End of an era in the NBA

With the 2016-2017 NBA season starting today and some high-profile retirees after last season, my thoughts wander back to twenty years ago.  Twenty years ago, Michael Jordan totally owned the NBA.  Shaquille O’Neal — young, slim, athletic — was perhaps the most dominant individual player.  The question was who would be the successor to Jordan.  My two favorite candidates were Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, though I wasn’t sure who would eventually be more successful; I hedged my bets by buying both their rookie cards.  (And, actually, this was my first “investment” in a sense, and the return has been great!)

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Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan were also on the rise and in the post-Jordan conversation as well.  Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitski were in the NBA pipeline and came on the scene a couple years later.

If we call that the dawn of the post-Jordan era, then that era is pretty much over now.  Shaq and AI have been retired for a while.  Kobe, KG, and Tim Duncan retired after last season.  The question of whether Kobe or AI would have the better career has been settled so definitively that it feels a little silly now even comparing them.  Vince Carter is an old man, a three-point-shooting specialist.  (Do the kids these days know how he used to play?)  Dirk is probably the only one still recognizable from his old self.  This all hit me with a strong wave of nostalgia, because this is around the time I really started following the NBA.

Twenty years ago, I was in elementary school in a small town in Missouri; I’d never really visited a big city.  I was finally able to convince my parents to get Internet access; we started with CompuServe, but made our way onto AOL not too long after that.  PCs were king, Apple was kind of a distant memory; our old IIGS was in a box somewhere.  Bill Clinton was president; I collected his card too!bc.jpg  The White House sent back a form letter and picture in response to a letter of mine that I’ve forgotten now — and yes, using physical mail carried by the Post Office.  Golf was an incredibly boring niche game that only old rich white guys played; somebody named “Tiger” was just turning pro.  The two movies I remember most from around then are Independence Day and Space Jam.   Although now that Independence Day, Space Jam, and a Clinton presidency have been or are about to be remade, some things haven’t changed much.

Alright, that’s enough nostalgia-indulgence for today.  The king is dead, long live the king and all that.

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