He didn't have to revolutionize the spot; Magic Johnson took care of that. But Kidd staked out a Hall of Fame career on his ability to redefine himself and the four franchises fortunate enough to call him an employee at one time or another.
His evolution over the course of his career spoke with the kind of meaning coaches preach to young athletes across the country every day. He went from an athletically gifted pass-first point guard to a reliable, off-ball crunch-time weapon, his rugged defensive effort never wavering.
Smarts and savvy replaced speed and agility along the way, and, to his credit, it's hard to decipher which role he filled best.
He dazzled as the aforementioned athletic specimen during his days with the Phoenix Suns (1996-01), leading them to the postseason in each of his five seasons there. From there he took his talents to the New Jersey Nets (2001-08), guiding the franchise to its only NBA Finals berths in 2002 and 2003.
A midseason trade in 2008 brought him back to the Dallas Mavericks, the team that used the No. 2 pick in the 1994 draft to bring him into the league. There he played a pivotal role in bringing the organization its first and only NBA title in 2011.
He ended his career with the New York Knicks, giving toughness and leadership to a team severely lacking in both during his one-year stay in the Big Apple.
In order to truly appreciate his storied career, though, one must do something that Kidd himself never did: focus on the numbers.
Few players have ever stuffed a box score as fully as the Oakland native did. Only two players in NBA history, Johnson and Oscar Robertson, ever tallied more than Kidd's 107 career triple-doubles. He cracked the league's top 75 in career scoring (17,529) despite averaging more than 17 points in just one of his 19 seasons (18.7 per game in 2002-03).
For a player rarely known for his scoring, though, that was far from his most impressive career ranking. He trails only John Stockton in both career assists (12,091) and steals (2,684). He shot below 32 percent from the perimeter in three of his first seven seasons and still finished third in career made three-pointers. The 6'4", 205-pound guard ranks 50th in career rebounds (8,725) and first among all point guards.
And he was deservedly decorated for his efforts. He shared 1995 Rookie of the Year honors with Grant Hill, who recently announced his own retirement. He was named to the All-Star team in 10 of his 19 seasons.
His defensive efforts earned him nine All-Defensive selections (four on the first team and five on the second). He was selected to the All-NBA First Team five times and earned second-team honors in 2002-03. And this past April, he became the first ever back-to-back winner of the Joe Dumars Trophy for sportsmanship.
Kidd both helped usher in the athletic transformation at the point-guard position and served as the link to the table-setters of years past. As his athletic gifts disappeared over time, he provided the blueprint for his peers to deal with the effects of aging.
His ability to feel out his team's needs and adjust accordingly is a rare gift in professional athletes. He scored when needed, distributed when that was the better option, and defended and crashed the glass always.
He's absolutely a top-10 point guard in league history, with enough statistical support to at least debate his inclusion among the top five at the position. But there's time to have those debates later. For now, we can start the five-year clock counting down the days until he's named a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
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