Game," which featured Denzel Washington and Ray Allen. Allen played the irrepressible hoops prodigy Jesus Shuttlesworth. Jesus' moves were as fluid as syrup, and his scoring was unstoppable.

    Allen's game would always be compared with the movie character named Jesus. His game wasn't the stuff of movies, nor was he any sort of savior. But he was a spectacular player, excellent running the floor, great at spotting up three-pointers and able to beat defenders off the dribble.

    Indeed, he had long been good enough to inspire fans to mutter to themselves, "He got game."

    Allen still has his game, at least some of it. He shot a career-high 45.3 percent from three-point range. His 45.8 percent field-goal mark was just above his career average. Also, he shot a wonderful 91.5 percent from the line.

    However, Allen's legs are giving way. He doesn't run like he used to. He's taking more rest. His 34 minutes per game were his fewest since his rookie season.

    At age 36, Allen is playing like he still has a couple years left in the tank.

    But after a while, he'll be left telling himself, like the title theme of the movie performed by Public Enemy, "More than eye can see and ears can hear, year by year, all the sense disappear."

Michael Jordan's Team Not Seeming Competitive Anymore

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    Michael Jordan had always defined competitiveness. He pushed himself hard in games, in practice and in pick-up games. He drove himself so hard that he pushed his competitive efforts on gambling.

    He'd slam the ball when Doug Collins would play head games with him during scrimmages by changing the score. He'd drive straight at a player who dared drive at him on the other end.

    All that drive led the Bulls to six championships in eight years.

    Now, all that competitiveness seems absent when one looks at the team he owns, the Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats had the worst winning percentage ever (.106) this season while winning just seven games.

    Since going to the playoffs for the first time two years ago, the franchise looks like it's gone straight downhill. Charlotte was last in scoring average, field-goal percentage and three-point field-goal percentage. The team showed virtually no fire or will to win this season.

    When Jordan retired, fans assumed he'd be competitive in anything he did afterward. But this team is anything but that.

Fewer Great Centers Than in the Past

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    Currently, the NBA doesn't feature many terrific centers. Dwight Howard is very good, although he's prone to streakiness. Andrew Bynum has turned into a top-notch player. Al Jefferson is remarkable, too.

    However, one would never put these players in the same boat as the great centers of the 1990s. No one would be so brazen as to compare Howard to Hakeem Olajuwon or Shaquille O'Neal in terms of complete ability.

    Looking at the 1970s, Bynum and Howard can't stack up to players like Wilt Chamberlain and Bob Lanier.

    In some eras, one position may be stronger than others. This is certainly not the era of the center.

    Watching some of today's centers may make fans yearn for centers of the past, like Olajuwon, O'Neal and David Robinson.

The Knicks Being Mediocre

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    Fans who remember Patrick Ewing's Knicks teams or the teams with Clyde Frazier, Dave DeBusschere and Willis Reed remember how great the Knicks once were. They remember a 1970s team that was creative and tough and a 1990s team that was even tougher.

    Now, the Knicks are relatively light. Instead of pushing through teams, they get pushed through.

    The Knicks haven't made it past the first round of the playoffs since 1999, when they last went to the finals.

    Fans of opposing teams remember when Ewing would muscle over defenders and John Starks would grind on ball-handlers.

    Now, fans of opposing teams simply need to watch and wait until Jeremy Lin makes the exact wrong move and gets the ball stolen from him. Or they can wait until Carmelo Anthony takes an ill-advised shot.

    Fans might watch the Knicks now and wonder why they can't stick it hard to opponents like they did 15 years ago.

Shaquille O'Neal Loses His Entertainment Value

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    Shaquille O'Neal used to be the most entertaining player in the NBA. He was the man of many nicknames, from "The Big Diesel" to "Shaqtastic."

    He did movies like "Kazaam" and commercials like his Burger King spoof of "Shaft."

    Now, he's an analyst who lacks flair. He doesn't engage often with other analysts. His analysis is flat and lacks punch.

    Fans now sit and wonder why he can't loosen up and be like he used to be.