NBA's Ageless Wonders Who Continue to Lead Teams
Father Time will eventually best everyone currently on an NBA roster, but there are quite a few who have put up a valiant fight so far in the 2012-13 season.
Age is nothing but a number for a select group of veterans this year, most of whom have been All-Star level talents for more than a decade. Simply put, these seemingly ageless wonders are doing things that players in their mid-to-late 30s aren't supposed to do. And more importantly, there's a very good chance that all of them will help lead their respective teams into the playoffs this season.
Players like Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd are reshaping how we think about "older" players. No longer will we assume that someone with 12-plus years in the league is due for a decline; as we've seen this year, there are those who get better with age.
(Note: All statistics are accurate as of Dec. 25)
5) Jason Kidd, New York
When Jason Kidd first entered the NBA, Bill Clinton was still enjoying his first term as president of the United States. 18 years later, Clinton has moved onto arguably bigger (but certainly less stressful) endeavors, while Kidd is having a surprisingly productive season at the age of 39.
A few months shy of his 40th birthday, Kidd not only starts for the New York Knicks, but he's a vital contributor for a team well-positioned to derail the Miami Heat's chances at a second consecutive title.
Kidd is ninth in the league in three-point percentage (43.8 percent), sixth in the league in steals (1.9 per game) and is one of the NBA's most potent offensive threats despite logging less than 30 minutes per night (Kidd's Offensive Rating of 128.2 is second-best in the Association).
The Knicks received a fair amount of scrutiny when they signed Kidd last July, but that decision has already paid huge dividends less than two months into the season.
4) Kevin Garnett, Boston
Kevin Garnett famously yelled, "Anything is possible!" after the Boston Celtics won the 2008 NBA title, and based on his excellent play over the next four-plus seasons, KG appears to have been speaking the truth.
Very few in the league—if any—prepare for an 82-game campaign like the 36-year-old Garnett, and his never-ending commitment to his craft has been fairly evident this season (15.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG).
Garnett isn't the potent scorer that he once was, but he's a fantastic defender and the emotional leader of a Boston team that will be a tough out in the playoffs this year.
Paul Pierce may be the Celtics' franchise player, but the team will only go as far as Garnett will take them.
"I just think it's important for us every night to get Kevin going early and when we do that, we actually play better and [usually] win," said forward Brandon Bass in an interview with WEEI. "We have so many guys and so many options that sometimes we might lose sight but we can't because he's so important to the team."
3) Tim Duncan, San Antonio
Perhaps no superstar in the history of the NBA has been less appreciated than Tim Duncan.
With little fanfare, Duncan has kept the San Antonio Spurs franchise relevant for well over a decade, and he continues to lead the team in scoring even as he approaches his 37th birthday.
At some point, the Spurs will be an average team.
What point that is exactly is uncertain; San Antonio's demise has been predicted for years, and each season they win at least 60 percent of their games and make serious noise in the playoffs.
Much of that success is thanks to Duncan, and based on his numbers this year (17.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.5 BPG), he's showing no signs of slowing down.
2) Paul Pierce, Boston
Paul Pierce may not have textbook athleticism or speed, but the former Kansas Jayhawk is one of the league's craftiest players, and has been for more than 14 seasons.
How he's consistently able to create space for his signature step-back jumper remains a mystery, but what isn't a secret is his importance to the Boston Celtics.
Pierce has been the team's franchise player ever since he was drafted in the summer of 1998, and the 6'6" forward has shown no sign of regression on the offensive end. In fact, his per-36 minute scoring average of 21.5 is the highest it has been since the 2006-07 season.
Not bad for a man who turned 35 back in October.
1) Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
What Kobe Bryant is doing in his 17th season defies logic as it applies to the NBA.
Typically, 34-year-old players with nearly 1,200 games under their belt don't get markedly better across the board. But that's exactly what's happening with the "Black Mamba" this season,
Bryant is shooting the ball better than he ever has and his scoring average (currently at 29.9 PPG) hasn't been this high since he averaged 31.6 PPG in the 2006-07 season.
Now that the new look Los Angeles Lakers are finally approximating the team that many expected to see at the start of the season, don't be surprised if Bryant signs an extension after his current deal ends in the summer of 2014.
With Bryant playing this well at this age, there's no telling how many more years he has left in the tank.
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