NBA careers can come and go in the blink of an eye. For these superstars, though, that blink can last an eternity.
Some are approaching the end, while others are still embarking on their NBA journeys. All good things must come to an end, and sadly that goes for superstar basketball players as well.
For each individual star, that timetable is different. There are injuries and contracts, as well as slippage in skills that will affect each player differently.
Generally stars have the lengthiest careers because their skills take forever to decline. Then again, don't forget names like Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and Len Bias—potential superstars whose careers were (probably) cut short by outside factors.
As a disclaimer, there is a rhyme and reason to how these superstars were chosen. Everyone on this list, with the exception of Kevin Durant, has been chosen to receive either a regular-season or NBA Finals MVP award. For the purposes of this piece, that is what it takes to be a superstar in the NBA. Durant is my pick for 2012-13 MVP and is thus included.
Note: All statistics used in this story are accurate as of January 6, 2013.
NBA Seasons: 16
The consistency Tim Duncan has displayed through his 16-season career has been absolutely incredible.
After so many years playing against the toughest competition in the world, Duncan is still averaging 17.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. His play has again helped the San Antonio Spurs to a great 27-9 start.
Duncan signed an extension with the Spurs, the team he started with, over the offseason. That deal runs through next season with a player option for 2014-15. He will make roughly $10 million per year.
Equally impressive to his consistent numbers is the fact that he is a true iron man. Advancing age has not hampered his ability to stay on the court, for the most part. Duncan has missed just 29 games over the past five seasons, and some of those missed games were just healthy scratches by Gregg Popovich to keep his star healthy for the long run.
It is easy right now to see Duncan playing out the end of his contract and even through the player option season. He has showed very little signs of slowing down.
Seasons left after 2012-13: 2
NBA Seasons: 10
One of the NBA's true iron men, LeBron James almost never misses time.
The reigning MVP has sat only 21 games over the past five seasons, with some of those coming for rest in the final games of the season.
James, who came directly out of high school to the NBA, is just 28 despite playing in his 10th NBA season.
He has just one more season on his Miami Heat contract after 2012-13 before player options start kicking in. He'll have options to stay with the Heat through 2015-16. That will net him more than $22 million that final year.
James is a physical specimen unlike anything the NBA has ever seen. His longevity right now is totally unpredictable. Magic Johnson had his type of size and all-around skill set, but he played only 13 seasons. Everything from the pay to the equipment and medicine is far more advanced now.
James should very well play for another 10 seasons, bringing him to 38 years old. Unless he loses interest like Michael Jordan, James may play 20 seasons of NBA basketball.
Seasons after 2012-13: 10
NBA Seasons: 10
LeBron James' teammate entered the league at the same time as him. However, Dwyane Wade is two years his senior.
Wade played college ball at Marquette before entering the NBA. Those two seasons mean he has already crossed the 30-year-old plateau. In fact, Wade will turn 31 one during his 10th NBA season.
Wade has also already showed signs of breaking down. He plays LeBron's game, but with a much smaller and more frail body. That body has failed him on occasion lately. He has missed four games this season (one to suspension) and 17 in 2011-12. His knee was ailing him throughout the playoffs as well, while he turned in subpar performances against the Pacers and Celtics.
Like James, Wade is signed through next season with player options through 2015-16. He is pulling in just about half-a-million dollars less per season than his counterpart.
Wade is still a very tough player, but the way he plays the game coupled with advancing age and lingering injuries mean he won't last nearly as long as James.
Seasons After 2012-13: 6
NBA Seasons: 18
Unlike Tim Duncan, you can tell Kevin Garnett is feeling the age.
In one's 18th NBA season, that is more than expected. Garnett will turn 37 at the end of the season and is slowing down considerably.
He is forced to limit his minutes to shorter spurts in hopes of extending his window of elite defense and capable offense into the postseason. His 14.7 points and seven rebounds per game are the lowest marks he has seen since his rookie year in Minnesota.
Garnett heavily pondered retirement during the summer of 2012 but opted to come back and play for Doc Rivers and with Paul Pierce for another run. His contract runs through 2014-15, when he will take in $12 million.
I have a hard time believing he would sign another contract at that point. He will turn 39 at the end of the final year of that deal and should hang it up then. Though if Boston doesn't turn things around, I wouldn't be surprised to see him cut the contract short with retirement.
Seasons After 2012-13: 2
NBA Seasons: 15
The 2007 MVP and 2011 NBA Finals MVP is nearing the end of his contract.
Dirk Nowitzki's tenure with the Dallas Mavericks is in danger of ending after the 2013-14 season. His contract lasts through that year and will net the star a well-deserved $22.7 million.
Nowitzki just missed a large chunk of games in his 15th NBA season with an injury and will turn 35 over the offseason. Still, he has never been an injury-prone guy, missing only 20 games over the past five years.
After playing his entire career with the Dallas Mavericks franchise, it is hard to see him going anywhere else to finish out his career. The Mavericks should offer an extension coming up that will have him in town until he decides to retire.
Seasons After 2012-13: 3
NBA Seasons: 17
Just a couple of games after heading out to lead the NBA's newest super team, Steve Nash got hurt and was forced to miss 24 games.
It was not quite a shock that the 38-year-old Nash got hurt on the court. In his 17th season, he has taken a career's worth of beatings already and won't be able to sustain many more.
The two-time MVP of the league is averaging just 10.3 points and 8.3 assists through eight games. While not a player who has typically spent a lot of time in a suit on the sidelines, it is getting tougher to imagine Nash lasting his full contract.
That deal will have him playing his final year in 2014-15 for $9.7 million. Nash turns 39 next month, which would make him 41 when his contract expires. He is tough enough to last, but will the Lakers allow him to if they fail to succeed?
Seasons After 2012-13: 2
NBA Seasons: 17
If there is something in this world that is going to stop Kobe Bryant from scoring a basketball, I haven't seen it.
At 34 years of age, Bryant is averaging more than 30 points per game for just the fourth time in 17 years. He is still also shooting 48 percent and doling out 4.7 assists per game.
Bryant was forced to miss eight games during the condensed season but played the full 82 the year before and hasn't missed a 2012-13 contest yet. He has played in 79 or more games in a season seven times in his career.
He won't turn 35 until late in the summer, but his contract does expire after next season. That final year of his monster deal will net him a fat $30 million.
At this point of his career, you'd have to figure he'll retire a Laker, so an extension should be on the way in the next year.
Seasons After 2012-13: 5
NBA Seasons: 5
Derrick Rose is going to be the toughest to predict here.
On one hand, he had enough stamina and talent to win the NBA's MVP award as a kid in his early 20s. On the other, he missed the majority of last season with a variety of ailments and ended it on a bad note with a torn ACL. That injury has led to a recovery time extending nearly halfway through the 2012-13 season.
Is Rose injury-prone, or was this just a freak occurrence? He missed just five total games in his first three seasons, so there is precedent either way.
The Bulls clearly felt comfortable in signing him to a big, long-term deal that will run him through the 2016-17 season. Rose will make about $18.8 million per year over that contract. By the time that runs out, Rose will be 28 years old, and this will be a lot easier to predict.
Seasons After 2012-13: 9
NBA Seasons: 15
Paul Pierce sneaks onto this list by virtue of a fantastic run to the 2008 NBA championship where he was awarded MVP of the finals.
The Celtics captain has played his entire career in Boston and persevered through many poor seasons and countless trade rumors. It is nearly impossible to see the Celtics trading away Pierce at this point, after 15 seasons of loyalty.
Pierce has slowed slightly, dropping his shooting percentage way down to 43 percent, but is still producing. His 19.8 points per game still lead the Celtics.
He signed an extension with the team a few years ago, one that will run through next season. He'll make $15.3 million in 2013-14, but how much gas does he have left in the tank?
If he signs another contract, he'll be looking at playing career year No. 17 at 37 years of age. I'm not so sure he'll want to do that. I'll give him another one-year deal to align with Kevin Garnett's set departure date, though.
Seasons After 2012-13: 2
NBA Seasons: 12
Tony Parker remains very young for his experience level.
He is a great point guard and has been a leader on the San Antonio Spurs for some time. With Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili aging a lot quicker than he, Parker is often the No. 1 option and most important player.
A three-time NBA champion and 2007 NBA Finals MVP, Parker has a lot of hardware for a 30-year-old. In 2012-13, he is on the hunt for more. Averaging 19.1 points and 7.3 assists per game, Parker is once again on a tear for the 27-9 Spurs.
Parker won't turn 31 until May and still has two more years after this under contract with the Spurs. San Antonio has shown its loyalty to other players recently and should show the same respect to Parker in extending his stay with the franchise.
The current deal expires following the 2014-15 season, when Parker will be just turning 33. From there he should have more than a couple good years left.
Seasons After 2012-13: 7
NBA Seasons: 16
Chauncey Billups' chances of lasting much longer as an NBA player seem to be shrinking by the day.
The Clippers' veteran guard has played in just three games this season and 23 since joining the team. He also becomes a free agent after this season. Billups is making only $3 million in 2012-13, so it wouldn't be a financial burden for Los Angeles or another team to bring him in over the offseason.
Those injuries are scary, though. He still had no timetable for his return from the recent foot injury in December, not that the Clippers have noticed his on-court absence. If he can't return to show something this season, I doubt anyone will pick him up before his 37th birthday in September.
If the 2004 NBA Finals MVP can return later this season and show some of the 38 percent three-point shooting and 15 points per game he posted over 20 games of 2011-12, then a team could offer a one-year deal.
Seasons After 2012-13: 1
NBA Seasons: 6
Like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant is another tough player to predict just because he is so young.
Durant obviously has a great many years left in the NBA. Starting out incredibly young, though, means that he'll have a lot of years of banging in the NBA to deal with while remaining fairly young in age.
Durant won't turn 25 until just before his seventh NBA season. He is under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder until 2015-16 ends. He'll make $21 million that season and will be only 27 years old. Durant could be in line for a massive contract at that point, assuming he keeps up the current level of play.
Durant has played two complete seasons since joining the NBA, 82 games in 2009-10 and 66 last season, and has yet to miss time in 2012-13.
If he can evolve over the years like Kevin Garnett, then it is easy to see Durant playing for well over 10 more seasons.
Seasons After 2012-13: 12