10 NBA Players Who Have the Most to be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Today is a day where we are supposed to reflect and give thanks for the many gifts in our lives. No matter how bad things may seem, there is always something to be thankful for. The basketball world, despite the rotten situation created by the NBA Lockout, is no different.

NBA players are without a paycheck (we know, we know), their side of the Lockout fight is disorganized, they are disjointed in their beliefs, and they are inevitably going to get severely worked over by the owners when this thing is finally ironed out. But for some NBA players, the Lockout has been a blessing in disguise.

Here are the 10 NBA Players who Have the Most to Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving:

1. Dirk Nowitzki – This one may be obvious, but it needs to be included. Dirk beat back all his detractors last season, John Elway-ing his way to a title, a Finals MVP and the role of the Chosen One dispatching with the Dark Side. The man may grow old but his game never will and while a lockout has taken away his opportunity to defend his title, we all know the focus would’ve shifted to South Beach, Oklahoma City and Chicago anyways. But now, he gets to hold the throne for a little longer.

2. Kobe Bryant – We would’ve guessed that given enough time off with a lockout, adding in a disgusting season-ending loss, Bryant would’ve filmed “The Day I Roasted Andrew Bynum, Part II” at some point. He never did. He really doesn’t have to do anything anymore – he’s the true king of the NBA right now, he has the rings, the scoring records and he’s making more money than any current player can ever hope to make again. Down the road, his legacy might’ve taken a hit, but right now Kobe isn’t doing anything but living for the moment.

Plus, the longer this work stoppage goes, the less wear and tear on Kobe’s joints and the less miles racked up on his legs. We know he’s working out like a beast somewhere as we write this, but it’s not the same as the NBA season. This absolutely works in Kobe’s favor.

3. Shaquille O’Neal – Kobe and Shaq will always be intertwined, so it makes sense to mention The Diesel right after The Mamba.

You kind of always knew that Shaq would find the perfect time to leave. And amidst a stormy lockout and changing on the guard, he did just that as the only player from last season to officially retire. Now he’s set to be a TV star on TNT like his buddy Sir Charles.

And as a point of ego, Kobe Bryant needs only 729 points to pass him and move into fifth place on the all-time scoring list. You know the longer that’s delayed, the happier the Shaq will be – he’d love to hold that over Bryant’s head forever.

4. Kevin Durant – With his lockout barnstorming tour this summer and fall, Durant is one of the few NBA players who could actually come out of this lockout looking better than before – which is a scary thought. And through his “35th Hour” web series and flag football games on college campuses, KD has found a way to connect with his fans beyond the arena. But put it this way: Without the spare time, KD wouldn’t be coming
to a movie screen near you.

5 & 6. John Wall & Brandon Jennings – It’s not so much that Jennings and Wall weren’t stars before the Lockout hit, it’s more that the lack of official NBA action has allowed these two to push themselves to the forefront of the basketball universe, making them bigger stars than they ever would be at this point in their careers.

Think about it: If the NBA season had started on time, unless you’re a League Pass beast, the only time you would ever see either one of these two play would be SportsCenter highlights or the random TNT/ESPN game. These two have made it their business to not only play in as many high profile exhibition games as possible, but also to make sure they’re a constant presence on TV, in print and at the forefront of social media. The result? Mainstream recognition, popularity and major stuff like this.

7. Derrick Rose – No matter how they slice up the pie, Rose and the Bulls have a team that should fit under the new CBA. He has his own shoe, his own city and a young team that looks set for the next 5-10 years (once they find a serviceable starting
SG). And as the youngest MVP in NBA history, one thing that Rose definitely has is

8. JaVale McGee – Without an NBA, McGee would be just some weird 7-footer who calls himself “Pierre.” He’d eat cinnamon with his buddies, spit crazy pick-up lines and walk around Venice Beach shirtless. (Because as you know, that’s what everyone does at Venice Beach.) Instead, McGee is able to sign with a Chinese sneaker company, travel the world and have fans dying to see his next move. Like Wall and Jennings, his is a case where he’s been able to become a bigger personality while there are no NBA games being played.

9. Rudy Gay – We chilled with nearly half of the Grizzlies roster at various points during the Lockout, and they all echo the same thing: no lockout, no
extended break is going to kill our momentum or devour our chemistry. This isn’t the Clippers of 2006. They’re not a one-hit wonder. All the more reason for Gay to get healthy from his screwed-up shoulder, rediscover his confidence and game and then come back next season to prove the critics wrong. Did we mention he also signed a mammoth $82 million extension just a year before the lockout (and subsequently smaller salaries) hit?

10. Greg Oden – Oden needs rest like a shark needs water. The money can wait because without his health, it won’t even matter. All he has to do is stay healthy, and some NBA team will be throwing money his way. Right now, he’s out of the spotlight for the first time in years, and can work himself into shape at his own pace. Yes, he probably wishes none of this ever happened to him. But at this point, perhaps a lockout is the best thing that could’ve happened to him.

Who did we miss?

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