Jason Kidd is the NBA’s ultimate chameleon. It’s been 17 years and he’s still reinventing himself. He’s gone from a suped-up jet called “Ason” to the league’s most dangerous and valuable guard to a three-point shooting, shut-‘em-down-defensively old vet. Malcontent to team leader to grandpa. From Dallas to Phoenix to New Jersey and back again to Dallas. Full circle.
Now that the Mavs have vanquished the Mecca of the Western Conference, and seen their longtime nemesis from San Antonio sent home to the River Walk, this is the one chance the league’s oldest team will have to get those rings. For a 38-year-old point guard, this is it.
A ring. At this point in his career, that has to be Kidd’s total focus. Every ounce of sweat, every morning waking up to another 24 hours with more ice, more stretching and more treatment just to get back to where he was yesterday, fighting the battle he can’t possible win, it all points to this one opportunity, the chance to put a capping finish on his career.
If it happens, if Dallas wins it all this year, where does Jason Kidd stand in the all-time lineup of the greatest floor generals the NBA has ever seen? Would he be top five? Is he already there?
Kidd averaged 8.2 assists a game this year. That’s his lowest assist total in 16 years. Not since his rookie year (when he only averaged 7.7) has Kidd been such a terrible passer. All sarcasm aside, do you know how many other point guards have ever done that? None.
Magic Johnson averaged that many 11 times in a row, and probably would have kept going had he not been forced to retire in 1991. But he was and that’s history. John Stockton did it 12 times in a row, and 15 overall. He was the closest. Oscar Robertson hit it in 10 seasons. Isiah Thomas averaged that just nine times his whole career, Gary Payton only five times, Tiny Archibald three times. Steve Nash has done it eight times in a row. At 37 years old, he’s only halfway there.
Looking at a few of today’s best point guards, Chris Paul and Deron Williams would have to average at least 8.2 assists until 2022 to match Kidd.
Jason Kidd also has over 16,000 points, 11,000 assists and 8,000 rebounds in his career. You know how many other point guards have done that? Zero. You know how many other players have done that? Zero. No one has even come close.
You’ve probably heard Kidd is third all-time in three pointers made. But turn that statistic around and it sounds even more impressive: besides the immortal shooters, Reggie Miller and Ray Allen, no one has ever made more threes than Kidd. Ever.
Nothing about Kidd’s game was ever fascinating or particularly intoxicating. Can you think of a single highlight that stands out above the rest? Maybe his alley-oops off the glass to Kenyon Martin, but that’s about it. He has no signature style, no single game that stood out above the rest. We remember his near MVP-play in New Jersey, but face it, the Nets were still the Nets. No one really watched (the TV ratings back this up). He was never embraced as Nash was in Phoenix even though he positively affects the game in all the ways that Nash can’t. Payton had a swagger Kidd never had. Magic had an appeal Kidd never had. Isiah had an image Kidd never had.
People are so quick to point out he wasn’t a great scorer. Well that wasn’t his strength, wasn’t his style. He didn’t need to do that. The pressure he put on defenses with the sickest, and fastest, end-to-end moves you’ll ever see was enough. But wait, I thought being a point guard wasn’t about scoring anyways? Isn’t that what we preach? Kidd is a product of all that we hope our point guards become – unselfish, a willing defender, someone who could impact the game in any way – and yet we ignore him (we also turn around and criticize other PGs for scoring too much).
Kidd is a messy collage of great point guards, a little from here, a little from there. He isn’t quite the defender the Glove was, but he’s solid enough. He’s not quite the outside shooter that Nash is, but he’s made enough threes to make up for it. He doesn’t bring quite the same excitement as Magic did, but you can argue his court vision is just as great. He was never the general of a dynasty like Bob Cousy was. But he’s played in two NBA Finals, and been in the playoffs every year since 1997.
Kidd is a survivor. Other point guards fell off much sooner than Kidd, sometimes for things they couldn’t control. Magic was abruptly done at 31. Isiah was never the same once he hit 30. The Big O’s body began to wear down after a decade. Nash never became a truly elite player until he hit the desert. Payton and Archibald both had primes that came and went quickly.
But Kidd kept coming. He’s on the books for one more season next year. Next March, he will turn 39. Can he keeping playing? Sure. This past season was really the first year that his production dipped, his PER the lowest of his career (14.4). He’s been as consistent as any player ever. But will he want to keep playing? Will he want to keep fighting a losing battle, the fight that won’t ever let him win?
A ring is all he needs. If he gets it, it’ll validate a career that has to be one of the best runs ever by a point guard. And by that, I mean at the very top of the conversation with anyone not named Magic or the Big O.
With a ring, where would Kidd be ranked with the greatest point guards ever?
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