Everybody likes to remember when their favorite star was in their heyday, winning awards and NBA titles. Nobody likes remembering stars as they play in their final years, whether it is with a different team like Michael Jordan or someone who was hampered by injuries like Yao Ming.
The next big star that is getting closer to retirement age is Kobe Bryant. He has hinted that he might retire when his contract ends in 2014. He has done his major damage in the league and he hopes that the addition of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard can give him at least one more title.
We are still far away from stars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant turning in their uniforms for potential television analyst gigs. However, here are my predictions for the career achievements of today’s top NBA stars.
Kobe Bryant has already won five NBA titles with the Lakers, some with the contribution of the retired Shaquille O’Neal, and he has been an All-Star 14 times with four All-Star game MVPs.
The real hardware is shown by his one MVP award and his two NBA Finals MVP awards. Kobe will hope that he can bring one more title back to Los Angeles with the help of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
He will fall short as the lack of depth of the Lakers' roster and age will be their undoing in their chase to stop the repeat champion Miami Heat.
Kobe will have a very difficult decision at the end of his contract. Time wins out over his rundown knees and he will have to retire before he can surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most points in NBA history. He will surpass Michael Jordan, who is third on the list.
In the end, he will accept a position in the Lakers’ front office as Mitch Kupchak’s protégé and 2014 will be the end of the Kobe Bryant era in the NBA.
LeBron James finally achieved the one goal that eluded him in Cleveland by winning the NBA title last season. He came up big against the Oklahoma City Thunder and earned the NBA Finals MVP award.
Count on LeBron to continue his roll this season and win his second championship and his fourth MVP award.
LeBron’s championship streak will end at two as his surrounding cast gets older and less effective. He will still dominate individually on both sides of the ball and win his fifth and final MVP award.
He will continue to make his annual appearances in the All-Star game and will rack up his third All-Star game MVP award.
LeBron’s run in Miami will end when he jumps ship to pair up with big man Dwight Howard in Los Angeles after Kobe announces his retirement. With the Lakers, LeBron will win one more NBA title and one more NBA Finals MVP.
After the end of the 2017-18 season, he will bookend his career by playing out his last two seasons in Cleveland without any major injury and retire after the 2019-20 season.
Kevin Durant, or KD, is an extremely talented player, but his team’s current window was partially closed with the trade of versatile sixth man James Harden.
Durant will wait it out until the new stock of young and exciting Oklahoma City Thunder players blossom into the next level.
KD will find his new window in a couple of years when the Heat and Lakers fade because of age. At that point, he and Russell Westbrook will win multiple NBA titles and OKC will become the powerhouse that has been expected of them.
Durant is too good of a team player and too versatile to leave the league without any major awards, and he will win consecutive MVPs in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
In the end, the last remaining Seattle SuperSonic will retire in 2024 with three NBA titles, one NBA Finals MVP, two league MVPs and two All-Star MVP awards. KD will transition successfully into managing his restaurants.
Dirk Nowitzki made the biggest name for himself when he almost single-handedly rallied Dallas past the Miami Heat for their lone NBA championship. Dirk earned quite a legacy.
However, Dirk recently had surgery on his right knee and will not be expected back for at least five weeks.
The Mavericks have some talent, but they are not at the same level as the Heat, Thunder or Lakers. As a result, Dirk won’t return to the NBA Finals for the rest of his career.
Dirk will finish this contract and retire after the 2013-14 NBA season because his knee will continue to slow him down. In the end, he will leave with 11 All-Star appearances, one NBA championship, one NBA Finals MVP and his lone league MVP.
You can expect Mark Cuban to make sure Dirk stays with the Mavs in some sort of front office role.
Dwight Howard finally made the anticipated move from Orlando to Los Angeles in order to have a realistic shot at an NBA ring. The only problem is that he is playing on a team that is older and has a very small window.
Howard won’t get that ring this year or next, and will have to wait until the next proven star comes to Los Angeles via free agency. He will re-sign with the Lakers as their next franchise player.
Howard will continue to put up great numbers as the NBA’s most dominant center. He will also attract top talent because a solid center is the foundation of building a team.
Howard won’t win any MVP awards during his career, but he will be a perennial All-Star, win the Defensive Player of the Year award two more times and lead the league in rebounds three more times.
He will eventually get his championship with the Lakers when another top free agent, like LeBron James, can come and take over Kobe’s legacy.
Howard will have a Hall of Fame career, but he will leave the game in 2018, primarily because of the wear and tear of having a frame that large, with only one ring.
Rajon Rondo is the floor general for the aging Boston Celtics and already has one championship under his belt. The Celtics will continue to fight, but they won’t win an NBA title this season.
Rondo will have to go through a transition in Boston and won’t have the firepower to match teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, who will have youth and depth for a number of years.
Rondo is an attractive piece for a city that is known for its championships, so it won’t take long for the Celtics to rebuild after this group has moved on. He makes plays, can distribute the ball and is the team leader.
Rondo will get a chance for his second NBA championship starting in the 2016-17 season when the Celtics should have a fully reloaded team.
Rondo’s style of play and his physicality for his body size will eventually catch up to him. Rondo will slow down considerably after his thirteenth season and will retire after the 2022-23 season with three NBA titles.
Rondo won’t win any MVPs, but he will rank high in the voting for a number of years and will make at least six more All-Star appearances.
Chris Paul is a complete point guard that has a young and solid foundation with the other team in Los Angeles. Paul will make a name for himself and the Clippers, but he won’t win an NBA title in his time in L.A.
Paul makes the Clippers better, but the team isn’t a legitimate title contender just yet. Paul will decide to stay in Los Angeles after this season, but his biggest achievement will be making the All-Star team for the next three seasons.
By the time he finds a team that he can join to earn a title, Paul will be a lot slower and more of a secondary contributor. Paul will retire at the end of the 2019-20 season with only his Rookie of the Year award and his All-Star appearances in hand.
Kevin Love moves into this season on the bench because of a hand injury. He has all of the tools for a big man and a pretty solid crew of young players surrounding him.
Love will find success and make the Timberwolves a playoff team by teaming with point guard Ricky Rubio, but Minnesota will have too many holes and it is in a secondary market that doesn’t attract many big-name players.
Love’s complete game will find a way to earn an MVP, much like Dirk Nowitzki, and then will crave another large contract. Since his roots are in Los Angeles, I see Love going the Lakers at the end of his current contract.
Knee problems will eventually work their way into slowing Kevin Love down and he will retire in 2021-22 with one NBA title, an MVP and countless All-Star appearances.
Derrick Rose is currently on the shelf after tearing his ACL in last season’s playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Rose had emerged as arguably the NBA’s best point guard after winning the league MVP in 2011. He also made the Bulls legitimate contenders to the champion Heat.
Rose has a big struggle this season as he probably won’t return until February of 2013. The Bulls have invested a lot of money in Rose and want to see him return healthy with no more lingering injuries.
By the time Rose is fully healthy, he should have a team that will be legitimate contenders for the NBA title. If the Bulls can build their depth, they should have a good window to earn at least one championship.
Rose will win the first NBA title in Chicago since Michael Jordan and will retire after 2018-19 due to injuries associated with his knees. Rose plays hard, and after 11 years of grinding it up, he will have to retire with the one championship, one MVP, a Rookie of the Year award and seven All-Star appearances.
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