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Aka “CAA or NBA.” What is this generation of hoopsters about? What era are we looking at?
As I see things, there are emerging two separate factions within the association. One—the of-late derided—revolves around branding, personal accomplishment and some underlying sentiment of togetherness between players.
The second seems more in line with our traditional concepts of athletes: They play to be the best, and they play to win…but they also seem to respect (in some ways) the unwritten rules of the game. This is Dirk (who took less money to return to a Dallas team with no sure bet to win a title); this is Kobe (who is a more abrasive version of Dirk); and this is Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook (who are all about beating the heck out of whoever is thought to be their superior).
Both parties have some of the most skilled and competitive guys in the league, so I’m not necessarily advocating that one is ruining the game or anything, as this conversation tends to eventually have one-side emit.
That said, I prefer the guys I consider to be the traditionalists—the guys I think harbor some legitimate dislike for their opponents, for whom rings matter less than the opportunity to beat the best guys in the league and thereby prove their superiority. So again, in the latter group we’re looking at the Roses, the Kobes and the Westbrooks, while the former sports basically everyone who came into the league between 2003 and 2004—LeBron, Bosh, Carmelo and sadly…I think Dwight Howard.