Okay, I know, the title is a bit overboard, but after trying to come up with a better way to put it, well, I just couldn't.
When you have the luxury of John Stockton leading your team for two decades, who wouldn't love it?
Looking back on it, I never truly realized how fortunate I was. When Stockton joined the Jazz I was 7 years old. He didn't retire until I was 26. To me, John Stockton was the NBA, and every night he took the floor you knew what you were going to get.
And what was that, you are asking? His absolute best, every night, no matter what. We also had his loyalty and devotion to the franchise.
But it wasn't just John that I loved about the league, it was much more than that. Back in the day it seemed that every team had a certain player that gave the team it's identity.
It was at time when if a player switched teams it was a huge deal. Cities truly bonded with the players, and millions of fans grew up rooting for literally the same starting five year after year.
Games back then were more personal too, and true rivalries developed as the same players battled year in and year out.
In Utah I can remember how much we despised the Lakers, the Blazers, and Rockets. We couldn't stand them because they never changed. We knew what we were getting. Every year the same cast of characters went to battle. And what made it great is that they all despised us equally, if not more.
I recall playing the Pistons for what seemed like ten straight years of bloody battles. Either Isiah was bleeding from the Mailman's elbow, or Stockton was bleeding from Laimbeer's forearm.
There were no charter planes, teams just traveled commercial. There were no third jerseys and whacked logos, teams wouldn't think of changing their uniforms and colors.
There was a true consistency that gave the league legitimacy.
Even the arena's had character and real names. Chicago Stadium, LA's Fabulous Forum, the Boston Garden, the Summit in Houston, the Spectrum in Philly. Even here in Salt Lake we felt we had the best name of all, the Salt Palace.
But today? Well, it's all gone. For me, anyway.
No longer can I truly identify with the Jazz. Yes, we still have Jerry Sloan, who we still appreciate, but it's just not the same.
I appreciate that Deron Williams is one of the best players in the league, but, to be honest, he's no John Stockton.
And Boozer? Are you kidding me? How are we supposed to buy into Boozer when we had the Mailman for nearly two decades?
In the eighties and nineties we were purple, but during the last few years or so it seems we have been dark blue, black, powder blue, and who knows what else? We also now have a mascot called Bear, who knows why? And the Delta Center? It's now called Energy Solutions Arena.
But it's not just Utah, because when I flip through the channels I can't even tell who's playing half the time. The players are all switching teams at an alarming rate, and the colors and logos are changing from year to year. It's a mess! Even the Lakers now have white home jerseys! Why? The yellow home jerseys made the Lakers who they were! What, now they want to be like all the other teams?
Today it's all about trades and who is the next big free agent.
How many times in recent years have I heard too many players refer to the game as a business? You know the old line "Well it's a business first and foremost?" I'm sick of that. We all know it's a business. I never heard John, Magic, Larry, or anybody talk about the game as a business. It still was, but they didn't have to remind us everyday.
And what's up with the tattoos? The earrings? The gold chains?
Is it just me?
Why is it that every foul called by the refs is argued? And while they argue why do they have to hold the ball away from the ref?
Why do players shoot the ball after the whistle blows? Why do they scream out loud on missed free throws or slam the ball down when something doesn't go their way?
And what's with all the music while the game is being played?
The other night I was watching a few minutes of the Jazz play at Minnesota, and I kid you not, it sounded like a full fledged rap concert. It never stopped.
I don't know? It could be I'm just behind the times?
I'll admit, the one team that I feel is the exception in recent years and who I have grown to appreciate because of it, is San Antonio. The Spurs have avoided a logo and color change, and they have built an identity through their core players. Whenever the Spurs are playing I sure know it. It feels good to watch the Spurs, I'm not a Spurs fan, but I always find myself respecting them. They are a throwback to a better time.
Maybe I'm just getting old? Who knows? Or maybe I'm right? Maybe the NBA just isn't what it once was? Maybe it does suck?
The NBA I loved, might of just been a magical era? I always hear about how the NBA was not very popular before Bird and Magic. But that was before my time, I can't say for sure.
But one thing I am certain of, is that the magical era ushered in by Bird and Magic has been gone for sometime.
For me, it officially ended in the summer of 2003 when my brothers and I all made sure we were at the Delta Center for John Stockton's retirement ceremony. It was a Saturday afternoon and the joint was sold out. We, along with the rest of Utah, shed a tear as Stock said his goodbyes.
At the time, we understood that the Jazz would never be the same, but we weren't exactly sure why Stockton's departure hit us so hard.
As the years have passed since that time, we have come to realize that John's retirement officially signaled the end of something much larger than the Utah Jazz.
Stockton, as it turns out, was the last of what Bird and Magic ushered in.
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