Today we celebrate Veterans Day (or Remembrance Day for my Canadian brothers), a day commemorating those military veterans who fought valiantly for the freedom of our respective nations. On a day we honor those brave war heroes, I thought it would only be fitting to acknowledge another kind of veteran who goes into battle on a nightly basis: the NBA vet. Setting the benchmark at 34-plus (sorry Greg Oden, looking old doesn’t count), I decided to examine those NBA patriarchs who like a fine wine, have grown better – or at least not much worse – with age.
Although it seems like he’s spent an eternity in the League, Kevin Garnett only turned 34 last May and he’s still as vibrant as ever. With a healthy knee and a strong Celtics team backing him up, KG is putting up impressive numbers for an old-timer. Averaging 15.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and maintaining his intimidating defensive presence makes him worthy of acknowledgement. Keeping with the old-man theme, Kevin sometimes lacks a filter – just ask Charlie V – and also harbors resentment to anyone different from him, namely rookies, guards and Europeans. I guess you just have to accept the good with the bad.
We all know guards age more gracefully than the forwards and centers of the NBA, but could anyone have foreseen that Jason Kidd would be as good as he is now at 37 years old? As the poster boy for consistency throughout his career, J-Kidd has managed to stay relatively injury-free and still play at a high level. Going into his 17th NBA season, he shows no signs of slowing down in his Cal Ripken-esque career, averaging a career-best 10.9 assists per game.
As arguably one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game, Tim Duncan has proven to the world that “age ain’t nothin’ but a number.” At 34 years young, Duncan has achieved what many only dream of: two MVPs, 12 NBA All-Star appearances and most importantly four championship rings. So why continue playing? Because he can. Period. As the anchor of a Spurs team that have stayed relevant since his second year in the league, Mr. Fundamental still manages to produce day in and day out with 15.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per outing. These aren’t numbers of someone supposedly in the twilight of his career. He claims there’s a one percent chance of him returning to the NBA in some capacity when he retires; here’s hoping he’ll have a change of heart and bestow some of his wisdom either by coaching or at least by joining the TNT crew as the “apathetic one.”
While Ray Allen was showing signs of aging with a receding hairline during his early years in Seattle, his game has maintained its luster. It seemed like only yesterday I snuck into at a theater to watch Jesus Shuttlesworth crossover papa Jake on that royal blue court, but that was 12 years ago and I’m not 11 anymore. Yet the 35-year-old continues to be a deadly shooter and play with the same ferocity as he did when he donned the Bucks’ purple and green. Barring any unforeseen injuries, I honestly believe Ray-Ray has at least five good seasons left in him.
As the oldest player on this list, Grant Hill has overcome adversity throughout his career and is back to playing productive ball. Talk about career longevity, at 38 and still playing 28-plus minutes a game, he continues to be a crucial piece for the Suns. In addition to a commendable 12.0 points and 6.9 boards per game, his invaluable leadership and high basketball IQ is what separates him from the pack. As one of the hardest working, genuinely nice guys in the NBA, no one is more deserving of a ring than him.
Honorable mentions: Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Who’s your favorite NBA veteran?
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