The road to retirement is a long one, and it’ll always start with this: He’s slowing down. He’s not the same player anymore. As they say, you can’t cheat death and you can’t escape Father Time when the hands start squeezing you, your breaths become shorter and the life starts dripping out of your legs. Final Destination.
But in this new age of the NBA, there are more ways than ever to prolong your career. New surgeries, nutrition, around-the-clock trainers, Yoga, even all of the splendid amenities that come with playing professional basketball, they all help to do what no one thought possible even 10-15 years ago: make a player’s relevancy last for longer than 15 years.
Just look at guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan and Ray Allen. The oldest player on that list is Nash at 37 (doesn’t that sound incredible). The youngest player out of that whole group is Kobe (who will turn 33 in about a month). Every one of these All-Stars was relevant (Nash is probably the only one you can make a case for that he wasn’t) before the turn of the century, which is mind-boggling considering it’s now halfway between 2011 and 2012.
So now it’s becoming a game: when will these players fall off? Age doesn’t quite matter as much as miles. If you push yourself to a certain degree, it can work both ways: yes, you may stay in shape and become a better player, but the grind of a 24/7, 365-day season could end up costing you a year or two of shelf life. It’s a fleeting thing, this Father Time. You never know when it’ll hit.