The aging of the human corpse is natural - it happens to everyone.
Time is universal, and is the only thing for reluctant 30-somethings in the NBA to blame. Certain people age differently than others, however.
Not everyone can put together 16 near-triple-double season averages like Jason Kidd and still show few signs of slowing down.
The average veteran NBA player begins to notice changes in their physical condition, and in effect: their performance. Statistics drop as maturity takes the place of energy and athleticism.
Here is a list of players currently in the NBA who are having the toughest time letting go of the game. Placement is based on the degree at which the player is "washed up".
First, let's take a look at the Honorable Mention section (I'll explain why):
The dinosaurs of the NBA would naturally be atop my list, but these extreme cases have become so obsolete it would be unfair to include them as "active" players -- if you know what I mean.
Grant Hill - Phoenix Suns
1999-2000 Peak Season: 25.8ppg, 6.6rpg, 5.2apg
2009-2010 Season: 11.3ppg, 5.5rpg, 2.4apg
Antonio McDyess - San Antonio Spurs
2000-2001 Peak Season: 20.8ppg, 12.1rpg, 1.5bpg
2009-2010 Season: 5.8ppg, 5.9rpg, 0.4bpg
Jerry Stackhouse - Milwaukee Bucks
2000-2001 Peak Season: 29.8ppg, 3.9rpg, 5.1apg
2009-2010 Season: 8.5ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.7apg
Juwan Howard - Miami Heat
1995-1996 Peak Season: 22.1ppg, 8.2rpg, 4.4apg
2009-2010 Season: 6.0ppg, 4.6rpg, 0.8apg
Michael Finley - Boston Celtics
1999-2000 Peak Season: 22.6ppg, 6.3rpg, 5.3apg
2009-2010 Season: 4.4ppg, 1.5rpg, 0.9apg
Joe Smith - Atlanta Hawks
1996-1997 Peak Season: 18.7ppg, 8.5rpg, 1.6apg
2009-2010 Season: 3.0ppg, 2.5rpg, 0.3apg
Shawn Marion hasn't been himself since he left Phoenix. Or should I say we are now seeing the real Shawn Marion and not the Steve Nash-enhanced version?
Regardless, Marion is slowly moving past his prime and the process is inevitable.
He is no longer the high-flying "X-Factor" of Phoenix, but the versatile role player of Dallas (projected to come off the bench, in fact). He seems like the kind of player that has a great amount of longevity in him, but his seasons will continue to be like his season in Dallas unless he becomes the No. 1 option on another team down the road.
He'll probably hang around in the league pursuing a championship, à la Garnett/Allen/Pierce.
2005-2006 Peak Season: 21.8ppg, 11.8rpg, 2.0spg, 1.7bpg
2009-2010 Season: 12.0ppg, 6.4rpg, 0.9spg, 0.8bpg
We all know Peja Stojakovic as a sure-fire 3-point specialist. But he used to be that and a solid scoring option on the Sacramento Kings—his glory days.
In recent seasons, he has struggled with injuries and consistency issues, and has sometimes found his role as a starter on the Hornets in question.
His shooting percentages have dipped, as well as his scoring average since leaving Sacramento. He probably will never again be considered a player of All-Star caliber, but he will go down in history as one of the greatest shooters of all-time.
With his back issues, it's likely that his seasons will be limited from here on out, but he will always be able to find his role on any roster as a shooter.
2003-2004 Peak Season: 24.3ppg, 6.3rpg, 3.0 three's
2009-2010 Season: 12.6ppg, 3.7rpg, 2.1 three's
As Mike Bibby continues to live off his reputation built in Sacramento (much like Peja), the Atlanta Hawks have been making steps to replace him when the time comes.
Still only 32-years-old, we can see a decline in his play. Perhaps that has to do with his role in Atlanta (almost invisible next to Joe Johnson), or perhaps he, like many others, are just getting too old to play at the level they once did.
Atlanta is almost ready to hand the point guard reigns over to Jeff Teague. When that happens, Bibby may spend a few years backing him up, or filling in somewhere on a team of superstars to get himself a ring.
Either way, Mike Bibby is old news.
2005-2006 Peak Season: 21.1ppg, 5.4apg, 2.3 three's
2009-2010 Season: 9.1ppg, 3.9apg, 1.6 three's
Jermaine O'Neal has never played a complete season, and has only played in over 70 games four out of his 15 seasons.
I'm surprised his knees have held up this long...
He had his run of seven or so years being a 20 and 10 type of guy while being one of the top shot blockers in the league, but perhaps that can be attributed to being the go-to-guy on a less-than-mediocre Indiana Pacers team.
But since leaving Indiana for stints in Toronto and Miami, it seems his athleticism is gone—and along went his game.
2002-2003 Peak Season: 20.8ppg, 10.3rpg, 2.3bpg
2009-2010 Season: 13.6ppg, 6.9rpg, 1.4bpg
Larry Hughes hasn't finished a season on the same team that he started on since the 2006-2007 season on Cleveland. All the while averaging less than 13 points per game over the last four years (with dismal percentages, mind you) and not much else to call home about.
Let's be honest, Hughes' career ended when he left the Wizards for Cleveland.
Most people consider him to be burden to have on a roster. He can provide quick scoring, speed and athleticism in the backcourt, but his speed and athleticism are diminishing. Once they're gone, he is worthless. Anyone can score a few points here and there (especially if they shoot 10+ times per game).
Reminiscent of Stephon Marbury, Larry Hughes needs to get out of the game and make his own TV show or something.
2004-2005 Peak Season: 22.1ppg, 6.3rpg, 4.7apg, 2.9spg
2009-2010 Season: 9.1ppg, 3.2rpg, 3.0apg, 0.9spg
Ben Wallace is to the Detroit Pistons as Cane Toads are to Queensland, Australia. He thrives in the Detroit environment.
He went from nothing to perennial defensive player of the year (won the award four times as a Piston) and then back to mediocre when he left Detroit.
Now back on Detroit, he still doesn't seem to have returned to old form. This is because he has aged. He is an NBA veteran and his springs don't work as well as they used to.
The fire and tenacity that once made him an NBA Champion is absent. That fire and tenacity that led him to seven straight seasons averaging 10+ rebounds and 2+ blocks is now but a flame within the restrictions of a candle.
2002-2003 Peak Season: 6.9ppg, 15.4rpg, 1.4spg, 3.2bpg
2009-2010 Season: 5.5ppg, 8.7rpg, 1.3spg, 1.2bpg
Is it just me or is Elton Brand starting to take after Charles Barkley's fitness regime?
Elton Brand came out of Duke ready for NBA ball. He averaged 20 and 10 as a rookie, and did roughly so for the next seven seasons of his career.
Then came the injury.
He only played eight games for the Clippers in 2007-2008 before rupturing his Achilles' tendon. After sitting out the rest of the season, new beginnings on the 76ers next year gave him optimism.
But he only played 29 games before dislocating his shoulder and missing the rest of the season.
It seems as though Elton Brand will never return to form.
2005-2006 Peak Season: 24.7ppg, 10.0rpg, 2.5bpg
2009-2010 Season: 13.1ppg, 6.1rpg, 1.1bpg
Shaquille O'Neal is one of the greatest centers to ever play the game. But that doesn't mean he still is...
The 38-year-old looks as though he may be making one final push for another ring—on his third team.
After next year, don't expect much from the Big Leprechaun.
Averaging better than 23 points and 10 rebounds per game for each of his first 11 NBA seasons deserves all the respect he gets, but when you have a season like he did in Cleveland, it may be time to say good-bye.
Shaq may not be in the league for much longer, but his impression on the league will be everlasting.
1999-2000 Peak Season: 29.7ppg, 13.7rpg, 3.0bpg
2009-2010 Season: 12.0ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.2bpg
The greatest scorer of all-time at his height, Allen Iverson has sadly fallen into the trap of not being able to let go.
The downward spiral of injuries, missing games due to personal problems, wanting to be traded, wanting more money really contributes negatively to a player's legacy.
Since leaving Denver, Iverson has not averaged more than 19 points per game, all the while completing one of the shortest stints with an NBA team ever playing three whole games as a Memphis Grizzly.
It's sad when so much political turmoil comes into effect in certain players' careers. Like Stephon Marbury, A.I. is not helping out his legacy by hanging on to the NBA by a thread.
Peak Season: Honestly too hard to decide between the nine-year span of him averaging nearly 30 points and 7 assists per game, but you get the idea.
2009-2010 Season: 13.8ppg, 3.8rpg, 4.0apg
When you're better known for your history of injuries than your successes as a basketball player or when someone can count on you to miss half the season over counting on you to average 20 points in a season it can mean one of two things:
1. You're not that good. Period.
2. You're old, you get injured a lot, and you should call it a career.
Tracy McGrady is a hell of a basketball player, don't get me wrong. Which is why I'm led to believe that it's No. 2.
He has been hanging around in this league for several years past his prime now, and he's viewed as somewhat of a liability in this day and age.
Can the team count on him to play? And if he does, what level is he going to play at? Which Tracy McGrady are we going to see?
He'll retire when either the injuries become too much or he wins a championship - whichever comes first.
2002-2003 Peak Season: 32.1ppg, 6.5rpg, 5.5apg
2009-2010 Season: 8.2ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.3apg