"There is always some specific moment when we become aware that our youth is gone; but, years after, we know it was much later."
That quote makes you wonder what's going on inside the head of Steve Nash, who, at 36, continues to play basketball at a high level despite being one of the NBA's old guys.
Only nine players in the entire league are older than Nash. Six of these players didn't even average 24 minutes per game this past season.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns point guard missed only one start this season, averaged 16.5 points and 11 assists per game, and put up elite .51/.43/.94 shooting percentages. Nash was named an All-Star for the seventh time.
Oh yeah, his team also won 54 games in the regular season and is currently up 2-0 in a playoff series against a tough San Antonio Spurs team that upset the second seeded Dallas Mavericks.
Do you think Nash realizes he's defying the natural order set in place by the basketball gods? Does he know he should be coming off the bench as a three-point specialist at this point in his career?
Go ahead and ask him, but be prepared to duck. After all, us old guys take offense to being doubted; just because we complain of soreness and perpetually carry a hint of Bengay doesn't mean we can't still light you up.
Nash isn't the only village elder who's out there schooling the kids. Let's look at the NBA's Top 20 players who were over the age of 30 during the 2010 season.
Martin is both overpaid and injury-prone (missed 24 games this season), but there's no denying the power forward plays a significant role in the success of the Denver Nuggets.
With him in the lineup, the Nuggets went 39-19 (.672); without him, 14-10 (.583).
At 32, Martin shows no signs of being anything less than a mean, kick-your-teeth-in, throwback enforcer in what has increasingly become a soft league.
His averages of 11.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game don't compare to the no-holds-barred attitude he brings to the table.
Yes, we know—he's old, fat, out of shape, always hurt; can't shoot free throws, lazy on defense, etc.
When the largest athlete in the world steps on the court, he makes an impact.
Shaquille O'Neal is 38 years old and posted per-36-minute averages of 18.5 points and 10.3 rebounds a game this season.
Most of the time when the Cleveland Cavaliers center gets the ball in the paint, he either dunks, draws a foul, or finds the open man out of a double team.
Even if Shaq's a liability and the Cavs seemingly play better with his minutes limited, there are few better situational weapons in the league.
The recently turned 31-year-old is at home watching the playoffs on TV for the third consecutive season.
Oh, Baron...so good, yet seemingly so disinterested.
We can't completely blame him. If any of us were trying to lead a hobbled roster with no shot at respectability, while battling our own personal injuries, we'd be inclined to go half-speed too.
But make no mistake, Davis can play. Despite posting woeful shooting percentages (41 and 28 percent on field goals and threes, respectively), Davis focused on game management and getting his teammates the ball in the right spots.
His 2.83 assist-turnover ratio was seventh-best in the league amongst point guards who averaged at least 30 minutes per game.
With the addition of another lottery pick, and the return/debut of Blake Griffin, look for Davis and the L.A. Clippers to have a bounce-back year next season.
Two-plus months away from his 35th birthday, and just a smidgen of his former self, Allen remains an above-average, starting-caliber NBA two-guard.
His three-point percentage this season (.363) marked the third-lowest of his 14-year career, but there aren't many guys you'd rather have pull up from the perimeter than Allen.
Especially with the game on the line.
An unrestricted free agent, this could be his last season as a member of the Boston Celtics.
Thanks to a season-ending, ruptured Achilles tendon, Okur will be the No. 1 reason why the Utah Jazz didn't advance further in the playoffs.
Flagrantly underrated to the point his name is seldom discussed, the 6'11", 265-pound Turk is somewhat of a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki, except with better defensive and rebounding capabilities.
He can beat shorter or weaker guys in and around the post, or step out to the three-point line and shoot over just about anyone.
People forget he was a valuable reserve on the 2004 Detroit Pistons team that won the championship. That season, he averaged 10 and 6 with one block per 22 minutes of action per game.
Okur turns 31 in just 20 days.
Every year Camby is healthy enough to play at least 65 games is another year he's up for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Camby only won the award once but has been named to four All-Defensive Teams. This year, at age 36, he finished 10th in DPOY voting. This sandwiched him between Anderson Varejao and Dwyane Wade, both of whom were named All-Defense.
Camby's defensive prowess is somewhat overblown, but when you're 6'11", play under the rim, average 12 rebounds and two blocks per game, and only make $8 million, it's hard to argue you're not incredibly valuable.
There's a good reason why this guy has always been in demand.
The only thing the 34-year-old Miller can't do on the basketball court is shoot from the outside.
He's a floor general; tough, intelligent, savvy, protects the basketball, gets to the foul line, rebounds, and more often than not comes through in the clutch.
Despite playing for five different clubs in 11 seasons, Miller has started in 834 of his 897 career games. In addition, this iron man has only missed five games.
Miller averaged 15 points and six assists per game as a starter this season for a banged-up Portland Trail Blazers team that overachieved.
The only thing preventing Jason Terry from being a Hall-of-Fame caliber player is about four inches.
Listed generously at 6'2", the 32-year-old Seattle native is one of the best offensive guards in the league.
He wasn't as good this year as he was in 2009, when he took home Sixth Man of the Year honors, but he still averaged nearly 17 points and four assists per game coming off the bench.
Blessed with ridiculous athleticism, one can only imagine what "Jet" would be capable of if he weren't so undersized. Still, he's clutch, a great shooter and competitor, not to mention a class act.
Jamison will turn 34 next month and has yet to show any signs of slowing down.
Prior to joining the Cleveland Cavaliers in a trade-deadline deal, the former UNC star was averaging 20.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game for the Washington Wizards.
A bit undersized at the four-spot, the 6'9" and 235-pound Jamison creates matchup problems with his athleticism and unorthodox style of play.
I don't know that I have ever seen a more effective scorer from the 10-to-14 foot range. Jamison has the uncanny ability to literally throw any shot into the hoop, in any way, when in that territory.
And he almost never turns the ball over. This past season, Jamison had one or zero turnovers in 40 of his 66 games.
Thanks to injuries, 2010 was a disappointing season for both Hamilton and the Detroit Pistons.
Still, the man they call "Rip" remains one of the more dynamic players in the league, despite having turned 32 in February.
A key part of the 2004 Pistons team that won it all, Hamilton's greatest weapon might be his ability to move without the basketball. Following in the footsteps of the legendary Reggie Miller, Hamilton pummels opposing defenders into the ground by running...and running...and running.
And when he gets the ball and pulls up, the result is usually a "J" in someone's face.
Hamilton just experienced the worst season of his 11-year career, and that means he just averaged 18 points and four assists per game.
He's also an excellent defender and passer.
I might have said this a million times in my life, and I'll keep saying it until I'm blue in the face.
Vince Carter is the most talented basketball player I have ever seen. There is absolutely nothing he is incapable of doing on the court. Nothing.
Of course, just how most hot chicks are insane, or those with great personalities leave much to be desired physically, there's a catch when it comes to Carter.
He always plays at his speed.
Rather than go down in history as maybe the greatest player ever, Carter is perfectly content coasting and having fun. Hey, it's his life.
2010 was Carter's worst statistical season of his career; he averaged career per-game lows in minutes, shots, points, rebounds, steals and blocks. In other words, he averaged 16.6 points, four rebounds and three assists per game.
At the end of the day, we can hate on Carter all we want, but the reality is that he has the ability to take over a game at any moment. Only a handful of players can do that.
Garnett turns 34 in two weeks but at times has looked like he's turning 64. Over 1200 NBA games logged, along with nagging injuries, will do that to anyone.
At the end of the day, KG remains the heart and soul of a Boston team that will go only as far as its defense will take it.
Even though he's clearly on his last leg, who behind him on this list would you rather go to war with?
I came very close to ranking the 37-year-old Kidd ahead of Steve Nash but then thought of all the hate mail I would receive. Still, I will make my argument.
Rebounds per game
Steals per game
Kidd led all guards in rebounding. He finished fifth in steals per game. He just narrowly missed being named All-Defense, which is selected by the coaches, by two votes (Thabo Sefolosha edged him out).
Clearly, those who believe he can no longer defend fail to understand being a good defensive player doesn't just mean keeping your man in front of you.
There's boxing out, helping on double-teams and switches, rotations, clogging passing lanes, denying a player the ball, putting a hand in shooters' faces, and so forth.
Kidd can no longer stay in front of quicker guards one-on-one. But he does everything else defensively on an elite level.
What does Nash do on defense? Can you recall him ever playing the smallest of role in the forcing of a turnover? I can't.
Ever see Nash get assigned to cover Kobe Bryant in the last minute of a game? Kidd has been getting that assignment his whole career.
Nash scored 6.2 more points per game than Kidd this season. The former also averaged 1.9 more assists per game. However, Nash also attempted 5.4 more shots (free throws included) per game and his Phoenix Suns were fourth in the league in Pace Factor (possessions per game); the Mavericks were 16th.
Remove the fun-to-watch aspect from the argument and Kidd was every bit as good as Nash in 2010.
So why did I ultimately give Nash the nod over Kidd?
Because without Kidd, the Mavericks could still possibly win 50 games. Nash, meanwhile, is just too important to the dynamic of the Phoenix Suns. They go as he goes.
For all the talk about Nash's passing, it's really his incredible shooting ability that makes him possibly the most effective pick-and-roll player ever. Toss in a quick-footed big man who can drive to the hoop, and three-point shooters on the wings, and forget it, it's a wrap.
For all the talk on how Nash doesn't play defense or how he's overrated—I agree to an extent—he has been and is one of the toughest players to guard.
That's why I rank him ahead of Kidd. Because if Nash needs to score 25 points every game, he can do it.
Billups has to rank ahead of Nash right now for three simple yet huge reasons.
1. He can score just as efficiently.
2. He draws a ridiculous number of fouls (Billups' seven free-throw attempts per game was 13th-best in the league).
3. He is an above-average help defender.
The Denver Nuggets were 50-23 (.685) with Billups and just 3-6 (.333) without him.
He will turn 34 late this year, just before the start of his 14th season.
When the San Antonio Spurs super-sub signed a three-year, $39 million extension in early April, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had this to say about him:
"From the time he hits the court, he plays at a competitive level that you rarely see... he does the exact same things that Kobe (Bryant) does, that Michael Jordan did... he doesn't just score; he might go get the biggest defensive or offensive rebound in the game. He might go make the steal. He'll make the key pass at the end. He'll get the loose ball...all those sorts of things that win."
Popovich then added he couldn't play the soon-to-be 33-year-old close to 40 minutes per game because Ginobili would "disintegrate".
And in these two quotes, from one of basketball's greatest coaches, lies the reason why we don't talk about Ginobili in the same breath we reserve for the Kobes and D-Wades of the world. Ginobili plays at such an intense level that his coach needs to protect him from himself.
This year, Ginobili averaged 16.5 points per game in just 28.7 minutes of action per. Adjust the numbers to per-36-minutes, and his stat line looks like this:
20.7 points, 6.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 2.2 threes on .44/.38/.87 shooting percentages.
Ask yourself this question: If you had Ginobili as your two-guard, would you not feel confident in him being able to hang with just about any other guard in NBA history?
As long as he's upright and on the court, your team has the chance to beat anyone.
Whatever Pierce has lost in his step, he makes up with his swagger.
Let us not forget how he out-played Kobe Bryant in the 2008 Finals, helped the Boston Celtics win the title, and then soon after declared himself the best player in the NBA.
Or how two weeks ago he nailed a long, tough, game-winning jumper at the buzzer to put the Celtics up 3-0 in the series against Miami.
At 6'7" and 240 lbs, Pierce is Kobe's game in slow motion mixed with a less-muscular version of Ron Artest's body.
How do you defend that?
Pierce gets the nod over Ginobili because he can pitch a complete game.
In 2010, the 34-year-old Duncan averaged a career low in minutes, field goal attempts, free throw attempts, rebounds, blocks and points. Still, he posted averages of 18 and 10 on 52 percent shooting.
Obviously, he's slowing down as he approaches the 1200 games-played mark.
How much he has left in the tank remains to be seen. But if Kevin Garnett's demise is any indication, Duncan is at the very least close to the end of the road.
With all that said, is there another big man in the league not named Dwight Howard whom you'd rather have? No.
This car has its issues, but at the end of the day, a Rolls Royce is a Rolls Royce.
There's only one player on this list who is currently better than Nowitzki.
That's just a truth you're all going to have to accept.
Yeah, I know—he's not this and he's not that... save it.
This is all you have to know about Dirk Nowitzki. He turns 32 next month. If he can play four more seasons and score 6000 more points, which comes up to an average of 18 points per game, he will finish top 10 all-time in points scored.
Top 10 in NBA history in points scored.
This past season, Nowitzki averaged 25 points and eight rebounds per game for a Dallas Mavericks team that won 55 games.
In a six-game, first-round playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs, he averaged 27 points and eight rebounds while shooting .55/.57/.95 percentages.
Obviously, he did his part.
Who's better, Kobe or LeBron James?
This is a ridiculous question we fuss and fight over each day. Ironically, not once have I heard one person mention the age difference between the two players.
LeBron turns 26 in late December, which will be two and a half months into his eighth season as professional basketball player.
Kobe turns 32 three months from now. Next season will be his 15th year in the NBA.
Think about that.
LeBron still hasn't even entered his prime years. He still has a whole lot of figuring out to do.
Meanwhile, Kobe is just starting his descent from the summit of the mountain.
I'm not the biggest Kobe fan, nor do I believe the hype that LeBron is the second-coming of Jesus Christ.
However, I will say this: If reaching the top of mountain is the goal, and Kobe has already scribbled "Kobe wuz here" into the rock, how in the world can LeBron be considered the best player in the league?
Once LeBron has double-digit years in the league, and a couple of championship rings, then we can compare him to Kobe.
Until then, the No. 1 player on this list remains the top dog in the league.