NBA Stars Who Could Be Playing in Their Final Playoffs in 2013
The players on this list should read like the pamphlet at a future Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
All have had great careers that will be remembered long after they retire—which, unfortunately for basketball, will become a reality in the not-so-distant future.
Every player answers to Father Time at some point, and for the five placed on this list, that time could be weeks away. The players are ranked in no particular order.
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On March 23, Jason Kidd turned 40. Nonathletic guards who can't attack the basket and/or consistently make shots typically don't last that long, and had Kidd not managed to finely adjust his shooting range to beyond the three-point line, he'd no longer be in the league.
But he did, and he's still here, an important rotation player on the Eastern Conference's second-best team.
Kidd's role as a member of the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks was that of the cool, confident customer—a mentor figure who acted like winning it all was old hat, as if he'd done it a thousand times. Of course, that wasn't the case; he was a first-timer just like everybody else.
Kidd had won Olympic gold and led two separate teams from New Jersey to the brink, but never had he known what it felt like to win an NBA title.
With nothing more to prove, Kidd is driven by competition and a love for the game. He signed with the New York Knicks in the offseason because he felt he could give them a puncher's chance against the Miami Heat—the same team he defeated back in 2011.
If New York falls, it'll be interesting to see whether Kidd does as well. The two years and approximately $6 million left on his contract may not be enough to keep him coming back for more.
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Now that Kurt Thomas is no longer on an NBA roster, Grant Hill is the oldest player in the league. He's only appeared in 29 games for the Los Angeles Clippers this season, but Hill is only two years removed from playing 30 minutes a night for 80 games with the Phoenix Suns.
He's the only player on this list who's directly spoken about retiring after the playoffs, but if the Clippers get closer to Hill's first championship than many thought possible, he could easily change his mind and return for the final year of his contract.
Despite missing much of his prime with various injuries to his feet and ankles, Hill has still logged the 66th-most minutes in NBA history with 34,776.
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Would it be fair to designate Manu Ginobili as perhaps the most underappreciated, certain Hall of Fame player of his generation?
With his contract expiring at the end of the season and his inability to stay healthy more than evident these past few postseasons, this could be it for Ginobili. But what an insanely successful run he had.
The Argentinian entered the league in 2002 and almost immediately became a key member of a championship-winning squad. He won the title in his first, third and fifth seasons as resident sixth man in San Antonio, even though he was as imaginative as any starter in the league.
Ginobili is one of the five best international players the NBA has ever seen, and it'll be a shame to see him go, especially if that happens after these playoffs.
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Ray Allen isn't only the best three-point shooter in NBA history; he's also a 10-time All-Star with a career scoring average of 19.4 points per game.
But should he return to the Miami Heat next season, he'll be 38 years old, still coming off the bench and sacrificing more minutes and shots than at any point in his proud career.
Allen is averaging a career-low 10.9 points in a career-low 25.8 minutes per game.
According to Sham Sports, he has a $3.2 million player option next season, and it'll be interesting to see if he returns for a 17th year—whether Miami wins the title or falls short.
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What would the Los Angeles Clippers have been had Chauncey Billups (and not Willie Green) been in their starting lineup all year.
They would've had a less athletic player, but, understandably, a better one. Billups can still stretch the floor, and he's a heady defensive presence on a team that often looks like it lacks direction or cohesion.
But due to a serious Achilles injury suffered last season, at this stage of his career, Billups can't be counted on in the same ways.
He's 36 now and has played in over 1,000 regular-season games. Only 21 of them happened this season, and if he isn't able to give the Clippers anything in these playoffs, there's a possibility he calls it quits. Especially as someone with an expiring contract.
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Kevin Garnett has been playing professional basketball since he was 19 years old. Today, after giving the NBA its most hyperintense, spittle-sprinkled basketball for 17 years, he's about a month shy of turning 37.
Unfortunately, Garnett's physical body is no match for the competitive fire that rages inside his chest. It burns brighter and hotter than ever before, which causes a dilemma.
Even though he's managed to take his offensive game to the perimeter, defensive possessions are what grind on his tendons, weighing on him like a personal gravitational pull.
Forget about the regular season for a moment. Garnett has played 4,821 playoff minutes, flinging himself around the court as if his life depended on the outcome of every play.
If the Boston Celtics do what many expect and fail to win the NBA championship this season, will Garnett have the mental capability of accepting that his body is no longer able to keep up with his mind? Given the $24 million remaining on his contract, you can bet that kind of money and his will to compete won't make retirement an easy decision.
Regardless, we'll never see anyone like Garnett again.